Pros & Cons of Energy Drinks – Plus, How To Make Your Own

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energy drink, People today are busier than ever before. With the demands of careers, families, relationships, and hobbies, most of us are running on fumes just to keep up. Luckily, energy drinks are available everywhere to provide that boost of energy needed to get through the day and perform when it counts.

The History of Energy Drinks

Throughout history, people have used various beverages to feel that extra burst of energy. During that time, trends have changed from tea to coffee to soft drinks and back again. But, just as people have long sought out drugs more powerful than caffeine, they now seek soft drinks with additional energy-boosting chemicals.

Enter energy drinks. From 2008 to 2013, the energy drink market grew 60 percent, totaling $12.5 billion in U.S. sales in 2013. In 2017, the global energy drinks market has skyrocketed to $55 billion and is projected to continue growing rapidly.

But despite the market’s explosion, energy drinks aren’t a new concept. In fact, they’ve been around since the days of the early soda fountain. The first “energy” drink could actually be considered Coke since it originally contained both caffeine and another stimulant – cocaine – when launched in 1886. The soft drink carries that history to this day – the company’s name, “Coca-Cola” is derived from the ingredients: the coca plant from which cocaine is derived and the kola nut, the source of caffeine. Coca-Cola’s founder used five ounces of coca leaf per gallon of syrup, but it was reduced to a tenth of that in a later recipe. Cocaine was removed from Coke in 1903.

Related: 8 Energy Boosting Foods and Supplements

How They Work

Energy drinks are supposed to do just what the name implies: give you an extra burst of energy. As it turns out, most of that “energy” comes from two main ingredients: sugar and caffeine. A typical energy drink can contain up to 80 mg of caffeine (about the same amount as a cup of coffee). By comparison, a 2011 study found that the average 12-ounce soda contains 18 to 48 mg of caffeine.

Other than caffeine levels, how do energy drinks differ from sodas and sports drinks? Soft drinks are mainly water, sugar, and flavoring. They don’t do anything for your body; they’re just supposed to taste good. Sports drinks are designed to replenish fluids lost during activity. They typically contain water, electrolytes, and sugar. Energy drinks have added caffeine and other ingredients that their manufacturers say increase stamina and “boost” performance. They’re designed for students, athletes and anyone else who wants an extra energy kick.

Here are some of the ingredients found in popular energy drinks and what they do to the body:

Ephedrine: A stimulant that works on the central nervous system. It is a common ingredient in weight-loss products and decongestants, but there have been concerns about its effects on the heart.

Taurine: A natural amino acid produced by the body that helps regulate heart beat and muscle contractions. Many health experts aren’t sure what effect it has as a drink additive.

Ginseng: A root believed by some to have several medicinal properties, including reducing stress and boosting energy levels.

B Vitamins: A group of vitamins that can convert sugar to energy and improve muscle tone.

Guarana Seed: A stimulant that comes from a small shrub native to Venezuela and Brazil.

Carnitine: An organic acid that helps supply energy for muscle contractions.

Inositol: A member of the vitamin B complex (not a vitamin itself, because the human body can synthesize it) that helps relay messages within the cells in the body.

Ginkgo Biloba: Made from the seeds of the ginkgo biloba tree thought to enhance memory.

Related: 24 Ways To Boost Energy

Although the manufacturers claim that energy drinks can improve your endurance and performance, many health experts disagree. Any boost you get from drinking them, they say, is solely from the sugar and caffeine.

Caffeine works by blocking the effects of adenosine, a brain chemical involved in sleep. When caffeine blocks adenosine, it causes neurons in the brain to fire. Thinking the body is in an emergency, the pituitary gland initiates the body’s “fight or flight” response by releasing adrenaline. This hormone makes the heart beat faster and the eyes dilate. It also causes the liver to release extra sugar into the bloodstream for energy. Caffeine affects the levels of dopamine, a chemical in the brain’s pleasure center. All these physical responses make you feel as though you have more energy.

Energy drinks are generally safe, but like most things, you should drink them in moderation. Because caffeine is a stimulant, consuming a lot of it can lead to heart palpitations, anxiety and insomnia – it can also make you feel jittery and irritable. Caffeine is also a diuretic and causes the kidneys to remove extra fluid into the urine, which leaves less fluid in the body, so drinking an energy drink while exercising can be dangerous. The combination of the diuretic effect and sweating can be severely dehydrating.

Natural Alternatives

Instead of splurging on commercial energy drinks, you can easily make your own at home for much healthier alternatives and skip the artificially colored energy drinks and pasteurized, highly-processed, refined juices in cans or bottles. Not only can you save money making these at home, but you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing exactly which ingredients are going into them and prepare them to your liking.

Here are a few basic ingredients you can use when concocting your own energy drinks:

Coconut water is potassium-rich and nature’s best isotonic drink. It also contains the same amount of electrolytes that we have in our blood and contains less sodium than sports and energy drinks. Coconut water also contains lauric acid which is present in breast milk and is known to boost metabolism.

Watermelon is packed with L-citrulline, an essential amino acid that helps to prevent/reduce muscle soreness and improve recovery time following exercise in athletes.

Apple cider vinegar contains significant amounts of potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, B1, B2, and B6 vitamins.

Wheatgrass juice contains all minerals known to man, and vitamins A, B-complex, C, E, I and K. It’s extremely rich in protein and contains 17 amino acids, the building blocks of protein. People who drink wheatgrass juice often have claimed feeling an increase in strength and endurance.

Bananas are the best source of potassium, an important mineral that beats fatigue and enables the body’s enzymes to control energy production. They are also high in vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6, which all help convert food into energy. The phosphorous found in bananas increase physical endurance, while the magnesium is a crucial nutrient for muscles and nerves.

Green tea has small amounts of caffeine and studies have shown that EGCG, the active compound in green tea, facilitates weight loss.

Chia seeds are a member of the mint family and are rich in fiber and antioxidants as well as essential minerals like calcium and iron. The seeds are also 20 percent protein, which is a great welcome for anyone looking to build muscle.

Click ‘Next’ Below To See the Pros & Cons of Energy Drinks,
Plus 3 Lifestyle Things You Can Do To Boost Energy

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