With a market at an estimated $8 billion a year, there is no question that energy drinks have become a big industry. A major reason it is so successful is all the flashy advertising they do to promote themselves. It seems that most extreme sports have an energy drink brand sponsoring them and their events, which make them very popular—especially with the youth of today. But stop and think about some of the following information before you crack open that next can of “energy.”
The Effects are Astounding
These are just a few of the health risks and side effects associated with drinking energy drinks:
- Insomnia/Sleep disorders
- Raised blood pressure
- Gastrointestinal upset
- Calcium deficiency
- Caffeine intoxication
- Caffeine overdose (which can be life threatening)
- Dental problems
…And many more.
It’s no wonder— with a list of side effects like this— that between 2004 and 2009, about 7,000 emergency room trips were associated with energy drinks. And in 2012, the FDA reported that 13 deaths may have resulted from energy drink consumption.
Ingredients and Their Side Effects
Caffeine: Of course caffeine is found in pretty much all energy drinks! It can help you with stamina and make you feel more alert, but watch out for the negative side effects. People’s tolerance to caffeine can vary, but for most people, a dose of 200-300mg can cause side effects like dizziness, nausea, restlessness, increased heartbeat, insomnia, irritability, jitters, headache, and severe fatigue from withdrawal. Caffeine can even be found in other ingredients such as guarana, green tea extract, and coffee extract so watch out when reading the labels. Adrenal fatigue can be a result of too much caffeine. This happens when the adrenal system becomes overwhelmed by a constant caffeine intake. The key is not to ramp up your caffeine consumption, but to reduce it instead. Because this dependency of caffeine can develop, energy drinks can be addictive. Withdrawal symptoms can happen including headaches and mood swings.
Refined Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners: Most energy drinks have a lot of sugar in them, whether it’s high fructose corn syrup or cane sugar. Some will try and make this sound better on their labels by calling it “natural cane juice” or “glucose.” Refined sugar, unlike natural sugar found in fruits and vegetables, is stripped of nutrients. Without the nutrients, the body cannot metabolize the sugar effectively. This can cause formation of toxic metabolite, such as pyruvic acid. Toxic metabolite can destroy cells by interfering with their respiration process. High sugar drinks are linked to:
- Obesity epidemic
- Increase risk of type 2 diabetes
- Tooth decay
- Blood sugar and insulin spikes that result in a “crash” feeling.
Sugar-Free: Sucralose is commonly used in sugar-free versions energy drinks and is 100 times sweeter than regular sugar! If you’re getting the sugar-free version, you are still at risk of some of these artificial sweetener side effects like migraines, nausea, and abdominal or joint pain—just to name a few.
Synthetic Vitamins and Minerals: Most energy drinks use synthetic vitamins and minerals because they are cheaply made and can increase profits. Energy drinks use lots of water-soluble vitamins like B vitamins and vitamin C. But, water-soluble vitamins dissolve quickly in liquid and make them useless to add to drinks. You’re basically drinking a can of empty calories!
B-vitamins are added to most energy drinks with the claim that they boost mental and physical performance. But you can get these nutrients from food! Although most of the B-vitamins in energy drinks are not toxic, too much vitamin B6 can be dangerous and cause side effects such as flushing of the skin, liver toxicity, sensory nerve problems, and skin lesions.
Natural Energy Drinks You can Make at Home:
After considering all the possible side effects and the misleading labels, one has to ask: why risk it? Instead of grabbing that easy can of energy, why not try some truly natural options? These are natural energy drinks you can make yourself that will leave your body much healthier and happier.
#1: Refreshing Apple Cider Drink
Ingredients: 2 teaspoons raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar; 16 ounces cold water; 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup/raw agave syrup/raw coconut nectar (for diabetics: 2 teaspoons yacon syrup/2 teaspoons coconut sugar or raw coconut nectar/4 drops stevia)
**Apple cider vinegar contains significant amounts of potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, B1, B2, and B6.
Directions: Transfer all ingredients into a sports bottle and shake well.
#2: Green Banana Smoothie
Ingredients: 4 large sweet and ripe bananas; A bag of mild-tasting salad greens or one head of romaine lettuce, washed and chopped; 3 cups of cold water
**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; phosphorus, which helps reduce tiredness and increase physical endurance, and magnesium, a crucial nutrient for muscles and nerves. Romaine lettuce is high in thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and potassium.
Directions: Pour 2 cups of cold water into the blender. Add 1 cup of ice and greens and process for 30 seconds to a minute. Put the 4 peeled bananas and blend until smooth. (This is a great post-workout drink.)
#3 Orange Flax Smoothie
Ingredients: 5 peeled, sweet, seedless oranges and 3 tablespoons of cold-pressed flax oil or hempseed oil
**Oranges are good sources of potassium, magnesium, B1, B2, B3, B6, and folate. Flax oil (or hempseed oil) will slow down the release of fruit sugar into the bloodstream, giving you a steady supply of energy for a few hours.
Directions: Add a little cold water (about half a cup) and blend. Drink slowly. (A great pre-workout smoothie.)