Friday, September 7, 2012

Energy Drinks Examined

With the kids heading back to school and fall around the corner, life tends to get a bit more hectic. There are lunches to pack, children to drive from school to soccer practice, games and school functions to attend. For a lot of people, things at work begin to pick up as well. It’s no wonder that the transition from summer to fall may leave you feeling completely devoid of energy. And when there’s no time for a catnap, the only seemingly logical answer is caffeine – and lots of it.
More and more Americans are now turning to energy drinks to stimulate their overworked brains. Products like Red Bull, Rockstar, and Monster seem almost as prevalent as Starbucks lattes. In fact, Starbucks recently introduced its own line of energy drinks -  Refreshers - in effort to tap into the 8 billion dollar energy drink market. And the rise in popularity isn’t just among adults either – energy drinks are consumed by between 30 to 50 percent of teens and young adults, according to a study in Pediatrics, a journal published by The American Academy of Pediatrics. So is the surge in caffeine drinks a healthy one?
What Exactly Is In Them?
Energy drinks are typically made of a combination of the following:
·  Methylxanthine (pronounced  meth′il-zan′thin) -  a type of stimulant agent, often used in medications to treat asthma and COPD. Caffeine is the most widely-known methylxanthine.
·  Vitamin B – Vitamin B has become nearly synonymous with energy. That’s because the Vitamin B family is essential in converting food to energy.
·  Herbal Additives –herbs like ginseng and ginko biloba are often added to these drinks for their brain-boosting properties. Ginseng has been used for centuries for its ability to fight fatigue, while ginko biloba, commonly referred to as simply “ginko” is known as the “smart herb” because of its aid in memory improvement. Guarana is another popular additive because it contains caffeine and is known for its weight loss and energy-boosting effects.
·  Amino Acidsthese molecules are not only the “building blocks” of protein but also help your brain to fight toxins and your vitamins to do their job. Taurine is a common amino acid you’ll see in energy drinks, for its apparent neurologically-enhancing and antioxidant qualities.
·  Citric acid  - a natural, bitter-tasting acid, often used as a preservative. Over- consumption has been linked to tooth decay.
So They’re Healthy, Right?
Once you break down their ingredients, energy drinks may appear even more appealing on the surface. Many health experts maintain that energy drink marketers know this and are counting on you to question how a mixture of caffeine, vitamins, herbs, and amino acids could possibly be unhealthy. However, reports of their negative, sometimes life-threatening effects are popping up everywhere. Energy drinks have been linked to several harmful side effects:
·         Anxiety
·         Insomnia
·         Increased Irritability
·         Increased Blood Pressure
·         Increased Urination
·         Addiction
If consumers suffer from heart or liver disease, seizures, diabetes, or mood and behavioral disorders, these side effects are even more dangerous. Consider 14-year-old Anais Fournier, who suffered from a heart disease called mitral valve prolapse and died after consuming two energy drinks within a 24-hour period. Many experts are concerned that consumers may be fooled by the healthy additives, when in reality, over-consumption of some of them can be harmful in the long-run. “The biggest risk with most energy drinks isn't the actual contents, but the carbonation and the doses of those contents - they're often too high in guarana or B vitamins, and can sometimes lead to nerve damage,” explains Val Fiott, PPT’s Director of Operations and Client Services, who is also a former subject matter expert for the American Council on Exercise (2011) and certified lifestyle coach.And, while we do see improved cardiac function as a result of drinking energy drinks, the cons seem to outweigh the pros overall.”

But Isn’t Caffeine GOOD For You?

We don’t blame you for being confused. Society changes its stance on caffeine more than politicians change platforms. Have you ever tried to cut yourself off from coffee or caffeine? The severe headaches, exhaustion, and moodiness that accompany the withdrawal is no joke. There’s a reason for that – caffeine can be addictive. You may have read recently that coffee, in moderation, can help fight diseases like type 2 diabetes and can even increase longevity. While these statements are valid for most, there are some whose bodies do not process caffeine properly. According to Dr. Donald Hensrud, a preventive medicine specialist with Mayo Clinic, a “fairly common genetic mutation” can slow down your body’s ability to process caffeine, putting you at higher risk for heart disease.  Additionally, keep in mind that while the FDA can limit the amount of caffeine in a soda drink, energy drinks are marketed as dietary supplements, so they are only loosely monitored. And, according to Tara Parker-Pope of The New York Times, because energy drinks are cold, they may be consumed in higher quantities than drinks like coffee that are sipped because of their temperatures. So even if your energy drink of choice has a caffeine equivalent of coffee (though energy drinks typically contain more) the amount of caffeine you may consume via energy drinks could be significantly higher than from coffee, and likely far too much to be safe.

Alternative Energy Sources

Considering an energy drink every month or two may not be an  issue; drinking them daily or weekly may be a different story. Fatigue is often a sign of bigger lifestyle issues that energy drinks can merely mask and ultimately exacerbate. What are the common reasons for lack of energy?
·         Dehydration
·         Lack of Sleep
·         Vitamin Deficiency
·         Improper Diet
·         Lack of Exercise
·         Stress
Remember, the wellness coaches and health professionals of Perfect Personal Training have solid answers for you once we have a good hard look at your food intake, lifestyle, and movement habits.  A personalized, well-researched answer is only a click away at