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Thursday, August 11, 2011

The BUZZ on Energy Drinks

Monster, Red Bull, 5-Hour Energy, Rockstar, AMP, have become some of the most popular beverages on shelves at convenience stores, big retail markets and grocery stores.  Energy drinks are on the rise, surpassing colas, by Americans.  Many people are looking for specific health or nutritional benefits in a quick gulp and those people are turning to these energy drinks to obtain those so called "benefits". 

Energy drinks fall under the umbrella of Functional Drinks.  Functional drinks are promoted to have specific health benefits such as heart health, joint health, satiety, improved immunity, digestion, or energy boosting (primarily the "benefit" promoted by energy drinks). 

Caffeine is found in energy drinks just as it is in sodas, however, the amount of caffeine in a 12 oz. energy drinks can be up to 21 times the amount in a 12 oz. can of diet soda!  A 12 oz. serving of soda may contain anywhere between 20-45 mg of caffeine while a 12 oz. serving of 5 Hour Energy Drink contains 828 mg, 12 oz. of Monster Hitman Sniper has 960 mg, and 12 oz. of Rockstar 2X has 250 mg of caffeine!  That's an outrageous amount of caffeine!! Look here to see how much caffeine is in your favorite beverages. In addition to providing lots of caffeine, some energy drinks have excess amounts of sugar which could lead to weight gain if intakes are not controlled.

So, do these energy drinks provide what they are touting?  Should you drink them?  Is it a good idea to drink them if you need additional energy for playing sports, etc?  How much is too much? Are they safe?

According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), Many of the energy drinks that claim 'energy boosting' contain caffeine as well as the amino acid taurine & several B vitamins (which some sources claim helps to boost energy).  The science behind these claims shows that they only HELP the foods we eat to provide us with energy.  As Registered Dietitians, we know that our bodies can make the energy we need if we are fueling them with proper nutrition.  Focus on including balanced proportions of carbs, proteins, & fats daily along with adequate sleep and you should have all the energy you need. 

With regards to drinking before sports or physical activity bouts: research has shown that water is all one needs when participating in any activity less than 1 hour.  However, in really humid or hot conditions or when participating in activity longer than 1 hour, a sports drinks is necessary to replenish electrolytes that are lost from sweating while rehydrating your body.  Recommended drinks include those with little or no calories such as G2 or Powerade Zero. 

Are energy drinks safe?  Because they include lots of caffeine as mentioned above, they are going to provide a short lived burst of energy.  In addition to that energy they may provide some or all of these negative side effects because of too much caffeine consumption: nervousness, irritability, rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, or insomnia noted by Mayo Clinic.

Are they OK for children to drink?  Click Here to read more from WebMD on this topic.

To summarize...Energy drinks are like anything else-one once in a while is probably not going to cause you much or any harm at all, however, they are not necessary to drink to provide you with more energy.  Getting adequate nutrition and sleep can help to give you a boost of energy you are needing with out the extra side effects, calories, and worries!

(photo courtesy of: qsrmagazine.com)

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