3 Ways Energy Drinks Hurt Your Health (Plus 2 Healthier Options)

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Want more oomph in your step? Of course you do. At least, if you’re like us, you do. It doesn’t matter what our individual to-do lists look like, we can all use a little boost now and again. That’s what makes energy drinks so attractive; convenient bottles or cans loaded with drinkable vigor—everything we need to bring home the turkey bacon and fry it up in a pan. But is that what we’re really getting?

Not so much. Here’s what we actually get:

  1. Too much caffeine: The typical soda offers between 18 and 55 milligrams (mg) of caffeine. Brewed coffee delivers an average of 85mg in an 8-ounce cup. However, caffeinated energy drinks vary greatly; some offer 80mg in an 8-ounce bottle, but others deliver more than 200mg of caffeine in just 2 ounces. [1] Instead of giving the body a much-needed energy lift, that caffeine creates havoc on the internal systems that keep our bodies running, triggering nervousness, insomnia, headaches, and increased heartbeat. [2]
  2. Too much sugar: Caffeine isn’t the only not-so-good ingredient in these beverages. Many energy drinks offer a dessert’s worth of sugar—or more. For example, an 11oz Red Eye has 48 grams of sugar [3], more than 3x the amount in a chocolate frosted donut from Dunkin’ Donuts. [4] Yikes!
  3. Too many additives: Researchers are also increasingly concerned about other common energy drink additives. Ingredients, like the virtually unpronounceable glucuronolactone, have not been well tested in humans, leaving some health experts wondering if they’re safe. Other ingredients are provided in doses only a comic book superhero would need. A recent New York Times piece notes that 5-hour Energy delivers more than 8,000 percent (yes, 8,000) of the daily recommended intake of vitamin B12 and about 20 times the recommended allowance of B6. [5]

Two Healthier Options

  1. Water: A body that’s dehydrated is a body that feels slow and sluggish. It’s not uncommon for us to get so caught up in work and family life that we forget to hydrate. Make it a habit to carry great-for-the-body H2O.
  2. Sports drinks: These beverages contain electrolytes, like sodium and potassium, which the body uses to transfer energy between cells, including those that operate the muscles. Instead of buying manufactured drinks with too much sugar or artificial sweeteners make your own all-natural version using easy-to-find ingredients.

Need a simple homemade sports drink recipe? Check out Green Plate Rule’s Mango Orange Electrolyte Smoothie, which is high in natural electrolytes and, just as importantly, high on yum. The ingredients work to keep the body hydrated while regulating nerve and muscle function, making it a savvy choice for whatever kind of marathon you run, whether it’s the 26.2 mile kind or the kind that has you on the go from dawn to dusk.

To learn more about good-for-you energy boosters, check out 3 Ways to Lasting Energy.

References

1. http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2012/12/the-buzz-on-energy-drink-caffeine/index.htm

2. http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/energy-shots-review

3. http://energy-drink-nutrition.shape.com/l/161/Red-Eye

4. http://www.dunkindonuts.com/content/dunkindonuts/en/menu/food/bakery/donuts/donuts.html?DRP_FLAVOR=Chocolate%20Frosted%20Donut

5. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/02/health/scant-proof-is-found-to-back-up-claims-by-energy-drinks.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0

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