Pep in Your Step? Maybe ... for a While

July 05, 2009

Energy drinks and your health

Energy drinks may provide a temporary boost, but their long-term effects may outweigh the limited jolt

Everywhere you turn, it seems as though someone's chugging an energy drink.

Maybe it's a morning jumpstart. Maybe it's an afternoon boost. Maybe it's an addiction.

Although energy drinks can provide a temporary jolt to the system, their long-term effects may surprise you.

Facts about energy drinks

Some energy drinks have as much sugar and three times the caffeine as your average soda, and some experts credit their popularity to their addictiveness. Four countries - France, Denmark, Norway, and Argentina - have banned the sale of energy drinks with their current levels of caffeine.

According to some experts, the amount of caffeine necessary to produce dependency is about 100 milligrams a day. An 8-ounce cup of coffee has between 100 and 150 milligrams. Depending on the size, one can of energy drink contains between 80 and 160 milligrams. Hard to tell though, since that information doesn't appear on cans.

Some of those risks are:

  • Increased incidence of bladder, stomach cancer
  • Increased heart rate
  • Raised blood pressure
  • Birth defects
  • Dementia
  • Diabetes aggravation
  • Damage to stomach lining
  • Potential anxiety

More where that came from

Energy drinks may contain vitamins and supplements along with other ingredients that aren't so good for you. Those potentially harmful ingredients? Try sucrose, glucose, citric acid, sodium chloride, asorbic acid, ephedrine, and ginseng.

Potential side effects depend on the drink. Many drinks contain a high percentage of carbohydrates. This can make it harder to absorb food and nutrients into your bloodstream, so your energy boost may not be as intense. Excess carbohydrates also can cause some gastrointestinal problems especially if you drink one right before intense exercise.

Sugar causes your energy levels or insulin levels to plummet after the sugar leaves your bloodstream. Those energy drinks with sugar overload are good for that short-term buzz, but many people feel more fatigued than they were to before their first swig.

So, what's the solution?

If you're like many people, you probably don't drink water with "or between" every meal. But believe it or not, it can add pep to your step. A good guide for daily intake is to drink 1 ounce of water for every 2 pounds of body weight. With that in mind, a 200-pound person should drink about 100 ounces - or 12.5 cups - for increased energy and metabolism. You also may shed a pound or two in the process - maybe even more.

If you're trying to lose weight, it's more important to consume more water and keep drinking it throughout the day. Do watch your intake if you have a medical condition that precludes you from drinking too much water.

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