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Energy Drinks, Energy, and Health

Written by Mr. WellCultured, Thursday, September 2nd, 2010 in Q&As

I drink a ton of energy drinks (amp, red bull, 5hr energy). They help me stay focused in class. Should I stop drinking them to be healthy? How do I get more energy?

Short, too hyper to pay attention and read the entire response answer: Yes. Get caffeine other places, sleep lots, and eat well/exercise.

Energy drinks are generally not good for your health. From a general nutrient perspective, energy drinks contain a huge amount of sugar and calories. Just like you would gain weight eating a bunch of doughnuts every day for “energy”, energy drinks will add fat to your body. This can also happen incidentally because energy drinks are like soda, and thus do not properly hydrate your body like normal water would. From a general health perspective, energy drinks can also unsafely ramp your energy up and force it to plummet down quickly, creating a “yo-yo effect” that ultimately hurts you more than it helps you.

Energy “yo-yo”ing is something that really can mess up your efficiency overall. While you might feel energetic while you drink energy drinks, the inevitable crash (which happens one to a few hours later, depending on your metabolism) will pull you down hard, making you ultimately less efficient over time than you would be if you had never drank the energy drink in the first place. If you don’t manage this “yo-yo effect” properly, it can also really screw up your sleep cycle and make you even more tired, making you drink more energy drinks and perpetuating the vicious cycle. Trust me: I learned a lot about this as a freshman in undergrad, and it’s rough.

So what can you do instead?

First off, if you really want a boost of caffeine, drink coffee, tea, or take caffeine pills. Good old fashioned coffee, pending you don’t load it up with sugar and calories, is a great way to stay alert, hydrated, and healthy. Green tea is even better in some respects. If you want your caffeine in a more potent and convenient form, caffeine pills are also a great option. While I don’t entirely like endorsing it (both due to the price and due to the fact it’s still an energy drink), 5 Hour Energy is also a choice you could consider.

Second off, get more sleep. For some reason, lots of students (even graduate and professional students, despite the fact that they should know better by now) don’t get enough sleep, and this forces them to obsess about getting more caffeine. If you genuinely want more energy overall, sleep well — don’t sleep fewer than 6-7 hours, and don’t sleep more than about 9. Good sleep will help you learn better (seriously, your memory will improve), it will help you develop muscle and burn fat better, and it will help you have more energy throughout the waking hours of your day.

Third off, eat and exercise better. Proper diet and exercise will give you all the energy you need. Don’t eat excessively greasy and/or carb-loaded foods — they will make you groggy and slow, two things that undoubtedly make you feel like you need more energy. Light, healthy, protein-packed meals do a much better job. Exercise will also give you more energy. Though it seems as if you might lose energy hitting the gym periodically, overall, exercise gives you more energy and stamina, thus allowing you do to better in class.

So the basic message here is to not buy into the $5/bottle energy drink phenomena. It perpetuates a vicious cycle of unhealthy “yo-yo”ing that you can entirely avoid with healthy life choices.

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2 Responses to Energy Drinks, Energy, and Health

  1. Damian says:

    The energy shots seem even more unsafe that the drinks, as most people just assume that it’s fine to have them as often as they’d like. Our bodies really aren’t supposed to process things like B vitamins in such condensed/high quantities.

    Green tea is probably the best. It’s recently been (scientifically) found to be healthier than just water and does indeed slow the aging process. If the caffeine isn’t wanted but you’re using loose leaf tea (the real stuff), steep it twice.

  2. Eric says:

    Exercise really helps. Strange as it sounds, I’ve been able to focus and actually get my work done better for the last week or so, since I started going to sleep an hour or two earlier, setting my alarm a half-hour earlier, and then going for a quick run.

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