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Healthy Lifestyles that Last Blog

The Low-Down on High-Energy Drinks

Sleepiness and fatigue are often used interchangeably but they are quite different in terms of cause and treatment. Fatigue can be acute or chronic- if you are experiencing chronic fatigue, you should see your health care provider as this may be a sign of a serious illness or mental health condition.

Sleepiness on the other hand is associated with lifestyle behaviors and therefore remedied with simple modifications to diet, sleep schedule, fluid intake, and activity level. You can probably guess that a diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins will increase your energy levels as will adequate sleep, water, and reasonable amounts of exercise. When that isn't enough…people will turn to one of the many hyped-up energy drinks on the market, mug after mug of coffee, energy shots, pills, the list goes on.

You might be reading this and thinking "man, I feel exhausted…I sure could use a (insert energy drink here) right about now!" But before you run off to grab one of these calorie-dense cocktails take a minute to evaluate what you're really consuming and if it's in your best interest to be consuming them on a regular basis. A likely cause of your sleepiness?'re not drinking enough water.

List of Ingredients Commonly Found in Energy Drinks

Caffeine- Research shows an intake of up to 400 mg daily by healthy adults does not produce negative side effects, but as little as 100 mg can cause high blood pressure in adolescents. Depending on the product, each serving of these popular energy drinks may contain up to 300 mg. Many also contain guarana which is another commonly used stimulant (making the heart pump harder and stronger) that can have negative side effects and drug interactions. Caffeine increases dehydration so intake should be limited during the hot summer months or during prolonged physical activity.

Ginseng- In Western medicine, Panax ginseng is used as a stimulant to make people more active. But, in contrast, in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Panax ginseng is used to make people feel calmer. Additionally, there is insufficient evidence to conclude that ginseng will improve athletic performance. Avoid using Panax ginseng with caffeine or if you have heart disease or an auto-immune condition.

Carnitine- an amino acid that helps the body turn fat into energy. Although it is marketed as an energy drink ingredient, it is found naturally in meat, fish and breast milk and stored in the muscles, heart, brain, and sperm. The body is able to make all the carnitine it needs. At this time, studies have not proven carnitine to improve athletic performance.

Taurine- a naturally occurring amino acid that could have negative health effects if used as a supplement. People that have bipolar disorder, allergies, are pregnant or breastfeeding are cautioned to avoid taurine. Little is known about the effects of heavy or long-term taurine use.

**Above all, energy drinks contain a substantial amount of sugar, generally more than a typical soda! For example, one 16-ounce can of Monster has 200 calories from 13.5 teaspoons of added sugars, and a 24-ounce can of Rockstar has 420 calories from 23 teaspoons of added sugars. To put those numbers into context, the American Heart Association recommends that men consume no more than nine teaspoons of added sugars per day and that women consume no more than six teaspoons. I would recommend ditching energy drinks altogether to avoid the crash and burn high from these unnecessary ingredients as well as negative health effects and drug interactions**

For more information on herbal supplements and potential interactions read, Using Dietary Supplements Wisely, by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.