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Pros & Cons of Energy Drinks – Plus, How To Make Your Own

People today are busier than ever before. With the demands of careers, families, relationships, and hobbies, most of us are running on fumes just to keep up. Luckily, energy drinks are available everywhere to provide that boost of energy needed to get through the day and perform when it counts.

The History of Energy Drinks

Throughout history, people have used various beverages to feel that extra burst of energy. During that time, trends have changed from tea to coffee to soft drinks and back again. But, just as people have long sought out drugs more powerful than caffeine, they now seek soft drinks with additional energy-boosting chemicals.

Enter energy drinks. From 2008 to 2013, the energy drink market grew 60 percent, totaling $12.5 billion in U.S. sales in 2013. In 2017, the global energy drinks market has skyrocketed to $55 billion and is projected to continue growing rapidly.

But despite the market’s explosion, energy drinks aren’t a new concept. In fact, they’ve been around since the days of the early soda fountain. The first “energy” drink could actually be considered Coke since it originally contained both caffeine and another stimulant – cocaine – when launched in 1886. The soft drink carries that history to this day – the company’s name, “Coca-Cola” is derived from the ingredients: the coca plant from which cocaine is derived and the kola nut, the source of caffeine. Coca-Cola’s founder used five ounces of coca leaf per gallon of syrup, but it was reduced to a tenth of that in a later recipe. Cocaine was removed from Coke in 1903.

How They Work

Energy drinks are supposed to do just what the name implies: give you an extra burst of energy. As it turns out, most of that “energy” comes from two main ingredients: sugar and caffeine. A typical energy drink can contain up to 80 mg of caffeine (about the same amount as a cup of coffee). By comparison, a 2011 study found that the average 12-ounce soda contains 18 to 48 mg of caffeine.

Other than caffeine levels, how do energy drinks differ from sodas and sports drinks? Soft drinks are mainly water, sugar, and flavoring. They don’t do anything for your body; they’re just supposed to taste good. Sports drinks are designed to replenish fluids lost during activity. They typically contain water, electrolytes, and sugar. Energy drinks have added caffeine and other ingredients that their manufacturers say increase stamina and “boost” performance. They’re designed for students, athletes and anyone else who wants an extra energy kick.

Here are some of the ingredients found in popular energy drinks and what they do to the body:

Ephedrine: A stimulant that works on the central nervous system. It is a common ingredient in weight-loss products and decongestants, but there have been concerns about its effects on the heart.

Taurine: A natural amino acid produced by the body that helps regulate heart beat and muscle contractions. Many health experts aren’t sure what effect it has as a drink additive.

Ginseng: A root believed by some to have several medicinal properties, including reducing stress and boosting energy levels.

B Vitamins: A group of vitamins that can convert sugar to energy and improve muscle tone.

Guarana Seed: A stimulant that comes from a small shrub native to Venezuela and Brazil.

Carnitine: An organic acid that helps supply energy for muscle contractions.

Inositol: A member of the vitamin B complex (not a vitamin itself, because the human body can synthesize it) that helps relay messages within the cells in the body.

Ginkgo Biloba: Made from the seeds of the ginkgo biloba tree thought to enhance memory.

Although the manufacturers claim that energy drinks can improve your endurance and performance, many health experts disagree. Any boost you get from drinking them, they say, is solely from the sugar and caffeine.

Caffeine works by blocking the effects of adenosine, a brain chemical involved in sleep. When caffeine blocks adenosine, it causes neurons in the brain to fire. Thinking the body is in an emergency, the pituitary gland initiates the body’s “fight or flight” response by releasing adrenaline. This hormone makes the heart beat faster and the eyes dilate. It also causes the liver to release extra sugar into the bloodstream for energy. Caffeine affects the levels of dopamine, a chemical in the brain’s pleasure center. All these physical responses make you feel as though you have more energy.

Energy drinks are generally safe, but like most things, you should drink them in moderation. Because caffeine is a stimulant, consuming a lot of it can lead to heart palpitations, anxiety and insomnia – it can also make you feel jittery and irritable. Caffeine is also a diuretic and causes the kidneys to remove extra fluid into the urine, which leaves less fluid in the body, so drinking an energy drink while exercising can be dangerous. The combination of the diuretic effect and sweating can be severely dehydrating.

Natural Alternatives

Instead of splurging on commercial energy drinks, you can easily make your own at home for much healthier alternatives and skip the artificially colored energy drinks and pasteurized, highly-processed, refined juices in cans or bottles. Not only can you save money making these at home, but you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing exactly which ingredients are going into them and prepare them to your liking.

Here are a few basic ingredients you can use when concocting your own energy drinks:

Coconut water is potassium-rich and nature’s best isotonic drink. It also contains the same amount of electrolytes that we have in our blood and contains less sodium than sports and energy drinks. Coconut water also contains lauric acid which is present in breast milk and is known to boost metabolism.

Watermelon is packed with L-citrulline, an essential amino acid that helps to prevent/reduce muscle soreness and improve recovery time following exercise in athletes.

Apple cider vinegar contains significant amounts of potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, B1, B2, and B6 vitamins.

Wheatgrass juice contains all minerals known to man, and vitamins A, B-complex, C, E, I and K. It’s extremely rich in protein and contains 17 amino acids, the building blocks of protein. People who drink wheatgrass juice often have claimed feeling an increase in strength and endurance.

Bananas are the best source of potassium, an important mineral that beats fatigue and enables the body’s enzymes to control energy production. They are also high in vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6, which all help convert food into energy. The phosphorous found in bananas increase physical endurance, while the magnesium is a crucial nutrient for muscles and nerves.

Green tea has small amounts of caffeine and studies have shown that EGCG, the active compound in green tea, facilitates weight loss.

Chia seeds are a member of the mint family and are rich in fiber and antioxidants as well as essential minerals like calcium and iron. The seeds are also 20 percent protein, which is a great welcome for anyone looking to build muscle.

PROS OF ENERGY DRINKS

  • Boosts Energy: Energy drinks are specifically beneficial for those who are rushing and trying to meet a deadline. The boost of energy from the drink will help a person to finish their work/workout efficiently.
  • Helps Maximize Workouts: Athletes drink energy drinks to maximize their workouts and training.
  • Convenience: Energy drinks are readily available at grocery and convenience stores.

CONS OF ENERGY DRINKS

  • Can Lead to Weight Gain: Energy drinks are usually high in sugar content adding to a person’s caloric intake.
  • Can Lead to Cardiovascular Problems:  Some people who drink energy drinks suffer from irregular and rapid heartbeat as well as an increase in blood pressure levels.
  • Affects One’s Ability to Function Properly: One of the side effects of energy drinks is experiencing nervousness, anxiety, irritability, and jitters most likely from the caffeine.

3 Easy Lifestyle Things You Can Do To Up Your Energy

Get Enough Protein. Most people do not get enough protein in their diets – and that is often the number one reason for fatigue! Protein shakes can make your life easy. You don’t have to think, plan or cook – just drink and go! Be sure to look for a high-quality whey protein shake that is not high in calories and has no fat, minimal carbs and is low in sugar.

Sleep More. Plan your life around your sleep schedule to get as much sleep as possible. Getting enough rest is the very best way to slow aging and feel great, and there is nothing more powerful as a good night’s sleep!

Drink Water! We all need to consume a minimum of eight glasses of water daily to hydrate our bodies. If we are even a little dehydrated, our metabolism can slow down up to 3 percent! If you think water is too boring, fill a large pitcher full of cold water and add slices of lemons, limes or oranges to make it more appealing so you’ll drink more!

Cherry Lemonade Energy Drink

This recipe uses cherry and lemon juice to provide natural sources of vitamins and minerals, coconut water for electrolytes, plus a small amount of caffeine for a natural boost from antioxidant – rich green tea.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brewed unsweetened green tea
  • ½ cup 100 percent cherry juice
  • ½ cup seltzer water
  • 1 tsp agave nectar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Ice cubes

Directions

Combine green tea, cherry juice, coconut water, seltzer, agave and lemon juice in a large glass or container. Stir well or shake and serve over ice; garnish with lemon slices.

Peanut Butter and Banana Energy Smoothie

Drink this after a workout to recharge your energy stores with heart healthy fat and protein.

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup plain or vanilla yogurt
  • 1 tbs peanut butter
  • 1 banana
  • 1/8 cup milk or almond milk
  • ¾ cup ice

Directions

Add the milk, yogurt, and banana and blend. Add the peanut butter and blend again. Then, mix in the desired amount of ice. Note: the more ice, the thicker the consistency.

Chia Pomegranate Green Tea Cooler

Tea is a natural source of caffeine. However, it also contains an amino acid called theanine, which is a natural relaxer with anti-anxiety properties. This tea will help to energize you without making you feel jittery!

Ingredients

  • 1 green tea bag
  • 1 tbs pomegranate concentrate
  • 1 tbs chia seeds
  • Honey or Stevia to taste

Directions

Brew 1 green tea bag for 1-3 minutes in 6-8 ounces of hot water (you may brew more than 1 tea bag if you need to consume more caffeine). Add 1 tablespoon of pomegranate concentrate and sweeten with honey or Stevia. Stir in 1 tablespoon of chia seeds and let sit for 15 minutes. Pour over a cup of ice, stir until chilled and enjoy.

Cocolina Energy Boost

Spirulina is a protein-rich algae that contains 8 essential and 10 non-essential amino acids. Try this recipe for an energy boost!

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. coconut water
  • ½ to 1 tsp spirulina powder

Directions

Pour coconut water into a sports bottle and mix in the spirulina. Tightly secure the bottle cap and shake well. Drink!

Watermelon Workout Drink

Who doesn’t love watermelon? Try this recipe as a post-workout recovery drink to help prevent sore muscles and boost your energy levels!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup watermelon, cubed
  • 1 cup coconut water
  • A squeeze of lime
  • Dash of salt to bring out sweetness in watermelon

Directions

Take all ingredients and blend well in blender. Drink immediately as the drink will separate.

By Rochelle Marapao