Americans spent an estimated $1.3 billion on “energy shots” in 2011, and that number is expected to increase significantly in 2012. But buyer beware: The miniature-sized bottles that promise a crash-free boost mislead consumers with their ingredient claims and could cause unforeseen health complications.
Are Energy Drinks Bad For You?
The market for energy drinks is saturated with quick-fix beverages that claim to instantly boost energy levels using all natural ingredients. But many experts remain concerned that America’s desire to get energized using a myriad of mystery ingredient combinations could lead to dangerous side effects such as abdominal pain, headaches, poor sleep and increased cancer risks.
So what are the popular ingredients, do they really work, and are they safe? Here are some facts about energy drinks:
Breaking Down the Ingredients
Many energy beverages claim to put pep in your step using caffeine, all natural blends of B-vitamins, amino acids or herbs such as panax ginseng and guarana.
Although most of these ingredients are safe, some deserve a little myth busting while others have safer, more effective and all natural alternatives.
Caffeine from natural sources is widely accepted as an all natural stimulant that, when used properly, can safely increase energy levels. Caffeine, in responsible doses, is also associated with a myriad of health benefits.
The problem with caffeine in energy drinks is that the manufacturer isn’t required to label how much caffeine the product contains. This can cause some energy seekers to unknowingly consume dangerous amount of caffeine.
The alternative: Skip the energy shot and stick with trusted caffeine sources such as tea or coffee.
B Vitamins for Energy
Some energy beverages contain up to 100 percent of the daily value (DV) of folic acid, 2,000 percent of the DV of vitamin B6, and over 8,000 percent of the DV of vitamin B12. While these figures aren’t independently alarming, many people consume two to three of these beverages a day! Combined with a balanced diet and a daily multivitamin, individuals could be consuming dangerous amounts of certain nutrients, specifically vitamin B6 and folic acid.
What’s worse is that it’s all a one big perfected marketing scam. B vitamins are essential nutrients with countless health benefits; however, they will not stimulate a physical boost of energy for the human body.
Rather, B vitamins assist the body in extracting and distributing the energy containing units from the foods you eat (i.e., fats, proteins and carbohydrates).
“The science is misused to lead people to believe that a megadose of B vitamins will somehow energize them. It won’t,” said president of ConsumerLab.com, Tod Cooperman, M.D., in an interview with Men’s Health.
The alternative: Instead of falling for the hype that B vitamins will boost your energy levels, one suggested alternative is quercetin. Quercetin is an antioxidant that has been shown to, over time, fight your body’s desire to fatigue.
In a 2010 University of South Carolina study, participants given 500 mg of quercetin a day had a 13.2 percent increase in exercise endurance after just seven days. The study’s author, Dr. Mark Davis, noted that, “While there’s no magic pill to make people get up and move, or to take the place of regular exercise, quercetin may be important in relieving the fatigue that keeps [people] sedentary”
If you are looking for a high-quality quercetin supplement, you can simply click here.
Many energy drinks tout the brain-boosting effects of amino acids such as taurine. Studies, however, indicate that while these amino acids may play a role in brain health, there is no evidence to support the notion that they give you an instant mental boost.
Furthermore, controversy still exists over whether it is safe to combine high amounts of certain amino acids such as taurine with high amounts of caffeine.
The alternative: Although amino acids won’t provide an instant boost of energy, a better brain health approach to benefiting from an amino acid like taurine would be to take an isolated supplement that isn’t combined with unquantified stimulating ingredients.
For mental alertness, you could also consider green tea, which contains theanine. Theanine combined with the natural caffeine in green tea is said to increase mental acuity and focus.
One of the most popular herbs in energy drinks is panax ginseng. While certain ginseng varieties are known to influence your spiritual energies or provide other health benefits, physical stimulation is not a promise of the ginseng herb.
Additionally, side effects from consuming too much of this herb include nausea, diarrhea, headaches and nose bleeds (due to its blood thinning properties). Panax ginseng may also lead to induction of mania in depressed patients who mix it with antidepressants.
The alternative: The only herbs that provide legitimate boosts in energy are guarana, or rather, its constituent, guaranine, or herbs that are sources of caffeine such as yerba mate. Stick to these all natural sources.
 Roberson L. Guzzling energy drinks but more tired than ever? Men’s Health. 2012 Mar 19. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46764607/ns/health-mens_health/.