Keep'er Fit

Gary Wallace

Are energy drinks good for exercise and your health?

Prior to the lockdown, if you stepped into a gym you may have noticed people drinking cans of energy drinks like Monster or saw a bin overflowing with empty cans of the stuff. 
Unfortunately, now I see them laying on the side of the road when I’m out walking which isn’t a sight I enjoy. I picked a few of them up to drop them in a bin, which isn’t that hard to do either, and read the ingredients list. 
Firstly, most of the stuff I found difficult to pronounce, so imagine what your body has to do to process them. 
Secondly the amount of caffeine and sugar in one can was frightening. 
These energy drinks are so well marketed that it’s nearly ‘cool’ to be seen drinking them. 
As you can tell I’m not a fan. I have tasted Red Bull and may in my younger days have mixed it with a few different beverages, but even then I was wise enough to stop. 
As for the rest of the energy drinks out there I couldn’t even tell you what they taste like, nor do I plan on finding out. 
Some people will argue that I’m missing out on the buzz pre-workout, which I don’t doubt they get, but I’m also missing out on all the negative side effects which come with consuming energy drinks. 
Recent research into the effects of energy drinks on exercise showed they may have some positive beneficial effects on performance in various sport activities. 
It went on to state: “However, while energy drinks might benefit performance, possible detrimental health problems have been documented, particularly amongst children and adolescents.”
Again I’d rather look after my health that get a buzz from a can. 
So, where does the buzz coming from?
The boost of energy you receive from energy drinks comes from their high caffeine and sugar content. Some have as much as two cups of normal coffee not to mention all that sugar. 
This results in a high spike in cognitive function and energy. But what goes up very quickly, comes crashing down even quicker. When this energy boost wears off it can leave you feeling tired, cranky and not a nice person to be around.
Consumption of these drinks can also results in increased blood pressure, sleep disturbances, headaches and stomach aches. 
On top of that, caffeine stimulates urine production, which removes water from the body. If you are already losing water in sweat, losing more in the urine means needing to drink more during exercise. Caffeine can also have a laxative effect so you might find your workout cut short with a trip to the toilet. 
In addition to physical effects, your mental health can suffer. Research suggests that energy drinks can include sensation-seeking behaviour, self-destructive behaviour, insomnia, problems with behavioural regulation and poor lifestyle behaviours, such as poor diet and consumption of fast food.
For me, and I hope many others, the risks outweigh the rewards when it comes to energy drinks. If you feel like you need an energy boost, then try these before picking up a can. 
If you want a caffeine kick then head for some natural, organic grown coffee beans. But be careful, it’s still caffeine. Too much or late consumption of caffeine can still have negative effects on your health and how well you sleep. Stick to two cups max a day and have one of those 20 minutes before you work out.
Green Tea
It won’t give you the big hit but it will release caffeine in slow amounts for longer. It comes with a host of positive health benefits as well. 
Keep hydrated 
Make sure you are drinking around two litres of water throughout the day. Hydration can leave you lethargic so don’t add to your problems by consuming and energy drink.
You can keep hydrated from the foods you consume. Water is found in most foods especially fruits and vegetables, plus food gives you the sustained energy you need pre, post and during your workout.
Sports Drinks
If you feel that you need a glucose hit, then purchase a sports drink before your workout. They are filled with salt and electrolytes which will help keep your body hydrated and release the right type of sugar to give you the energy you need. 
If all else fails and you still don’t have the energy you need then have a nap before you workout. Sleeping or napping is one of the most underrated natural recovery and energy boosting methods we have. Get your hours of sleep in and see your performance increase. 

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