5 things you should know about energy drinks
How do you stay on top of your homework after a full day of work?
Like many people, you might reach for an energy drink that promises to get you “amped,” “juiced” or “buzzed” through a combination of caffeine, B vitamins and sugar. However, according to a recent article in The New York Times, the Food and Drug Administration is looking into reports citing possible links between two popular energy drinks and 18 deaths in the past four years.
Vicki Greenberg, RN, nursing program manager at the University of Phoenix Southern California Campus, says she isn’t surprised by the reports. “Excessive caffeine intake can increase the risk of cardiac and other issues,” she says. She suggests considering five things before consuming an energy drink:
Some brands are stronger than coffee.
Energy drinks containing guarana can have up to 300 milligrams of caffeine — nearly three times the amount in a cup of coffee. “I recommend that people limit their daily caffeine intake to no more than 400 milligrams,” Greenberg says, adding that it’s better if the drink is “consumed early in the day so that it’s out of the system by nighttime.”
They can be habit-forming.
When you use energy drinks to stay awake at night, you get less sleep, so you need one in the morning to help you through the day, according to Greenberg. Eventually, you rely on the drinks just to remain alert, leading to what she calls a “vicious cycle of dependence.”
Caffeine alters your hormone levels.
Shortly after consumption, caffeine enters your bloodstream, causing a release of adrenaline, cortisone and epinephrine. Your body enters “fight or flight” mode. “It’s that burst of strength you get in dangerous situations,” Greenberg says.
“Putting your body in a constant state of stress weakens your immune system and increases inflammatory response,” she adds, “making you more prone to cardiovascular disease and gastrointestinal problems.”
Even the smallest servings pack a punch.
One of the popular choices, 5-hour Energy® drinks, comes in 2-ounce bottles. But don’t let their size fool you, Greenberg warns, because they pack a high amount of caffeine per serving: 215 milligrams. “It’s easy to drink those bottles like a shot,” she explains.
You can get energy in other ways.
Energy drinks are not the only solution. Drinking a glass of orange juice and taking a B vitamin, Greenberg notes, can give you a natural boost when you’re feeling sluggish. You can also try standing up, walking around, taking deep breaths, stretching or doing any other activity that raises your heart rate and will help you stay awake.
If you’ve tried everything, however, and your body is still telling you it’s time for bed, Greenberg says, “Listen to it.”
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