Friday, October 25, 2013

The Quicker Picker-Upper

Energy drinks have been sweeping the news world-wide.  From proposing a new tax in France to declarations of dangerous side-effects in Nigeria, the gig is up for manufacturers of drinks that claim to give you increased energy, alertness and output.

What is it about energy drinks that have sent over 20,000 people to the emergency room from 2007 to 2011? Well, there are several reasons.

1. Caffeine. Too much caffeine can cause an increase in blood pressure. When drinking in excess, it can also give you heart burn, ulcers, tremulousness and insomnia. For people who are hypertensive, high levels of caffeine will cause blood vessels to constrict and blood pressure to rise rapidly which can lead to a stoke. Consumption of up to 400 mg a day is considered a safe amount in healthy adults, but children should limit caffeine intake to 100 mg a day and pregnant or nursing women to 300 mg a day.

2. Sugar. A typical energy drink contains around 50-60 grams of sugar. This is about 10-12 teaspoons of sugar. Remember to look at the serving sizes; oftentimes you are drinking more than one serving.  The American Heart Association recommends no more than 100 calories a day (6 teaspoons) from added sugar for most women and no more than 150 calories a day (9 teaspoons) for most men.

3. Alcohol. The risk of mixing alcohol with energy drinks is that you may be unaware of how intoxicated you are and attempt to drive or drink to extreme excess. Alcohol also contributes to dehydration. 

4. Too much, too soon. Understand the strength of these products. When consumed quickly, the caffeine and sugar rush into your blood stream, raise your blood sugar and blood pressure and cause your heart rate to increase. Drinking three energy drinks in an hour is equivalent to 15 cups of coffee.

5. Dehydration. Energy drinks have been known to promote dehydration and, for that reason, should not be used especially while exercising.

6. Unknowns. Stimulants such as ephedrine, guarana, and ginseng enhance the effects of caffeine and there is not sufficient evidence that exists to concur the safety of their intake. Many energy drinks contain a large dose of B vitamins that can lead to brain or nerve damage if taken in excess.

How, then, are we going to get the energy we need to work all day and exercise and spend time with the family?

You can start by getting some good old-fashioned ZZZ’s. Ideally 7-8 hours a night. Eat a well balanced diet that will keep you fueled throughout the day. Not sure how? Ask a registered dietitian. Drink plenty of water all day to keep you hydrated. Get in the habit of carrying a water bottle with you wherever you go.  Limit the amount of caffeine in your diet to less than 400 mg a day to prevent unwanted side-effects that could interfere with your work, peace of mind and health.

If your child has been consuming energy drinks, please talk to them about the potential dangers and encourage them to make better choices that will help them rather than potentially harm them in the long run. 

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