Energy drinks. They have become somewhat of a mainstay in our lives. Whether as an afternoon pick-me-up, the pre-workout drink or the "pre-game" bomb before heading out on a Saturday night; energy drinks are everywhere. With all of the benefits of these cans of power pack, there are some health concerns on the rise, especially in a country of 24/7 hustle.
A Brief History of Humans and Caffeine
Traces have been analyzed showing that Native Americans consumed highly-caffeinated drinks before heading to battle.
The first "energy drink" was Coca-Cola, as it contained both caffeine AND cocaine when it first was launched in 1886. Whoa.
Taisho Pharmaceuticals invented the first energy drink around 1962 in Japan called Lipovitan D. This was primarily designed to keep employees awake at night.
In the 1980's Jolt Cola became huge on college campuses. This super-caffeine drink is responsible for many an "all-nighters".
In 1997 Red Bull was created, and the flood gates opened. Since the introduction of Red Bull, HUNDREDS of different energy products,from drinks to pills have entered the market...and we're all suckers for it.
Simply put...Humans like to get "hyped up"... a lot.
How It Works
Caffeine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant. It's easily absorbed in to the blood and peaks very quickly (around 30min-1hour) after consumption. So whats the big deal? Energy drinks pack a combination of sugar (or artificial sweeteners), caffeine, taurine, and a plethora of "who knows what" ingredients.
But is it safe?
Recent studies are now showing that consumption of energy drinks can be linked to serious secondary effects and even death (only in extreme circumstances). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has investigated over 13 reports of deaths and adverse events supposedly linked to energy products.Energy drinks have also been associated with seizeres, headaches, rapid heart rate, chest pains, anxiety and irritability. For children and teens with a pre-existing cardiac condition, deaths and other serious events are more likely to occur.
Because these drinks tend to cram a daily serving of caffeine and B vitamins into a container as small as 2 oz., over consumption becomes almost always inevitable. For those of us who are fans of the "bomb", an energy drinks mixed with alcohol; you might want to think twice next time. Alcohol has a sedative effect; when adding energy drinks to alcohol, that effect is masked. This leads to all sorts of misjudgement but also loss of sleep, decreased mental function, and increased appetite. NO. GOOD.
But it can't be ALL bad, right?
For sports performance there are many benefits to caffeine including increased heightened focus, increased aerobic performance, decreased pain (both before and after exercise), and enhanced fat loss. All great things, if done right.
So here are some best practices for healthy living and caffeine:
Think hydration first. Most of the time when you are tired, you are dehydrated. Get a water bottle and take care of it!
Don't consume more than 16 oz.
Try to consume DOUBLE the water that you take in with energy drinks. For example, if you chug a 16oz Rockstar, then have at least a 20-24oz water bottle to drink in the hour following.
For optimal performance, consume 30-40 minutes prior to exercise
Track your total caffeine each day. Try not to go over 300mg in 1 serving, and only 1 serving every 4-6 hours
Keep total Caffeine intake to between 400-600mg per day: 1 can of Red Bull contains about 85mg of Caffeine, 1 can of Monster contains about 160mg of Caffeine, 1 can of Rockstar contains about 240mg of Caffeine
Coffee needs to be accounted for in this as well- 1 cup of coffee is between 85mg and 400mg (Starbucks Large).
Avoid caffeine within 5 hours of bedtime
Avoid combining it with Alcohol
If you have a health condition, be sure to talk to your doctor about how your caffeine intake is effecting your health.
As with nearly everything in life, MODERATION is the key. Give your nervous system a chance to catch up, and prioritize hydration before all else. Then, when you need that extra boost, you can feel guilt-free about crackin'-a-cold-one and enjoying the ride.