Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Modern Day Popeye's Spinach.

Well, I was chatting with a friend this week about how awesome Gatorade is. Let me give you a little background. It's not that I actually drink Gatorade, but I am an avid University of Florida alumnus, emphasis on 'avid', so I'll start by saying GO GATORS! And yes, just in case you were wondering, we did create Gatorade. Feel free to worship now.

Okay, okay, back to my topic. Energy drinks. What really is the difference between the various kinds? And do energy drinks really benefit the body at all? It's fairly easy to chug down an energy drink when you're about to head to the gym and your body feels tired. After all, it is called an ENERGY drink. But it's important to know what's in these drinks, and if they are giving you energy at the expense of something else. Here are a few highlights on energy drinks that I think are important to know:

Caffeine: When we hear the word caffeine, we automatically think of coffee, right? But caffeine is also in soda and energy drinks as well. Actually, the caffeine in energy drinks is usually just as much as that in coffee, and sometimes more depending on the type of coffee you drink (instant coffee usually contains less caffeine). So why is this bad? Well, caffeine stimulates your nervous system keeping you alert, but it also dehydrates you. So while the short term effect seems great, in the long run, you could be messing with your nervous system, especially if you become dependent on it for exercise. For a list of the caffeine content of energy drinks, check out this link: Caffeine Content of Beverages.

Taurine: This is an amino acid that helps to regulate your body's energy levels. The body already produces enough of this unless you are ill, but energy drinks usually contain more. So it is not certain if this ingredient helps the body in any way.

The 'Ades': Gatorade, Powerade, and all other sorts of electrolyte ades. There is a huge controversy about whether these are energy drinks or not. They are advertised as drinks that help replenish the body after a workout, and even give you energy before. And that's what energy drinks are right? Not really. These 'ades' help to hydrate the body where energy drinks actually do the reverse. They do not contain caffeine so they usually don't mess with your nervous system. What they contain is a proper blend of sugar, water, and salt to efficiently hydrate your cells. So they will provide you energy, but not necessarily in the instant way that caffeine does. Now even though I think Gatorade is fantastic (isn't the concept just genius?), be careful when you drink these because studies have shown that they may contribute to enamel erosion. In other words, you start getting grandma teeth at 25. Not a good look.

Ginseng: What the hell is Ginseng? Ginseng is an herb that helps to prevent fatigue. Right now, studies have shown no negative effects unless regularly consumed in very large quantities. So go ahead and have that ginseng. But remember that it's more about relieving stress and preventing fatigue than it is about giving you that instant energy that engorges your muscles so they start ripping through your shirt. Just saying.

Sugar content: Shocker! Energy drinks contain a lot of sugar. If you've ever been around a child that has just ingested way too much sugar, you know sugar gives you instant energy. And thus, it makes sense that drinks that are created to give you an instant energy boost do contain lots of sugar. So who cares? Why is tons and tons of sugar bad? For one, lots of sugar usually means lots of calories. Another demerit is that too much sugar intake has been linked to diabetes. And as we all know, diabetes is a disease that black people are already at risk for, so we should probably not be doing too much to push our bodies. Lastly, the more sugar your take in, the more sugar your body wants. Sugar is like cocaine really, except that it's legal and won't affect you if you take it in small quantities. The more you eat, the more you want. I think I'm in the wrong profession actually. I should have started selling desserts. Oh well...

In summary, energy drinks seem to help the body get that instant push, but should be taken carefully and infrequently. They do have some positive benefits, but the major drawback is the number of calories and the effect on your nervous system. Try not to get too dependent on them. Rather than take energy drinks, it seems better for the body if you eat energy boosting foods before you work out, and eat protein and carbs after you work out to repair your muscles and replenish your energy. And of course, if you play a lot of sports or work out a lot, the electrolyte drinks like Gatorade and Powerade are very useful because they help you stay properly hydrated though your game or your work out routine.

Are you seriously attached to your energy drinks? What's your drink of choice and why?

Have a lovely week Eights & Weights!

1 comment:

  1. A very helpful review! I don't do energy drinks (anymore) but these ingredients are in so many products so it's good to know what your are getting into... rather, what's getting into you!


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