A four-year study conducted by the U.S. Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration has found a ten-fold increase in hospital-related emergency room visits caused by energy drink consumption. In 2015, energy drink sales in American amounted to 2.8 billion dollars and reached 3.4 billion by 2019.
While persons younger than 24 years seem most at risk, anyone can have an adverse reaction to an energy drink. The good news is that there are healthy and natural alternatives to commercial energy drinks and the more concentrated energy shots that are equally effective at boosting energy without the dangerous side effects.
Side effects of drinking energy drinks and shots
Energy drinks have become a highly common beverage for people of all ages. However, many energy drinks contain large amounts of caffeine and sugar to deliver that boost of energy. Although caffeine and sugar in small doses are not dangerous, they can pose substantial health risks if consumed in large quantities.
Energy drinks contain 21 to 34 grams of sugar per each 8-ounce serving, which comes in the form of sucrose, glucose, or even high fructose corn syrup. The big problem arises when users down two or three energy drinks, or 120 mg to 180 mg of sugar, which is 4-6 times the maximum daily recommended intake.
Some studies suggest that even this recommended intake limit may be too high. Mayo Clinic researchers say that healthy young adults who are not used to regular caffeine consumption, experience a concerning rise in resting blood pressure when they consume energy drinks.
In their study, researchers gave a can of a popular energy drink or a placebo drink to adults aged 19 to 40. Changes in heart rate and blood pressure were noted in each group 30 minutes after the consumption of their drink. Results were also compared between participants who drank the equivalent of one cup of coffee per day and those that drank more than one cup of coffee per day.
Not surprisingly, those who consumed the energy drink experienced a marked rise in blood pressure when compared to the placebo group. Here is what really got us: those who consumed less caffeine had almost double the rise in blood pressure compared to those who consumed more than the equivalent of caffeine found in one cup of coffee daily
Additionally, energy drinks and shots may contain ingredients like ginseng and guarana which, when combined with sugar, can enhance the impact of caffeine. Other implications of chemical additives in energy shots and drinks are not totally understood but could cause additional issues.
Here are some common symptoms caused by drinking energy drinks and shots:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Muscle tremors
- High blood pressure
- Heart arrhythmia
- Tooth decay
- Weight gain
First things first, why are you tired?
Before grabbing an energy drink or shot, hoping for a quick boost, it is a good idea to assess why you are fatigued. Many things can cause fatigue, including chronic insomnia, sickness, lack of vitamins, lack of protein, and stress. If you are feeling run down and have a lack of energy, it is imperative to address the underlying reason for your fatigue, before reaching for a band-aid solution.
Not eating a well balanced, whole food diet can contribute to fatigue as can overeating sugar or junk food. How does your diet look? Try adding in more fruits and vegetables and be sure that you are getting enough protein – whether from plant sources such as beans or freshly caught fish or free-range animals. Keep in mind that a sugar and caffeine-laden energy drink is no replacement for a healthy diet.
How are you sleeping? If you are consistently getting less than 7 hours of sleep a night, your body will begin to wear down and slow down. Without proper sleep, your energy tank will run low, and your body will cry for rest. Try to establish a good sleeping routine where you go to bed and get up at the same time each night. Make sleep a priority, and your body will reward you with consistent energy.
Are you stressed, anxious, and feel out of control? If so, stop and take the time necessary to evaluate where the stress is coming from and formulate a plan to deal with the stressors in your life. Great solutions are yoga, walking outdoors in the fresh air, journaling, deep breathing, and exercise.
Natural energy drinks and shots you can enjoy
Once you identify the root of your energy loss, you should start to feel better. For those days when you do need an extra energy boost, turn to these healthy and natural alternatives instead of dangerous energy drinks and shots.
The Hot Boost
This drink is super easy to make, and the lemon not only tastes great but is also alkalinizing, which helps your body maintain a healthy pH level. The cayenne pepper, which gives this drink its kick, raises energy levels and provides heart protection. Raw honey not only provides quick energy but is also full of valuable nutrition and sweet goodness.
- 1 cup filtered warm water
- 1 slice of lemon
- 1 pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp raw honey
Squeeze the lemon and drop it in the water along with the honey and cayenne.
Morning Banana Protein Shake
Enjoy this delicious shake before heading out the door for your busy day. It is loaded with healthy nutrients, and protein to keep your energy meter running high.
- 1 ripe banana
- 2 tsp almond butter
- 1 scoop whey protein powder
- Small handful of kale
- ½ cup plain yogurt
- 1 tsp ground flax seeds
- 1 cup almond milk
Blend and enjoy!
Anytime Energy Shot
Not only does this energy shot rev you up, but it also helps to boost immunity. Drink this shot anytime you feel a cold or flu coming on, or you need a little pick-me-up.
- 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, scrubbed
- ½ small green apple without seeds
- 1 cup packed organic spinach leaves
- 1 large lemon
- Small pinch of cayenne pepper
Cut all ingredients in chunks and peel away lemon skin. Push through the juicer and enjoy!
-Susan Patterson, CBHC