Lets Talk About Energy Drinks

The consumption of energy drinks have caused much controversy in recent years. Two camps have arisen from this discussion, one which backs the intake of energy drinks and one that disagrees with the consumption of energy drinks. In this blog I shall breifly discuss the potential benefits and the potential side effects of consuming energy drinks.

There are many different companies that provide Energy drinks. The main ingredient in all of them is of course Caffeine. "caffeine is a well-known stimulant that affects numerous neurotransmitter and endocrine signaling pathways" (Christine Perdan Curran, PhD). Caffeine is a stimulent drug that has been shown to increase alertness and, keeping in context, has been shown to improve performance. Many companies also chose to add other ingredients such as Creatine and Amino Acids that are not designed to improve energy levels, but to improve overal performance and recovery.

Caffeine molecule

The consumption of energy drinks has been shown to improve performance. A paper by McCormack, William P. et al studying energy drinks showed that "when caffeine is ingested in relative dosages of 5 to 6 mg/kg body weight, significant increases in acute strength and power performance, as well as increases in training volume, have been reported". It has also been oberserved that energy drinks have also enhanced aerobic performance - "For the aerobic athlete, caffeine is thought to prolong endurance exercise. The mechanisms that have been proposed to cause this effect involve an increase in fat oxidation by mobilizing free fatty acids from adipose tissue or intramuscular fat stores". In the study, there are many examples of athletes improved performance after consuming a pre-exercise energy drink.

But Chris, aren't energy drinks full of chemicals that are bad for us?

"As with any stimulant, there is potential harm, albeit the risk is quite low when you use these drinks properly. Currently, there is no evidence that consuming energy drinks poses any long-term health risk" (Antonio, Jose PhD, FNSCA1; Muñoz, Colleen MS2).

The use (and overuse) of any drug has it's risks. It is also true that there are various ingredients that, if consumed in great quantities, can be detrimental to your health. However, you would have to drink an awful lot of them to experience any real side-effects.

Measuring and timing your caffeine intake appropiately is also important. Although caffeine has been shown to improve performance, it can also effect sleep quality. It takes between 6-8 hours for caffeine to be utilised by the body, meaning that if you take it too late in the day the chances are of a poor sleep increases.

Too much caffeine has also been shown to have negative effect on developing brains (like those in adolescents), individuals with cardiovascular problems and blood pressure issues as caffeine increases heart rate and blood pressure. It is important (in all cases) to ensure you do not exceed the maximum caffeine dosage. Most energy drinks will offer 100-200mg of caffeine per serving, which in most cases won't exceed caffeine intake limits. Too much caffeine can lead to insomnia, restlessness, irratibility, gastric discomfort and elevated heart rate. If you are unsure, please feel free to contact me.

It is also important to consider the overal caloric intake of energy drinks. Energy drinks are often filled with simple carbohydrates (sugars). Although carbohydrates can be useful for performance, it is crucial to understand the overal caloric intake. We know that there are 4 calories to every gram of carbohydate, and an average can of Monster can serve up to 60g of Carbs (240 calories of just carbs). For those embarking on a restrictive caloric diet this isn't ideal - happily however there are diet versions of energy drinks with minimal calorie amounts.

In conclusion, the addition of energy drinks has shown to enhance the performance of athletes and/or individuals wanting to perform better in the gym with both strength and power exercises and aerobic exercises. Special considerations should be put in place for younger athletes, individuals with cardiovascular issues and blood pressure issues. I'd recommend chosing diet/low calorie variations as to control caloric intake and not to have them past 2pm in the afternoon to ensure sleep quality isnt hindered.

I would also make sure that you do not rely on energy drinks for your training. Having too much caffeine will reduce the effects it has on you and you can develop a caffeine addiction (which isn't difficult to overcome). In my opinion, relying on them also makes you a less flexibile athlete as you may feel psychologically weaker and more fatigued if you do not have one.

This is a breif over view of energy drinks. If you have any questions regarding this subject please feel free to contact me.