You’ve probably seen or heard of recent news stories about people being rushed to the hospital as the result of consuming commercial energy drinks. There are even stories about people having severe adverse reactions, and some local bars and clubs are now posting warning signs about mixing energy drinks with alcohol.
If you need an energy boost now and then – and given the hectic pace of our lives, that’s probably happened to all of us – there are safe options that will help you avoid some of the risks surrounding excess caffeine consumption or other adverse reactions.
These are some of the facts about energy drinks and a variety of healthy ways to perk yourself up.
The Low Down on Energy Drinks
1. Read the labels very carefully. The FDA regulates the amount of caffeine in foods and soft drinks like colas, however, energy drinks are considered a dietary supplement so it may be impossible to tell how much caffeine you’re getting. Plus, there could be additional stimulants like the herb guarana and other substances.
2. Use energy drinks in moderation. If you still want to consume these beverages, try them in small amounts on a full stomach. Sip them slowly, because it’s easy to overindulge in any cold drink when you’re thirsty. Consider also the size of the energy drink as it relates to your body size. If you’re thin or have a smaller frame, be cautious on your serving size.
3. Know the symptoms of caffeine toxicity. Too much caffeine can cause very serious health issues. Watch for an irregular heart beat or palpitations, increased blood pressure, anxiety and an upset stomach.
4. Don’t add alcohol. Mixing alcohol with energy drinks can cause real, serious trouble. It’s easy to underestimate how intoxicated you are if you take a stimulant. This can lead to driving under the influence and consuming more alcohol than intended.
5. Talk with your kids. Energy drinks are marketed mostly to young adults and teens. Discuss them with your kids or young people that you have influence with and let them know that health experts recommend 100 milligrams or less of caffeine a day for adolescents. Individuals may have lower tolerances based on a number of factors.
6. Check with your doctor. It’s best to forego energy drinks if you have certain medical conditions like heart disease or high blood pressure. This is also true for pregnant women and women who are nursing.
Healthy Alternatives to Energy Drinks
1. Hit the gym. Exercise is one of the most reliable ways to pump yourself up and raise your energy levels. Take an aerobics class with high-energy music and moves or go for a run.
2. Rest up. Getting adequate sleep will keep you feeling your best. Try to go to bed and wake up on a consistent schedule even on weekends.
3. Drink more water. Dehydration causes fatigue, which might make you reach for an energy drink to get that boost. Carry a steel water bottle around with you so you can sip all day long and avoid thirst.
4. Eat small, frequent, healthy meals. Digesting large meals puts an extra load on your body and can make you more sluggish. Break up your dining into small meals and snacks, and include a healthy balance of ingredients.
5. Add a few more carbohydrates to your diet. Carbohydrates are a great source of long lasting energy, and when chosen wisely, won’t create a nutrition problem. Stock up on fruits, vegetables and whole grains – pick your favorites and add some new options to expand your palate.
6. Lose weight sensibly. Lugging around extra pounds puts a strain on your heart and other body organs, and can throw off your energy levels. Follow a sensible, power-enhancing diet and increase your activity level so you can gradually reach your ideal weight and stay there without adopting extreme methods.
7. Breathe correctly. You may be surprised to learn that just changing the way you breathe so that you take in more oxygen can help you feel more vigorous. Mastering a few basic Yoga positions like the Tree Pose makes a dramatic difference.
8. Turn up the lights. Exposure to bright lights is one of the fastest ways to increase your energy levels. Take a noontime walk to enjoy the sun, and you’ll also get a beneficial dose of Vitamin D.
9. Get your caffeine from familiar sources. Most adults can safely consume about 200 to 300 milligrams per day of caffeine, and it’s easier to keep track of the amounts in well-known items like coffee and chocolate. For example, a cup of coffee has about 100 to 150 milligrams.
Commercial energy drinks have become a huge industry totaling more than $5 billion a year in sales. Use these beverages with caution or get your energy the old fashioned way with adequate sleep and a nutritious diet.