In today’s hectic society, we all too often fail to take the time to rest properly. Most of us – myself included – spend our time trying to do far too much on far too little sleep.
Naturally, that leaves us feeling worn down and tired. So what do we do? We self-medicate. We drink coffee by the pot or we fill our bodies with energy drinks like Red Bull or Nos. While those sorts of drinks may give us a boost in the short term, they usually result in a crash later, and can even be harmful.
Here’s a look at the two main ingredients in your average energy drink that are doing the most damage. There are others, of course – acids and preservatives and colorings and whatnot – but these two are in pretty much every energy drink.
(It’s worth noting, by the way, that all of these nasty side effects can be far worse in children and teens.)
Caffeine isn’t necessarily bad in and of itself – for that matter, neither is coffee, so long as you don’t drink it to excess. The problem, though, is that too many of us drink it to excess, or get our caffeine from sodas or other energy drinks, rather than from a more healthful source.
In sufficient quantities, caffeine can have some pretty nasty side effects, including dizziness, nausea, jitters, and even breast shrinkage in some women. Additionally, caffeine is addictive, and can cause headaches if you do without long enough for withdrawal to set in.
Sugar is perhaps the most insidious ingredient in sodas and energy drinks. First off, it rots your teeth, just like your mom told you when you were little. Besides that, the simple fact is that our bodies aren’t designed to take in the amounts of sugar (be it cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or something else) in an energy drink – which is usually the equivalent of as many as a dozen spoonsful of table sugar.
Frankly, taking in that many empty calories is why America is fat, and why type 2 diabetes is becoming more and more rampant. Additionally, sugar is the component in energy drinks that’s responsible for the crash you get a few hours after drinking one.
Fortunately, there are plenty of healthy, natural alternatives to energy drinks out there. Perhaps the best known is green tea, which gives you a respectable dose of caffeine without giving you too much, and carries several health benefits besides.
Similarly, numerous juices – real juice, mind you, not sugary juice-flavored drinks – can give you a healthy boost. Also, it turns out that water can be an effective energy drink too. It seems most of us – and I’m as guilty here as anybody – don’t get enough water, and dehydration can leave you feeling sleepy and run down.
So if you spend your days knocking back Red Bulls, consider cutting back or eliminating the drink altogether, and replacing it with a healthy alternative, I guarantee you’ll feel much better. And you’ll probably live longer, to boot.