The highs and lows of energy drinks...
Lucozade, Red bull, Relentless and now 'Energy shots' all promise one thing; energy, but after consuming one or more of these many people will likely find yourself sleepy and lethargic again shortly after.
Feeling lethargic isn’t always caused by lacking sugar (energy) but might be caused by lacking the ability to release the energy and feel present and engaged.
This can be because of lack of vitamins or electrolytes, lack of sleep, stress or dehydration. It can also be caused by illness or even a 'crash' caused by your last stimulant you consumed (coffee, high sugar food etc)
The trouble with consuming high sugar content energy drinks is that you end up with a 'sugar rush' which initially makes you feel energetic (the desired effect), but your body responds to this surge of sugar by releasing high levels of insulin which bring your sugar level crashing back down. This leaves you right back where you started; feeling lethargic.
Consuming high caffeine drinks can have a similar effect, the caffeine is soon metabolised and leaves you with a crash. Energy drinks often contain caffeine levels several times higher than a coffee.
The purpose of 'sports drinks' and with it 'energy drinks' are that they are useful for athletes who are working at a high intensity or for a long duration, as the sugar is used as fuel to allow you to exercise.
Oddly enough though, the sports drinks are often consumed whilst we are stationary, whilst sat at a desk, driving or even with a lunch break...
If it were only athletes buying energy foods and drinks then the energy drink market wouldn’t be forecast to be worth $52 billion by 2016
Some people make it through the day by jumping from one stimulant to the next, dodging crashes by continued caffeine and sugar intake. It’s easy to do this without thinking, as we often instinctively seek out sugary foods when we are feeling drained.
Carrying on like this though can lead to weight gain caused by sugar highs and lows, which in turn leads to poor food choices. And because the drinks are merely masking the tiredness the continued fatigue decreases the immune system, making us more susceptible to depression and illness. It can also lead to increased risk of CHD and diabetes. (Yeah, serious or what?)
Rather than having energy levels which are at one of two extremes it is obviously preferable to keep yourself in the middle; energised but not 'buzzing'.
According to the NHS the best ways to optimise energy levels through the day are:
Get plenty of sleep and have occasional naps - Sounds obvious but most of us don't.
Drink more water - Dehydration is a common cause of fatigue.
Cut out caffeine - cut down slowly over a few weeks.
Drink less alcohol - you sleep less deeply after alcohol consumption.
Reduce stress - stress requires you to use more energy. find ways to relax.
Lose weight - carrying extra weight puts more strain on your body.
Exercise - even 15 minutes can re-energise you.
Eat more frequently - rather than larger, less frequent meals.
Eat nutrient dense (vitamin and anti-oxidant rich) foods.
For now though, maybe It’s probably best that we leave the sports drinks to people doing sport...