Do energy drinks actually give you energy?
Energy drinks are supposed to do just what the name implies, give you an extra burst of energy. They have been popping up all over supermarket and convenient store shelves all over the world and according to a New York Times article, they have overtaken bottled water as the fastest-growing category in the beverage business. Coffee stores have seen the effects of this ‘next new thing’ with afternoon coffee pick-me-ups, being substituted by these brightly coloured glossy cans that promise ‘a boost’ when feeling tried or run down. With the recent controversy surrounding the 13-million dollar lawsuit that Red Bull recently settled for the false advertising of its energy drinks, I thought it would be interesting to determine whether energy drinks really do give you the burst of energy they promise.
Energy Drinks. Photo Credit: Simon Desmarais via Flickr [CC-BY-SA-2.0], 2009.
Where does all this “energy” come from?
According to Suzanne Farrell, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, most of the “energy” in energy drinks comes from two main ingredients; sugar and caffeine. A typical energy drink contains the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee (80 milligrams). Caffeine works by blocking the effects of adenosine, a chemical in our brain that is responsible for sleep. When adenosine is blocked through consuming high quantities of caffeine, it causes neurons in the brain to activate. Thinking the body is in an emergency, the pituitary gland initiates the body’s “fight or flight” response by releasing adrenaline. This hormone makes the heart beat faster and the eyes to dilate. It also causes the liver to release extra sugar into the bloodstream for energy. All of these physical responses make you feel as though you have more energy.
The sugar in one-standard energy drink is equivalent to drinking a coffee with 10-12 teaspoons of sugar. These excessive amounts of sugar would provide the consumer with short burst of energy that cannot be sustained. Studies have found that the effects of energy drinks will be similar to that of drinking a cup of coffee or a can of soft drink in that when the effect wears off, you’ll feel yourself slowing down and will likely crave another drink to boost your energy once again.
A spoon of sugar. Photo Credit: Caro Wallis via Flickr [CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0], 2010.
So to answer the question, YES energy drinks will give you energy, but it will be short lasting and cannot be sustained for a long period of time.
I would love to hear from regular energy drink consumers to hear about whether they find they get energy boosts after drinking these supplements and how long the high lasts for. Are some brands better than others and do you feel that the more of them you drink the more resilient your body becomes?