Science

Energy Drinks: Apples, Chocolate And Water Are Healthier Alternatives

By Hilda Scott , Mar 18, 2013 09:26 AM EDT
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Downing energy drinks like Monster or Red Bull may be a quick energy fix, but too much of it is not good for the body. Sure, an energy drink may help give you that extra pep when you need. Whether you're schlepping through your long morning commute or trying to make it through the afternoon, but think about what your body is consuming.

The major active ingredient in energy drinks is caffeine. Some of these beverages can contain up to 500mg per ounce. Compare that to one seven-ounce cup of coffee which has anywhere from 65 to 175 mg of caffeine, depending if it's brewed or instant.

Caffeine wakes you up by blocking the brain chemical related to sleep, adenosine and causes neurons in the brain to fire. The pituitary gland is fooled into thinking that the body is in an emergency.  The body's "fight or flight" response kicks in and adrenaline is released and the heart beats faster and pupils dilate. More sugar is released into the bloodstream by the liver, creating more energy. The brain's pleasure center chemical dopamine is also increased by caffeine and also makes you feel energized.

Caffeine, being a stimulant, can become addictive and lead to heart palpitations, anxiety and insomnia. Slight dehydration in the body can occur, since caffeine is also a diuretic. Diuretics cause the kidneys to remove excess fluid from the urine, so drinking energy drink whiles exercising can become dangerous and severely dehydrate you by affecting how you sweat.

Besides caffeine, other ingredients found in energy drinks include, taurine, ginseng, vitamin B, guarana seed and gingko biloba. Taurine regulates heart beat and muscle contractions and is a natural amino acid. Ginseng is a root known for its medicinal qualities including boosting energy and relieving stress. Vitamin B helps to improve muscle tone and converts sugar into energy. Guarana seed, found in Venezuela and Brazil is a stimulant, while ginkgo biloba is said to have memory boosting qualities.

Many people struggle with finding enough time within a 24-hour period to get proper sleep and exercise. People often resort to energy drinks for a quick pick-me-up when they are feeling tired and sluggish. Energy drinks may seem like they help keep us moving, but there are healthier alternatives to these caffeine-loaded soft drinks.

Eating an apple can feel like you just got a jolt of caffeine since apples contain energy boosting vitamins and natural sugar. Cashews or almonds are good energy boosters since they contain magnesium which helps convert sugar into energy. Chocolate, when eaten in moderation also increases energy and has bioactive compounds. Drinking water throughout the day is also helpful in making you feel energized. Even if you're slightly dehydrated, water can help give you an energy boost.

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