Whether you enjoy them or not, energy drinks have become very popular in the fitness community and they certainly aren’t going away anywhere soon. The selling point for these products is the high caffeine content, which I imagine is why gym-goers drink them.
The diet versions of these drinks serve as a low-calorie energy boost - you’re looking at anywhere from 0-25 calories per 500ml can. However, if you opt for the full sugar variety, you’re looking at about 150-250 calories worth of sugar!
I’m not recommending you use energy drinks on the regular, nor am I trying to scare you away. I just want to provide the cold hard facts so that you can make that decision yourself!
Chemicals Check the back of your next energy drink and look at the ingredients list. There will be a long list of ingredients that you’ll probably never have heard of. A lot of people become wary because of this and are concerned with putting too many ‘chemicals’ into their body. I think that the word ‘chemicals’ is part of the reason that people may stay away from these drinks, when the truth is that EVERYTHING is a chemical.
Let’s talk about one chemical in particular for a second. Dihydrogen Monoxide - it’s a chemical found in just about everything.
It can improve athletic performance. It kills thousands each year. Inhaling it can kill you. It’s a major part of acid rain. It corrodes metal. It’s also found in every lake, river, or ocean.
Have you guessed what it is yet? Dihydrogen Monoxide is water!
Another popular ingredient in energy drinks is Vitamin B6. This might be included in the multivitamin tablet that you take each morning. Depending on the brand of energy drink, they may use the chemical name for vitamin B6, which is Pyridoxine Hydrochloride. It’s just something to think about. Just because something goes by its chemical name doesn’t mean it is inherently bad for you.
Natural VS. Synthetic
Blueberries! One of my favourite fruits. Below is a list of the ingredients in a single, natural blueberry.
Even fruits have plenty of chemicals in them. If you saw this list on the back of an energy drink, the chances are that you’d be very wary of what you were putting into your body. When in fact you are doing this every time you eat a single blueberry, or any type of fruit.
I especially like the last three ingredients. E941, E948 and E290. In other words, fresh air.
Just because something is ‘natural’ doesn’t mean it’s good. Just because something is ‘synthetic’ doesn’t mean it’s bad.
Antibiotics are synthetic - where would we be without them?
Poison is always determined by the dose. Anything can be harmful if you consume it in sufficient quantities.
An example of this is Taurine. It is an antioxidant found in most energy drinks and claims to improve blood flow, improve heart health, increase insulin sensitivity.
Intakes upwards of 3g per day over an entire lifetime are known to be toxic. An energy drink usually has less than 1g per can. In other words, unless you are consuming over 3-4 energy drinks per day for the rest of your life, you can rest easy. Many of the chemicals/vitamins in energy drinks are also water-soluble, which means that even if you are consuming too many of these, you’ll just pee them out!
Adequate Daily Intake The last thing I want to explain is adequate daily intake. This is the amount of a certain substance that can be consumed on a daily basis over a lifetime without any health risks. The substances in question are artificial sweeteners! Artificial sweeteners get a lot of hate. I imagine it’s because they’re artificial and not natural!
Two of the most popular sweeteners in energy drinks are acesulfame K and sucralose.
To reach the adequate daily intake for acesulfame K, you’d need to drink upwards of 30 cans of a diet energy drink.
Likewise for sucralose, you’d need to drink upwards of 6 cans! There is a lot more I could say about the topic of energy drinks - more specifically caffeine itself - but I’m going to leave that for a future post. Like I said at the start, I’m not telling you to go and start using energy drinks as a pre-workout. But I’m also telling you that they’re not as bad for you as you may think.