What energy drinks are all about

energy-drinks“I got a long day at work. Throw me a Red Bull®”. Sounds familiar? Come on, you must have had one tough day at work when you had to stay late and Red Bull® seemed like your only friend. Well, before you grab a can (or two) of your favorite energy drink, you have got to read this.

According to a report issued by the FDA, most popular energy drink brands in the USA (including Red Bull®) are being investigated due to various reported cases of adverse effects. Shockingly, there have been several documented deaths related to the over consumption of some of these brands of energy drinks!

http://www.fda.gov/downloads/AboutFDA/CentersOffices/OfficeofFoods/CFSAN/CFSANFOIAElectronicReadingRoom/UCM328525.pdf

However, let’s not overreact. If you occasionally reach for ONE can for that extra effort or to resist sleep in order to tend to a task at hand, there is no problem. Problems arise when people cross the line and consume too much energy drinks. So how much is too much? Well, before we answer that, we should take a closer look inside the energy drink can to understand what’s really inside.

  • Caffeine: In itself, and if taken with moderation, exerts no danger. It’s just like drinking a cup of coffee. In fact, coffee is scientifically accepted to provide several benefits to one’s health other than making you more alert. But here’s the deal: a can of your favorite energy drink contains the same amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee. So it’s not really like an adrenaline shot. However, some tend to “charge” more and more by drinking two or sometimes three cans instead of one. That’s not all, some drink coffee in addition to their energy shots! Now this “mega-dose” of caffeine can cause arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats), insomnia, elevated blood pressure and maybe seizures!
  • Taurine:  This amino acid is sometimes added to energy drinks formulas. Taurine is believed to be a neurotransmitter. However, according to researchers at Weill Cornell Medical, Taurine is actually a CNS depressant as in making you sleepy and drowsy rather than alert.
  •  Guarana: This herbal extract is actually a form of caffeine overload in disguise. Guarana contains FOUR times the amount of caffeine present in coffee beans. So, instead of adding caffeine to their energy drink, manufacturers also add Guarana (more and more caffeine) without even warning us on the label of the huge amount of caffeine inside.

Some brands add totally useless ingredients, such as a huge load of Vitamin B6 and B12. There are even brands that claim that to contain 8000% of the daily required dose of Vitamin B6! I need not say that your body is not going to use any of the extra 7900%! It will simply settle for its daily need and the rest is excreted in urine. So, basically they are selling us some imaginary benefits that have no scientific basis.

“Are you telling me I cannot drink Red Bull®, AMP® or any other energy drink anymore?” No, I am not. Physicians and nutritionists say that having one serving of an energy drink is not harmful as it is equivalent to a regular cup of coffee. It is when we exceed the limits and drink 2 or 3 cans, very frequently that trouble could occur.

Individuals who have underlying heart or circulatory medical conditions are at higher risk of adverse effects of such drinks. It is also not advisable to drink right before working out. The goal of working out is to elevate heart rate during exercise and maintain it at a high level for a while. If you drink a caffeine-rich formula (which naturally elevates blood pressure and heart rate), it could trigger a heart attack, especially when there is an underlying medical condition of the heart.

Alternatively, physicians and healthcare professionals recommend having an adequate amount of rest and sleep. In addition, they advise us to never skip meals, especially breakfast, which fuels the body throughout the day. As for energy drinks, they suggest that drinking coffee in moderation gives the same effect as energy drinks. Nevertheless, if you feel like having an “energy-shot”, then a can of sugar-free energy drinks is generally acceptable and more than enough without having to go through the troubles and risks of caffeine overdose.

I can’t sleep

Not so long ago, I’ve had some terrible sleeping patterns. One night I would sleep quite well only to suffer sleeplessness the next. This lasted for quite some time and was very annoying. I just wanted to sleep better!

Oh, it's one of "those" nights

Oh, it’s one of “those” nights

Insomnia, or sleeplessness, can be very frustrating. And let’s face it: we’ve all experienced insomnia. That is why I looked around for solutions to the problem. So, if you suffer from sleeplessness I recommend you read on.

Before we can answer the popular questions “How can I sleep better?” or “What is the treatment of insomnia?” we need to understand what insomnia is and what are its causes.

The term “insomnia” is – scientifically – used to describe a wide range of sleep disorders. Medically, it can be classified into three types, according to how long the symptoms last:

  • Transient Insomnia: When it lasts for a few days to a few weeks
  • Acute Insomnia: Lasts for several weeks
  • Chronic Insomnia:  Can last for months or sometimes years.

The causes of insomnia are numerous. These include certain drugs, drinking alcohol, psychological disorders (such as schizophrenia and depression), hormonal changes during menstrual cycle and disruptions in the regular day/night cycle (called Circadian Cycle).

Apart from being an annoying situation in itself, it also may result in undesirable consequences. Research shows that lack of sufficient sleep may affect the integrity of the immune system. This can result in making the body more liable to viral infections and requires longer recovery periods. So you see it’s not just about feeling exhausted or in a terrible mood.

Before taking any sleeping pills, keep in mind that sleeping pills are tricky. If taken incorrectly, they might lead to dependence, aka addiction. Now, to answer the question “How to sleep better?” here are a few tips to help you sleep.

  1. Fixed sleeping schedule: Try as much as you can to sleep (and get up) at fixed times, everyday; even on weekends and holidays (I know it’s not easy!). This daily routine helps stabilize our natural sleep/wake cycle and enables you to sleep easier day after day.
  2. Monitor what you eat or drink: Do not sleep when you’re hungry, or when you’re full. Either situation can cause discomfort, which in turn makes sleeping almost impossible. Also, smoking (anything containing nicotine) and caffeinated drinks, obviously, will keep you awake. If you absolutely have to drink coffee, have your last cup early (2 PM) so that your body has enough time to get rid of its effects. Some drinks such as anise have been reported to aid sleeping.
  3. Set the mood: If you want to sleep better, your bedroom must be extra comfy and set in a relaxed mood. Turn the lights off, make sure it’s quiet and choose a mattress and pillow that are most comfortable to you.
  4. Exercise: The effort you make during exercise will help you fall asleep faster. Just make sure that your workout is not too close to bedtime which might have reverse effects.
Nothing seems to work

Nothing seems to work

At the end, I have a little piece of advice. If apparent causes of insomnia are excluded and the symptoms last for a long time, maybe it’s time to see a doctor. I wouldn’t recommend taking any sleeping pills or antihistamines without a prescription. Taking any medication without reason or for the wrong indication is not a wise choice and might make the case worse.