Lifestyle Nutrition

Eat Well & Thrive

Continuing Education

Energy Drinks; are they a safe pick me up?

Posted on September 7, 2018 at 1:00 PM

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association confirms that energy drinks can raise your cardio-vascular health risks. Increased heart rate and blood pressure appears to be the foundational adverse effects. Dehydration can directly exacerbate this risk and energy drinks do not hydrate, in fact, they tend to be dehydrating.

So while an energy drink seems to help with your energy slumps, they really just temporarily mask the symptoms of fatigue and actually foster ongoing fatigue by fostering your system to cycle exalts and crashes. This cycling has been shown to decrease the immune system, which in turn makes us more susceptible to mental exhaustion and illness. Mental and physical exhaustion elicits certain hormones, some of which signal the evolutionary signal of hunger, seeking to replenish energy producing dietary tools to keep us afoot and therefore not easy prey for a saber tooth tiger’s snack.

What are those evolutionary hunger hormones? Well, let me introduce you to your hunger hormones, leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is a hormone, made by fat cells, that decreases your appetite. Ghrelin is a hormone that increases appetite, and also plays a role in body weight. Ghrelin, the appetite increaser, is released primarily in the stomach and is thought to signal hunger to the brain. Researchers have suggested that ghrelin levels play a big role in determining how quickly hunger comes back after we eat. But Leptin is supposed to be lower when you're thin (so your hunger is less suppressed) and higher when you're overweight (so your appetite is decreased by signaling satiety) that’s the normal evolutionary survival way it is programed to work. Too thin: suppress the hormone that signals you are full and if you are too heavy, increase the hormone that tells signals you are full. Perfect right? Not so; there is good evidence to support what I have been saying for years; Evolution has not caught up with modern man; i.e. that we have grocery stores and restaurants on every corner and enough money to fill our bellies without hitting a rabbit in the head or gathering berries. A recent study from University of California at San Francisco concluded that when someone practices dietary/lifestyle habits that produce chronic “sugar roller coaster rides” their body’s build up a resistance to the appetite suppressing hormone, Leptin, over time.

So while the energy drink question is always - “Is it OK to drink these to avoid the daily dip in energy?” The real question should be “What is the underlying cause(s) of your energy slumps?”

Kick your energy level up a notch with these tips. You won't feel wired when it’s time to wind down, either

Start Your Day with a good Fiber source

This is the meal that sets the stage for the entire day. Studies show that breakfast helps keep you alert starts your metabolism for the day and keeps you satisfied until your morning snack time.

The type of breakfast you choose can mean the difference between feeling sluggish or full steam ahead. Think of food as your fuel. Remember what your learned about dietary bio-chemistry. You need to make your daily carbohydrate macronutrient choices around 50-55% since your body only lives on carbohydrates; but both fiber and protein keep your sugar load steady. Make sure each meal/snack provides both. This is a strategy that keeps your tummy feeling fuller longer and your blood sugar steady. By contrast, when you eat high sugar choices; ex: pasta- your sugar spikes, then drops a short time later, leading to an energy crash. For a power-packed morning meal, a good example could be: Egg and high fiber toast or pita pocket with a side of low sugar yogurt and berries or other fruit. For variety, alternate with a high fiber cereal, such as Fiber One Original, 1 oz of raw nuts and berries or other fruit.

Take Lots of Short Breaks

This can make you more productive by helping you avoid burnout. You have imprinted the feelings of hunger and fatigue in your body so be patient and its okay to take a few minutes to refresh. There was some good research published by the Louisiana State University that found taking several short breaks throughout the day was better than naps or rests over 20 minutes long.

Snack Right

Is your stomach growling? Stop – think are you really hungry or is this phantom hunger? Phantom hunger can be from, dehydration, stress, inactivity, boredom or dramatic swings in blood sugar levels. Your body is signaling destress; adding in more food just feeds the downward cycle related to obesity. Don’t just dash to your refrigerator or nearby restaurant. Most phantom hunger choices will raise your blood sugar for a short-lived boost, and then leave you feeling drowsy and still hungry for the rest of the day. Take a quick walk to move oxygen into your cells. Drink a glass of water or your fresh juice recipe to replenish hydration. If you are traveling when the arms of Morpheus embraces you and that hunger monster will not be denied- eat an Extend bar slowing with water or better yet- plan ahead and pack a snack from home. These can be very simple like apple slices with peanut butter, fiber one trail mix or low fat crackers with a portable cheese like string cheese

Get Moving

There’s a good reason to “get up and go” when you are feeling tired. Take a few minutes to walk around. A 10-minute walk provides more energy than eating a candy bar, a study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found. Get up and walk every hour or two. This kind of mindfulness can help you address phantom hunger in addition to assisting in any needed weight loss. Being overweight is a prominent culprit in experiences lower energy levels.

Stress; overt or internal

Everybody has some pressure in their lives and chasing life to the point of consistently be overbooked can cause anxiety, sleep loss, overeating, and/or exhaustion. Exercise, sleep and reducing stress are important in fighting fatigue. But nutrition is the dominant area of lifestyle that can affect energy levels throughout the day.


Being hydrated is an easy and inexpensive way to increase energy levels. You don't need vitamin water or sports drinks; they only add extra unneeded calories. Keep a fresh water source with you at all times and drink throughout the day. Add lemons, limes or oranges for taste variety.

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