Potential Health Risks of Energy Drinks and Sports Drinks

Energy and sports drinks are popular among students, professionals, and athletes today. Although these two drinks quench the thirst of the people, however, they are different.

Sports drinks aim to replenish the lost electrolytes, prevent dehydration, sustain endurance, and supply carbohydrates during exercise or any physical activities. At the same time, energy drinks aim to increase one’s alertness and energy. Frequently, energy drinks contain stimulants such as caffeine, which is not found in sports drinks.

According to reports, the worldwide consumption of energy and sports drinks has increased rapidly over the decade. This has been linked to the fast-paced world we currently lived plus the demands at home and at work that each citizen needs to address immediately. The community expects much of its citizens. Thus, they tend to work more than what they can handle and abuse their body.

It seems that 24 hours is not enough and people result in energy and sports drink to boost themselves for the bulk work ahead of them. However, excessive use of energy and sports drink can have potential health risks as well. Let’s find out more in this article.

Defining what are Sports Drinks and Energy Drinks?

Sports Drinks

Sports drinks are flavored beverages with electrolytes such as potassium, sodium, magnesium, vitamins like Vitamin B and C, and sugar/ carbohydrates like glucose-fructose, maltodextrin, and sucrose at about 5 grams to 14 grams per 240 mL of serving. Apart from this, sports drinks also include sweeteners, fruit flavors (natural or artificial), and citric acid.

This type of drink is designed to replace the lost electrolytes and fluids when one sweats during exercise or other strenuous activities. It also delivers carbohydrates to other parts of the body.

Studies show that although sports drinks can have a specific role in supporting athletes' hydration during sustained and vigorous activities, their use is unnecessary in daily physical activities. For average work, it is best to drink water instead of being refueled.

Energy Drinks

Meanwhile, energy drinks aim to boost one’s energy, enhance concentration, and minimize tiredness during work.

It usually contains caffeine, herbal ingredients, and sugar such as sucrose or glucose-fructose. Other ingredients are Ginkgo Biloba, taurine, tyrosine, Vitamin B, alanine, ginseng, and L-carnitine.

Sugar is important in these drinks because it is a source of rapid energy. The quantity of sugar in energy drinks ranges between 1 gram to 43 grams per 237 mL serving. It contains more sugar compared with a sports drink.

The consumption of energy drinks is common among adolescents such as students. According to the survey conducted by the Canadian Pediatric Surveillance Program, students buy energy drinks due to the desire to increase alertness, improve performance at school or sports, and conform to peer pressures.

Highlighted Ingredients of Energy and Sports Drinks

Artificial Sweeteners

The majority of energy drinks have sugar-free versions, which include artificial sweeteners. The artificial sweeteners will help cover the bad taste of the other ingredients in energy drinks.

More studies are being conducted on the safety of artificial sweeteners versus sugar-free drinks. However, on average, those who take energy drinks in excessive amounts have bigger waistlines than those who don’t.

Some of the artificial sweeteners used are Ace-k, Sucralose, Aspartame, and alcohol sugars.

There are debates regarding the adverse effects of artificial sweeteners, and some say they can cause cancer. However, studies show that the amount found in energy drinks is safe for consumers. What isn’t clear is the long-term effect of artificial sweeteners since most of the studies conducted are its effects for a short-term period only.

Caffeine

Caffeine is the most popular and widely used drug since ancient times because of its stimulating effects. It is commonly found in coffee and tea, and manufacturers nowadays put it in sodas and energy drinks.

Most of the energy drinks today contain around 70 mg to 200 mg per bottle or can.

Caffeine is known to stimulate the central nervous system. It dilates the blood vessels and makes the body alive and alert, especially during loads of work ahead of you. Caffeine raises blood pressure and heart rate, plus it also hydrates the body.

When people consume more than 400 mg of caffeine in a day, they can experience side effects such as heart palpitations, nausea, headaches, sleeplessness, and jitters.

Creatine

Creatine can be derived from eating meat products, and it can be naturally produced by the body. However, energy drinks also contain creatine because they can help supply energy to the muscles.

This type of amino acid can support bodybuilders and athletes, especially during long workouts in the gym. However, it must be noted that too much creatine can cause kidney problems.

Ginkgo Biloba

Another ingredient found in energy drinks is the Gingko Biloba. It is named after a tree found in Asia, and it has been used since ancient times.

Ginkgo biloba is known to help in retaining memory, blood circulation, focus, and concentration. It is also popular to be an antidepressant.

The standard supplementation dose of Ginkgo Biloba is 60 mg, but people can take up to 240 mg daily. However, it is advised by medical experts to check the ingredients of the energy drinks and see to it that the Gingko Biloba content is in its moderate amount.

Ginseng

Another ingredient in energy drinks is Ginseng which is used as a medicinal herb since ancient times. It is known to increase energy levels, decrease feeling tired, relieve stress, and enhance one’s memory.

Ginseng is also known to stimulate the pituitary and the hypothalamic glands, which can secrete the adrenal corticotropic hormone.

The chemicals in Ginseng can pose harmful effects on the body. Thus it is recommended to have it in moderate amounts only.

The recommended amount of ginseng in energy drinks is from 200 mg to 2,700 mg per day. Some of the side effects of an overdose of ginseng are an extreme headache plus diarrhea.

Inositol

The Inositol was considered before as a Vitamin B. However, it was removed from the roster since the body can produce its supply even without supplementation.

Inositol is a type of carbohydrate which is made when the glucose breaks down.

Manufacturers include inositol in their products because it helps the modulation of serotonin and aids the nervous system. Doctors also give their patients who suffer from psychiatric problems with Inositol because it can help the nervous system.

According to studies, there are no known side effects of Inositol, and it is generally safe. It is also found in many foods such as nuts, beans, grains, and fruits.

L-Carnitine

L-carnitine is also incorporated in some energy drinks nowadays. Also, it is naturally produced by the kidney and liver. L-carnitine is an amino acid, and it can help speed up one’s metabolism and increase energy levels. Also, it acts as a thermogenic and helps increase endurance, especially during extreme exercise.

The recommended amount of L-carnitine in the energy drinks is from 2 to 6 grams only.

Sugar

Apart from artificial sweeteners, energy drinks do contain sugar too. Sugar is the body’s preferred fuel, and it is a type of carbohydrate made when the glucose breaks down.

It is recommended that one should have a good dose of carbs to sustain exercise. However, too much sugar in the body can be linked to diabetes and obesity. It can also spike insulin levels, and one may feel a ‘crash’ feeling after one hour or so.

For example, one energy drink can have at least 63 grams of sugar, which is the same amount as eating two regular sizes of candy bars.

Taurine

Another acid that is naturally produced by the body is called Taurine. However, Taurine that is found in energy drinks is manufactured by the companies.

Taurine helps the heart have a regular beat. It also helps with muscle contractions and sustained energy levels.

According to some theories, when the body is under stressful conditions like extreme physical activities, injury, or illness, the body will not create Taurine; thus, supplements such as energy drinks can help.

Consumption of Energy and Sports Drinks

The consumption of energy and sports drinks nowadays has been increasing. For example, in America, the average daily consumption of teenagers of caffeine amounts to 60 to 70 mg, but it can be as high as 700 mg each day.

From this data, about 1/3 of the American teenagers and ½ of college students consume energy drinks regularly. Indeed, many caffeinated products are deliberately marketed to teenagers.

According to the US Market Trends and Opportunities, the product sale of energy and sports drinks almost reached $25 billion in 2016. Surprisingly, millennials, especially men, use sports and energy drinks more often than other consumers.

Concerns about Energy and Sports Drinks

There are various concerns about why the energy and sports drinks are not advised to be taken excessively. Here are some of it:

Additional Sodium Content

Apart from being an ineffective option to hydrate the body, the sodium content in sports drinks can cause harmful effects on the drinkers.

The food available nowadays have sodium on it, and adding it more through sports drink can raise the blood pressure and put your body at risk to heart disease and stroke.

Can Cause Hyponatremia

Hyponatremia pertains to a serious condition wherein your blood has a low level of sodium on it. It can be caused both by dehydration or overhydration.

According to the studies done by Harvard University, it has been found out that at least 13% of marathon runners have hyponatremia due to excessive drinking of sports drinks than those runners who only drink water.

Erosion of the Teeth

Sports drinks contain acid that can cause the erosion of the teeth, more than sodas. And if your teeth are affected, the damage is irreversible. According to the studies done and published by General Dentistry, after five days of consuming sports drinks, the acid will start destroying the tooth enamel. People will have problems getting back the natural beauty of their teeth.

Ingredients with Little Research

Other energy drinks contain unknown ingredients with little research about them. Examples of which are guarana and kola nut. With this, you can’t be sure of its effects on the body.

Limited Regulation

Energy drinks are classified as dietary supplements in the United States, and there are no strict regulations on them, unlike foods. For example, the US Food and Drug Administration or FDA can regulate caffeine in sodas, but it cannot do so in energy drinks.

Slows Down Hydration

Big companies claim that sports drinks can help prevent athletes become dehydrated better than water due to vigorous exercise. However, such a claim is false, and water is still the best liquid to take to be hydrated. Studies prove that sports drinks that have high-sugar content can even slow down hydration.

Sports Drinks do not Contain proteins and Electrolytes.

The majority of sports drinks available nowadays have zero grams of protein. Proteins are essential in muscle-building, and athletes cannot gain such nutrients even if they drink excessive sports drinks.

Also, it does not contain enough electrolytes because its sugar content often cancels out its benefits. You can only get the electrolytes lost once you eat healthy foods after exercising.

Sugar

Energy drinks contain massive amounts of sugar, which add to the calories. As such, it can lead to a weight gain of people when used excessively.

It is also common knowledge that sugar can pose various health risks which could become fatal if not addressed immediately.

Too Much Caffeine Content

Energy drinks contain caffeine plus other ingredients. Some products do not disclose how much caffeine is included, and it is hard to determine what kind of drink you are consuming.

In general, energy drinks can have 500 mg of caffeine and more. This is equivalent to 14 cans of soda to have that same amount of caffeine.

Caffeine can cause palpitations to drinkers, cold sweats, and other negative effects. It can also cause difficulty sleeping, especially for adults. Caffeine can cause addiction, and withdrawal can be problematic, especially when your body gets used to a lot of caffeine.

Withdrawing from drinking energy drinks can have adverse effects like feeling grumpy and tired, plus headaches.

Will not Quench your Thirst.

Sports drinks will not quench your thirst, unlike what is advertised. You think that it will keep you more hydrated than water because it will make you drink more.

According to the Journal of Applied Physiology, the taste of sports drinks with salt plus other ingredients will cause people to drink more. As such, you may think you are keeping yourself hydrated, but you are consuming more calories than you intend to have.

Conclusion

In sum, energy and sports drinks are not bad for the body, but if you take them in an excessive amount, you can experience adverse effects.

It is designed to aid the body recover during stress and other strenuous activities, but it is still best to drink lots of water and eat the right kind of food to replenish the energy lost along the process.

Finally, if you wish to drink energy and sports drinks regularly, it is advisable to seek the help of doctors, especially if you are experiencing health problems now.


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