Before we get into the great energy drink debate, I want you to know that I am not a fan of calling any food/drink “bad” or “good,”, so don’t expect to come away from this thinking energy drinks are bad or good. I’ll drop a graphic I made a while back and a few thoughts I had on the subject below.
“The notion that some foods are inherently bad (or good) is one of the dumbest things the fitness industry tries to sell you every single day. Are some foods better than others? Of course. Will eating a lot of Doritos get you closer to those washboard abs you’ve been working for? Not a chance. Are they delicious? Absolutely.
The point I’m trying to make is to show that no food can possibly be “bad” on its own. If you want some ice cream, eat some effing ice cream. You won’t die, promise. Making solid food choices 100% of the time is tough, but gets even tougher when you throw in guilt trip for eating something that you’ve seen characterized as “bad”.
It’s time to reframe how we think about food. Picture foods without labeling them as “good” or “bad” in your head. Instead, before you eat any food think about whether that food will take you closer, or further away from your goals. That’s it.
*whispers* it’s OKAY to choose a food every once in a while that won’t take you closer to your goals. Now, if you start making those decisions rather frequently you will know exactly why you didn’t make any progress since the last time you measured.
Life is too short to cut (x) food out because someone in the industry hiding behind a keyboard read a study performed with 3 males (who were also dogs) and two female cats that showed eating bananas are bad for you. You’ve never seen a heavy person who got that way by solely eating too many bananas.”
So, energy drinks, are they the devil or are they misunderstood?
The short answer is that “it depends.”
Let’s take a look at some of the most common ingredients in energy drinks from an article by the good peeps at examine.com:
“What’s in an energy drink?
No two products are exactly the same, but common ingredients include caffeine, taurine, B vitamins (B3, B6, B12, inositol), herbs (e.g., ginseng, guarana), and of course some sugar or artificial sweetener.”
As you can see – and have surely experienced, the marketing claims of the common energy drink ingredients rarely live up to the hype. Either the ingredient hasn’t shown in studies to do what the manufacturer says, or the dosage is too low to have the claimed impacts.
In truth, it seems that caffeine is the only ingredient that matter much when it comes to energy blends. Of course, too much caffeine can lead to some undesirable side effects such as; sleep issues, withdrawal, heart problems and can deepen/heighten depression and anxiety symptoms. But if you know your limit, caffeine intake is safe.
Besides the fact that most things manufacturers make about their energy blends are false or under dosed to get the effect they claim, the beef I have with them is less about their “energy” claim and more about the sugar content and artificial sweeteners – I realize this could be its own topic so we will touch on it, and if you want a longer form post let me know – and ingredients. If you looked over the graphic above, you’d see that the AVERAGE dose of sugar in a 16oz energy drink is 50g. FIFTY GRAMS.
If I’m going to have that much sugar in one sitting, I’d rather have a…
- King Size Snickers
- 5 Reese’s PB Cups
- 15 Chips Ahoy Cookies
- 12 Oreos
I could keep going but you get the gist of what I’m saying.
There is such a wide range of “energy drinks” out there that I think it’s important to break them down into categories or into smaller groups. Let’s look at a continuum, per se, of going from “worst” to first:
On the left you have energy drinks that all contain 50+ grams of sugar/can and artificial sweeteners. The middle takes out the sugar, but still has artificial sweeteners, which, depending on how you look at it could make them the devil. Idk though. The right side has two drinks that contain cane sugar, yes, but do not have artificial sweeteners and all ingredients are USDA Organic. And, in reality, coffee should have its own column because its amazeballs. 🙂
Coffee is my go to, but I won’t lie, sometimes I do like a Xyience Cherry Lime.
What about artificial sweeteners?
Look, I know artificial sweeteners are made in a lab. I know that they’re chemicals, BUT, all the hoopla about artificial sweeteners causing cancer?
I don’t buy it. Yet.
First of all, the studies are still pretty weak in this area, a lot of which have been done on rats. Secondly you would have to take in STUPID amounts of them to get cancer. My thoughts on the subject is that you can literally point at anything someone does as the cause of them getting cancer. Drink a Diet Coke? Cancer. Twinkie? Cancer. Gluten? Cancer. So, unless a study is truly going to isolate those in the trial, it is a bit asinine to point to artificial sweeteners as the cause especially if they are eating a standard American diet.
Check out this blurb from an article in Popular Science, “Is that whole cancer thing true? Let’s get this one out of the way. While it is true that some rodent studies found increased rates of certain kinds of cancer, like leukemia, after eating artificial sweeteners, subsequent testing has shown that you don’t need to worry about getting cancer from your diet soda. You’d have to regularly consume astronomical doses of the stuff. On the other hand, we do know that obesity is a major risk factor for many kinds of cancer, so maybe focus on that instead of sucralose.”
The interesting thing I want to watch as the research comes out is whether or not artificial sweeteners train our insulin response to store more fat.
Say whaaa? Yeah, I know right.
Another interesting note from the Popular Science article I talked about above, “If your body interprets something as sweet when there’s not really sugar on the table, though, it may end up producing that same insulin response. So, that diet soda is still prompting your pancreas to store fat, even though you’re not getting to enjoy real sugar—your brain can tell the difference. Artificial sweeteners don’t trigger our reward circuits the same way, so you don’t get the satisfaction of ingesting sugar.”
If the research continues to lean this way I’ll be sure to edit this article to reflect my new views. Nutrition and fitness are always evolving, so I’ve got to be willing to stay up to date and adapt to the inevitable changes that we’ll see. I never want to be the guy who is “set in his ways.” You know?
I am definitely an advocate of steering clear of the drinks with 50+ grams of sugar per can.
Diet sodas and zero calorie energy drinks? They’re fine in moderation, just don’t drink a ton of them, because cancer.
Coffee? Well, if you want to be friends, drinking coffee – and a lot of it – is a prerequisite.
At the end of the day if you don’t want to ingest any stimulants or anything that could be considered a chemical you better stick to water. Want to quit it all? Try approaching it like this 🙂