Many of us will do whatever it takes to avoid feeling tired all day. One of the easiest ways to remain productive and avoid the dreaded midday slump is by guzzling caffeine, often in the form of an energy drink. In 2012, the caffeinated beverage had U.S. sales of more than $12.5 billion and is estimated to grow to a value of $21.5 billion by 2017, according to Food Product Design. Despite its strong sales and growing customer base, health officials continue to warn against energy drinks. “You may feel energized for an hour or so and then a couple of hours later you crash and [may end up] feeling worse than you were prior to the energy drink,” Tristaca Curley, a dietician, told Entrepreneur.
But you don’t need to chug an unhealthy drink in order to get your caffeinated buzz. There are now healthier versions of energy drinks available, which eliminate some of the caffeine, artificial ingredients, and excess sugar. Ready to find a more nutritious replacement for your Red Bull or Monster? Here are five tips to help you find an energy drink you can safely sip.
1. Keep it simple.
If you’re guzzling an energy drink that has a long list of ingredients and hard-to-pronounce words, it’s a sign that beverage is bad news. “Stick to natural ingredients, and use a small piece of fruit – about 60 calories – as a reference for how much is reasonable to consume at once,” Keri Glassman, RD, the author of The New You and Improved Diet, told Prevention.
An example of a healthier, all-natural option is Pur Pak, a nutritious energy drink that doesn’t contain artificial ingredients. It comes in a powder packet that you mix with water, and it contains less than 2 grams of sugar, 15 calories, and is rich in antioxidants. According to the company’s website, one packet of Pur Pak contains essential vitamins and minerals, provides you with a natural energy boost, and doesn’t have any artificial colors, dyes, or sweeteners.
2. Avoid too much caffeine.
Healthier versions of energy drinks are able to give you a jolt without relying heavily on caffeine. Many of the mainstream energy drinks, however, are loaded with caffeine, which can take a toll on your body. Time states that energy drinks have more caffeine than coffee, tea, and soda, with some brands containing anywhere from 154 milligrams in a 16-ounce can to 505 milligrams in a 24-ounce can. To compare, Livestrong recommends keeping your caffeine intake to less than 200 milligrams a day, meaning a 24-ounce can will easily put you above the recommended daily amount.
Consuming too much caffeine can cause you to feel nervous, anxious, and jittery, and has been linked to high blood pressure. In serious cases, it can do much worse than that. Business Insider warns that drinking too much caffeine can lead to hallucinations, addiction, stomach ulcers, cardiac arrest, a coma, or in severe cases, death.
3. Avoid unhealthy ingredients.
Keep your energy drink as healthy as possible by avoiding beverages that contain the following ingredients: guarana, carnitine, ginseng, and ginko biloba. SFGate explains that guarana typically contains a combination of three stimulants (theophylline, theobromine and caffeine), while carnitine is an additive that sometimes isn’t even listed in the ingredients. Even though there usually isn’t too much carnitine found in energy drinks, it is something you should try to avoid entirely. Consuming more than 3 grams daily can lead to diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, SFGate notes.
While energy drinks often include ginseng, there’s no proof it does anything positive. In fact, EatingWell writes that not only is there zero proof that this herb boosts energy, but it’s been shown to decrease your exercise endurance and lower your blood sugar. Finally, a study done by the National Toxicology Program said that ginkgo extract was linked to thyroid and liver cancers in mice. While these ingredients are most likely fine in small doses, it’s best to just avoid them; they’re certainly not providing you with any noteworthy nutrients.
4. Look for natural energy boosters.
Healthy energy drinks are able to give you a boost using natural foods. Some of the best ingredients to look for include green tea, vitamin B12, and yerba mate. The Los Angeles Times writes that vitamin B12 helps you fight fatigue and feel less lethargic. In addition, Web MD explains that green tea is high in antioxidants and can fight and possibly prevent cell damage, in addition to helping with an assortment of heart-related issues. Due to the caffeine found in its leaves, yerba mate is another natural ingredient that’s popping up more often. However, Mayo Clinic warns that people who drink large amounts of yerba mate over a long period of time may be at an increased risk of developing mouth, esophagus, and lung cancer, so sip this one in moderation.
If you’re looking for a drink that uses both yerba mate and green tea, the Pyure O.E.O. Organic Energy Shot is worth checking out. It’s a zero-calorie, 2-ounce organic shot that’s full of vitamins and nutrients, according to the company’s website. Another healthy option is Eboost, which comes in shots and powder packets, and provides you with an increase in energy by using green tea, coffee beans, and B vitamins. An even healthier option? Rather than finding a drink that includes green tea, you could enjoy a cup of the healthy beverage by itself.
5. Choose the right kind of sugar.
Look for drinks that have sugars such as brown rice syrup or maltodextrin, Shawn Talbott, nutritional biochemist, told the Los Angeles Times. These sugars don’t hit the bloodstream as quickly as others, like glucose, meaning you won’t receive your caffeine jolt all at once. It should help to reduce jitters and prevent you from crashing once the caffeine wears off, according to The Kind Life.
The slower the rate of absorption is, the better the drink is for you. Although, many experts still recommend sipping other more nutritious beverages instead. “It is not a healthy approach — but it is a healthier one. What people are looking for is a little pick-me-up through the day, and sometimes the best thing is an actual cup of coffee or tea,” Talbott told the Los Angeles Times.
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