They are no longer targeted to athletes and people looking for a mid-morning or mid-afternoon pick-me-up between meals. Energy drinks reflect a gi-normous market today, as they find their way into everyday life for many Americans, especially young adults and teens. Funny how they first emerged on the scene as "dietary supplements." Now they seem like a revved up version of soda pop, or Coke on crack (to put it lightly).
There's a growing movement to put warning labels on the ones that contain exorbitant amounts of caffeine (yes, more caffeine than coffee in some cases) as researchers publish a new paper on these high-octane beverages. The industry, of course, begs to differ and doesn't want to reveal such information on its products, much less agree to warning labels.
Energy Drinks: No Limits on Caffeine
In the article online that summarized this recent brouhaha, I was surprised to learn that although the FDA limits the caffeine contents of cola-type soft drinks to 71 milligrams per 12 fluid ounces, no such limit is required on energy drinks. And between the lack of information on the label and the lack of regulation, it can be hard to know what's in an "energy" can.
That said, at least the names of some of these drink should be a big hint: Monster, Rockstar, Tab Energy, and the ubiquitous Red Bull. My favorite, though (at least in name) has got to be either Fixx (as in Get Your Fixx) or Wired X505, which contains 505 milligrams of caffeine. That's about twice the amount of a strong Starbucks drip. Are you shaking yet?
How Energy Drinks Affect Your Sleep
It's certainly fair to say that energy drinks can and sometimes do serve a positive purpose in our lives when used appropriately. But they have become so mainstream that I'm afraid people drink them without knowing exactly what's in them and whether those ingredients should be regulated in one's diet. And I'm not just talking about the caffeine. Many of these drinks impart so much sugar that you'd be looking for another fix soon after the first one. What does that mean for a good night's sleep? A lot.
Many people are used to watching their coffee consumption in the later parts of the day if they know it can impinge on their sleep at night. But what about energy drinks? These energy bombs do more than work against sleep; they can cause you to feel anxious, jittery, and wired and tired at the same time. If you're addicted to them, now may be the time to take inventory and cut back.
Some suggestions for cutting back on energy drinks:
- Instead of waking up to an sugar-laden energy drink, try a cup of plain black tea or a simple cup of Joe.
- Instead of having another energy drink at lunch, try a glass of unsweetened iced tea or other tea of your choice.
- Kill the late-afternoon lull with a protein-rich snack that has a little carbs, such as slices of turkey on whole wheat crackers or a scoop of nut butter and celery sticks. If you need a little caffeine buzz, try green tea.
- Avoid all sources of caffeine after 4 p.m.
All natural energy abounds if you get a good night's sleep. Try it sometime, and see how many fewer cans of soda and energy drinks you need. I bet you won't only gain more restful sleep, but you'll lose weight, too. And who doesn't want that?
Follow Dr. Michael J. Breus on Twitter: www.twitter.com/thesleepdoctor