by Dr Scott Saunders

Ah, caffeine: the world’s favorite pick-me-up.

Whether in the form of coffee, tea, or increasingly fashionable energy drinks, many of us rely on caffeine every day for a quick energy fix. And although you might get that five-hour energy boost you so desperately seek, caffeine combined with an energy drink cocktail can be costly to your health.

A Closer Look at the Energy Drink

In addition to caffeine, many energy drinks also contain healthy-sounding amino acids and other B vitamins to perk you up. They contain taurine, an organic acid that aids in preventing caffeine-induced jitters. You might feel OK after throwing back an energy shot, but there are some serious side effects to keep in mind:

energy drink side effectsAdrenal fatigue:

Energy drinks hyperstimulate your adrenal glands to increase hydrocortisone and adrenalin production, and then the GABA amino acid comes in to suppress the hyperstimulation so you don’t feel jittery. All this extra work for your adrenal glands can lead to adrenal fatigue or crash.

Weight gain: 

The extra hydrocortisone your adrenal glands are producing makes you resistant to insulin. Throw in all those artificial sweeteners that energy drinks contain, and your pancreas will be working overtime. This can lead to weight gain that shows up specifically in the abdomen.

Metabolic Syndrome:

All of this hyperstimulation and production can cause metabolic syndrome, the initial symptoms of which include abdominal obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol. But wait, there’s more! As metabolic syndrome progresses, it leads to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and nerve damage.

You can see that each of these side effects is linked, and many of our most common ailments are exacerbated by energy drinks. Another problem is the fact that people who regularly consume energy drinks will build up a tolerance to them, and they will require even more stimulation to function normally. If you try to quit, depression ensues from the withdrawal, and you’ll need a caffeine boost just to feel normal. It’s a vicious circle.

If the health risks aren’t enough to discourage you, you should know that “five hours” is a big misconception. You can’t rely on two energy drinks a day to keep you going. The energy produced from caffeine is highly variable — from a brief boost to feeling wired for hours — and there just isn’t research to indicate that caffeine can consistently work for five hours. So spare yourself the trouble.

5 Natural Energy Boosts

I’ve robbed you of your caffeine. Now what? I better have some good energy boost alternatives, and I do. These five things will help you maintain a healthy level of energy throughout the day:

1.    Eat breakfast.

In addition to giving you energy, a good breakfast fills you with amino acids, vitamins, and minerals to keep you healthy. Forget about the vitamins in your energy drink.

natural energy boosts2.    Eat smaller meals.

Excessive intake of food slows down your metabolism and makes you feel sluggish. When you gorge yourself, your body’s energy goes toward aiding digestion, rather than helping your brain. Try smaller meals with a lot of fiber; these help energy last longer.

3.    Skip the stimulants.

In addition to ditching caffeine, you should throw out sugary snacks and drugs. They all cause the same kind of problems mentioned above. What’s more, stimulants typically cause the body to use carbs for energy instead of fat, which means fat stays stored around your abdomen.

4.    Exercise.

Daily exercise improves energy production and efficiency by increasing circulation to the brain and delivering nutrients to your body’s cells. It also produces endorphins (the body’s “calming” hormones) that regulate adrenal hormone output.

5.    Fast periodically.

It may have a bad rap, but research over the past 20 years shows that fasting can actually serve as a “reset” button for your metabolism. Fasting makes you efficient, curbs cravings, allows satiation, and decreases both insulin resistance and hydrocortisone.

The Perks of Au Naturel Energy

Energizing naturally means you’ll completely change your life in the long run. Your energy flow will be stable instead of a rollercoaster of energy drink ups and downs, and you’ll lessen your risk of diabetes, heart attack, stroke, and metabolic syndrome. You won’t have to waste time worrying about where your next “fix” will come from because it will already be programmed into your daily routine. Eventually, you won’t even have to think about energy because you’ll always have it.

If all you want is energy for a few hours, fine. Take a five-hour energy shot. But if you want energy for a lifetime, ditch the stimulants and focus on creating a healthy lifestyle.

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Dr. Scott Saunders is the Health and Nutrition Advisor of Barton Publishing, a company that promotes natural health through teaching people how to cure themselves using alternative home remedies instead of expensive and harmful prescription drugs. Saunders is the director of The Integrative Medicine Center of Santa Barbara, which balances conventional medicine with alternative healing modalities to achieve optimal wellness.