GUEST POST: Neal McGaffin is the owner of Reform, a Pilates studio and all round promoter of healthy eating and exercise. He often warns his clients about the dangers of excessive use of energy drinks.
When you are working a fitness regime to suit your particular needs, there are lots of things to consider. The exercises, the timing, the location as well as the dietary requirements are all things to think about. We all know hydration is vital to overall health and is crucial when working out but what place do energy drinks have in all of this? Are there pros and cons to consider?
Energy drinks are often used by athletes to help them perform even when the going gets tough and to give them the boost that they need. Many of us use them in life such as when we are feeling excessively tired or know we need to work late. So are there benefits to using them?
From a fitness perspective, they can provide a beneficial carbohydrate content that can boost your body when you need it most. A study in the US found most energy drinks contain 18-25 carbs per 8 ounces and these can be used to boost reserves during endurance events.
Most of these drinks contain caffeine and we all know this is great for getting a boost. Caffeine is most beneficial to us when taken around the time we exercise, but you do need to watch your levels. A safe dose is around 300-400 milligrams a day and one of these drinks can contain around 80 milligrams per 250 milligrams can. So do some maths and stay safe.
As we sweat, we lose water but also electrolytes and if we don’t replace these during exercise we can see a drop in performance and even dehydration. Sodium is the thing to watch for and most health sites recommend that you opt for drinks that contain 460-690 milligrams of sodium per litre for daily exercise, a little higher for those long duration events such as marathons.
Sugar can be the enemy in excessive amounts but in controlled doses, it provides energy to the body. The balance to aim for before an event like a marathon or football match is getting plenty of carbs but not too much fibre as this weighs you down. So drinks that contain simple sugars can be a good solution.
The Cons of Energy Drinks
In a sense, every one of these pros can also be a con if you are drinking too much of the stuff or aren’t balancing your diet in other areas. Too much caffeine can be addictive and can lead to a crash when you try to cut back. It can cause headaches and migraines during withdrawal – coffee addiction is a real thing.
Energy drinks can cause problems with sleep levels if you drink too much of them, making you nervous, jittery and too excitable. This can also lead to high blood pressure and associated problems. Finally, most of the drinks contain niacin which can have benefits but can also increase the heart rate and cause dizziness.
Most experts agree that when used for fitness, these drinks can be beneficial in moderation and when drank at the right time. If you are unsure, always chat with an expert who can give you specialist advice.
Neal McGaffin is the owner of Reform, a Pilates studio and all round promoter of healthy eating and exercise. He often warns his clients about the dangers of excessive use of energy drinks.