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Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious

Jenna Smith, Extension Educator brings you helpful tips to make meals easy, healthy and tasty!

Are Energy Drinks Safe?

Here is another great blog post by Illinois State University intern, Laura Monson!

Have you had a long week at work and just can't stay awake come Friday afternoon? Or were you up all night worrying about all of the things you need to do the next day? Most commercials on TV tell you to grab an energy drink, and you will magically be able to finish all of your tasks. Some energy drinks are even advertised that they "give you wings." Although these drinks sound like great quick fixes, they sometimes have detrimental effects.

Energy drinks are often used by young adults to speed up their reaction time, become more alert, improve their athletic performance, or improve their mood. They may also claim that they have cognitive benefits, like helping you focus when studying or writing an important paper. Over use of energy drinks can lead to caffeine intoxication. This large amount of caffeine consumption may cause an increased heart rate, headache, upset stomach, nervousness, insomnia, worsened mental illness, seizures, or even death.

The caffeine content of soft drinks may range from 35 to 50 mg of caffeine per 12 ounce serving, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) limits these soft drinks to no more than 72 mg of caffeine per serving. Unfortunately, the amount of caffeine in energy drinks is not regulated by the FDA because they are considered dietary supplements. For example, an 8 ounce serving of Red Bull has 77 mg of caffeine and a small, 1.9 ounce, 5 Hour Energy® shot has 208 mg of caffeine!

But don't we need these ingredients to stay awake or be energized? Well, many of them are already produced in our body, while others are already being consumed through normal diet. We really don't need caffeine, and we're likely still getting plenty of it in coffee, tea, chocolate or other sources. Carbohydrates are added to energy drinks in the form of sucrose, glucose, and fructose, but our diet gets carbohydrates from many different sources already. Taurine and L-Carnitine are also components of energy drinks, but these are both already produced in our bodies. Taurine is an amino acid found to increase endurance and decrease inflammatory factors, while L-Carnitine works to turn fat in our bodies into energy. B-Vitamins are found in many of the foods that we already eat, as well. Many energy drinks contain herbal supplements or other stimulants that can be harmful in high doses and can cause complications if you are taking certain medications.

When needing some extra energy to get you through the day, eat a snack that contains carbohydrates, which will give you immediate energy. Pair this with a protein, which will give you prolonged energy so you don't crash after you've eaten the snack. Try fruit and yogurt, celery and peanut butter, or an apple and string cheese.

If carbonation from an energy drink or soda is what you're looking for, try this quick real fruit soda beverage!

Real Fruit Soda

1 can frozen fruit juice concentrate - your choice

Sparkling water, seltzer water, OR club soda

Reconstitute frozen fruit concentrate with chilled sparkling water, seltzer water, or club soda. Follow the directions on the cans to determine how much carbonated water to use.

Yield: 1 serving

Source: Illinois Nutrition Education Programs

Nutrition Facts (per serving) – 30 Calories, 0 g fat, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 0 milligrams sodium, 7 grams carbohydrate, 0 gram dietary fiber, 0 gram protein

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