Energy drinks are a multi-billion dollar industry. Originally created and advertised for use by athletes, their popularity has spread to people of all ages, including children and teens. People are often looking for a quick, easy way to boost their energy level to get through their day.
But should these drinks have any place in a healthy ketogenic diet?
The Jolting Truth About Energy Drinks
Most energy drinks have had vitamins and minerals added to them, so does that make them a healthy choice?
Unfortunately, the answer is no.
The main ingredients in all of these products are caffeine and sugar (there are some that contain artificial sweeteners instead, but that’s no better). Much of the sugar is in the form of fructose, which goes straight to your liver to be metabolized rather than being distributed throughout the cells of the body like other types of sugar. Translation – less energy for you and more hard work for your liver!
More Bad News
In addition, other stimulants have also been added that magnify the effects of caffeine. So it’s likely that you’re getting more of a “jolt” than you bargained for when you consume them. Many also contain MSG, genetically-modified ingredients, artificial colors and artificial flavors.
You can see a chart comparing the amounts of caffeine and sugar in many of the energy drinks that are on the market here.
Energy drinks usually also contain a lot of sodium. They may have some added vitamins and minerals, but they are synthetic varieties, which can’t be used by the body nearly as well as those that come from natural food and plant sources. They’re also not in the proper proportions to one another or within “normal” amounts (meaning what you’d find in real, whole foods). This can lead to imbalances and in some cases even toxicity.
Not-So-Nice Side Effects
Studies have shown that the combination of these ingredients with caffeine can have numerous negative side effects: decreased amount and quality of sleep, impaired heart function, headaches, increased blood pressure, narrowing of the blood vessels in the heart, rapid heartbeat, fainting, dizziness and even heart attack and stroke. They may interfere with the function of some medications as well, which can have potentially life-threatening consequences.
A Vicious Cycle
Because both caffeine and sugar are habit-forming, it’s easy to get caught up in a roller coaster cycle of ups and downs. The boost you get is short-lived, so consuming several of these drinks over the course of a day is a common practice for some people. The problem is that artificially stimulating your nervous system in this way may work temporarily, but frequent and prolonged use of energy drinks will eventually only lead to adrenal burnout. Depending on them for energy does nothing to address the underlying reasons why you’re so tired to begin with.
Address the Cause Rather Than The Symptom
Common causes of low energy level and fatigue are poor eating habits, not enough quality sleep and a lack of physical activity.
Clean up your diet.
Choosing whole, nutrient-dense foods is one of your best defenses against chronic low energy. Some of the most important are good sources of B vitamins (nutritional yeast is an excellent one), electrolytes (found in sea salt and Himalayan pink salt), Omega-3 fatty acids (found in fatty fish and some nuts) and minerals such as potassium, magnesium and calcium.
Optimizing all the nutrients our bodies need is an excellent way to be more energetic and feel great. Eliminating sugar and as many non-vegetable carbohydrates as possible, and adding foods that help improve your gut health (fermented vegetables are perfect for this) will all help tremendously.
Get better sleep.
A lot of the repair and rejuvenation work in our bodies is done while we’re sleeping. Not getting enough good quality rest robs us of this and leaves us feeling exhausted (not to mention it slows down fat-burning!). You can read some tips for improving the quality and duration of your sleep here.
You might think that exercising would cause you to become even more tired. But unless you really overdo it, the opposite is actually true. Find ways to keep yourself moving throughout your day -get up now and then to walk and stretch. Park all the way at the back of the parking lot at work or the supermarket. Find some physical activity you enjoy doing each day such as yoga, zumba, walking, swimming, strength training or whatever. As long as it gets you up and moving it’s a good thing! And the benefits of exercise will most certainly outlast any short burst of energy you’d get from an energy drink.
As you can see, energy drinks are a poor choice for a lot of reasons. Implementing a healthy ketogenic lifestyle instead will give you better, longer lasting and more sustainable energy than anything else you can do! What an amazing way to live life!
Keto on, friends, and make it a great day!