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Getting an extra boost is always desirable for a workout. Whether you are looking for an edge on a big day or just dragging a bit and need a pick me up, energy drinks have become a quick grab for both the athlete and those trying to get through the work day. As always, it comes down to what is in the energy drink that should be considered. Obviously, the number one “pick me up” ingredient is caffeine. Now there isn’t anything wrong with utilizing some caffeine, but overuse will decrease its usefulness and have a negative impact on your body.

                Caffeine is a stimulant. That means it will give you energy, but it does not mean it does not come with side effects. For example, caffeine may cause an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. In that effect it is similar to a basic warm up before exercise; it will get our body temperature up, get the blood flowing, and prepare body for the actual workout. From that stand point, it isn’t the worst thing. Personally, when I climb mountains, I will have Cliff Blocks with caffeine handy because the extra energy and calories work great when I am at an altitude where the last thing I want to do is eat. These would not be as useful if I used them all the time though, as tolerance to caffeine also occurs. Unfortunately so does addiction.

                It is one thing to use caffeine for an occasional workout, but it is completely different thing to use caffeine all day. The more one uses caffeine, the less effective, more addictive and worse the side effects become. I mentioned some of the side effects and can reason how they would be good for exercise, but let’s think of those effects during times of rest or at least physical rest.  An example is 2 cups of coffee sitting in rush hour traffic. The caffeine can cause restlessness and perhaps anxiety. Coffee with breakfast, energy drink for your morning workout, mid afternoon iced coffee to get through the day, and then a soda with dinner now you’re in trouble!  Another fun side effect of caffeine is the increased excretion of calcium. Now that useful occasional drug has the potential to cause lasting side effects to the body including decreased bone health. So what do we do for energy instead?

                I don’t necessarily recommend stopping a single daily cup of tea or coffee. The increased antioxidants are a great benefit and the amount of caffeine isn’t going to send you on a downward spiral. I do encourage people to consider the thought behind the extra pick me up. Do you need a boost or do you need more rest? Caffeine can stay in the system for 6 hours, so that night cap is affecting your sleep whether you want to admit it or not. Realistically, you want caffeine, but you need water and electrolytes. Dehydration has a profound effect on energy levels. We recommend drinking half of your bodyweight in ounces of clear filtered water per day.  To gain electrolytes you can be sure to eat a balanced diet. What about energy for the everyday workout?

                If you are dropping back to a max one cup a day of tea/coffee and you are a multiple cup drinker per day, the first week will be tough. Nervousness, irritability, and headaches are not uncommon. Once that is done what are options for energy? A pre-workout energy shot can be useful and does not have to contain enough caffeine to turn a slug into a cheetah. My personal favorite is Elevate Shots by Thorne. It contains minimal caffeine (2mg per serving), which means the pick up is more gradual and thankfully the crash is non-existent. It works off a proprietary herbal blend to give adaptogenic support (think balancing more than stimulating). Using Elevate before longer workouts is awesome and you will experience great stamina. They are portable, single dose and even tasty. If you want to learn more about these, come into the clinic and check them out.  The other amazing and simple way to help maintain natural energy without overloading on caffeine is a homemade sports drink. Below is a great and simple recipe for one that I got from my colleague at Source Naturopathic Dr. Robert McElroy.

Home Made Sports Drink

An amazing and simple way to help maintain natural energy without overloading on caffeine is a homemade sports drink.

 

                This is just one of many options for creating a homemade sports drink. It is also significantly lower in cost than picking up a Gatorade (with way too much sugar) or an energy drink (with way too much caffeine) at your local store. It also allows you to pay closer attention to what your body actually requires in regards to nutrients. With adequate hydration (water and electrolytes) and the occasional use of adaptogenic herbs (see your natural health care provider first!), a high caffeine intake will no longer be as appealing. If it is, seeing a health care practitioner for a screening would be a great idea. Have questions? Please feel free to comment below or contact us directly. If you liked it please remember to share this with your friends! Thanks for reading.

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