Combating energy drinks

18 Aug 2010 | Lance Cpl. Victor A. Barrera

They are found throughout the United States and now stock the shelves in commissaries, post exchanges and vending machines. They can also be found on service members’ desks or in their hands. Throughout the Marine Corps and other Department of Defense entities, energy drinks are becoming increasingly prevalent.

“This has become a trend with both our military and our youth,” said Lt. Cmdr. Kelly Mokay, a sports dietitian with Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune. “These drinks promise stamina, alertness and energy, but people should know what they are drinking.”

The term “energy drink” was coined by the drink industry as a catchy term; however, it has never been approved by either the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Food and Drug Administration.

A University of California publication, “Nutrition and Health Info Fact Sheet, Energy Drinks,” states that young children and teenagers should limit caffeine consumption since more than 100 milligrams per day have been associated with elevated blood pressure.

Caffeine in sports drinks generally range from 150 to 420 mg, depending on the size of the container. Ingredients like guarana, a herb with twice the amount of caffeine found in coffee beans, can increase the amount of caffeine in drinks.

All that caffeine in a single bottle can affect the body depending on the person’s tolerance and weight. People can experience nervousness, irritability, sleeplessness, abnormal heart rhythm and upset stomachs, said Mokay.

Furthermore, throwing regular daily physical training into the mix can have drastic consequences, stated the publication. A few years ago, an 18-year-old had consumed four cans of an energy drink before a basketball game and afterward collapsed and died.

Energy drinks are also known to also increase the body temperature.

“Caffeine increases body heat, and with warmer weather, can cause a heat injury,” said Mokay.

Energy drinks, however, are not just believed to lead to performance while exercising; they are also found in nightclubs. The – “Nutrition and Health Info Fact Sheet, Energy Drinks,” stated that in a recent study, people reported not feeling intoxicated after consuming both alcohol and energy drinks despite performing poorly on motor coordination and reaction time tests.

“In short, an individual may unknowingly overlook the debilitating effects of intoxication because of the sensation of alertness produced by an energy drink,” stated the fact sheet.

Even with energy drinks appearing in almost every store and vending machine, there are safer alternatives to maintaining their energy throughout the day, said Mokay.

“People can have a healthy diet, just make sure to have three meals a day with snacks that are high in fiber and antioxidants,” said Mokay. “Just make sure they’re low in sugar and fat and maintain a regular exercise. It will make you feel a lot better than any energy drink.”