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Energy Drinks vs. Energizing Foods

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Energy Drinks vs. Energizing Foods

The American consumers’ demand for energy drinks indicates an overwhelming desire to be more stimulated. Energy drinks were introduced in the U.S. in 1997 with Red Bull being the first on the scene. Today there are more than 500 energy drinks on the market and consumption continues to rise. U.S. energy drink sales reached $2.8 billion in 2015 and climbed to $3.4 billion by 2019.

Defined as beverages containing stimulants, with large amounts of caffeine as the primary source, energy drinks also include added sugar, other legal stimulants (guarana, taurine and L-carnitine), plus vitamins (often B vitamins) and minerals. 

The downside of energy drinks
Did you know most energy drinks contain as much sugar as a soda? Brands that contain large amounts of caffeine can also cause undesirable effects such as heart palpitations, insomnia, nervousness and acid reflux. Kelly Pritchett, PhD, RDN CSSD, national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states the biggest misconception about energy drinks is “they will keep you energized throughout the day or give you a boost. In reality, energy drinks are unpredictable; you will likely feel good for a brief period of time, then you’ll crash.” Instead of indulging in quick-fix energy drinks, consider the sound strategies below to increase your energy levels.

Strategies to increase and sustain energy levels:
Prioritize breakfast

Starting your day with a balanced breakfast can fuel metabolism, improve alertness and stabilize your energy through lunch.

Eat every three to four hours
Eating every few hours can help fuel a more efficient metabolism and prevent mindless snacking or excessive hunger between meals. Avoid skipping meals and include nutrient-packed snacks to hold you over from meal to meal.

Consider carbs
In the midst of the popularity of extreme low carb diets, it is important to consider that carbohydrates are the body’s best source of fuel. Choose complex carbohydrates including:

  • Whole grains such as oats, brown rice and 100% whole wheat bread
  • Sweet potatoes and small red potatoes with skins
  • Beans, peas and lentils
  • Fruits and vegetables

These fiber-rich foods digest more slowly, giving you a lasting energy source that can promote more stable blood sugars.

On the contrary, processed carbs, found in sugary drinks, sweets and foods with added sugars, are likely to cause spikes in blood sugar. While this may result in a temporary rush of energy, it is a short-term effect most often followed by a crash, in which the negative effects are experienced for longer than the rush itself.

Incorporate protein
Include protein in your meals and snacks to avoid fatigue. Plentiful animal sources of protein include:

  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Lean red meat
  • Eggs (with egg whites being 100% protein without saturated fat or cholesterol found in yolks)
  • Low-fat dairy

Ideal plant-based protein sources include:

  • Soybeans and soy-based foods (tempeh, tofu and soy milk)
  • Lentils and beans
  • Nuts and seeds (hemp seeds are especially protein-rich)
  • Whole grains (quinoa is particularly packed with protein)

Stay hydrated
Hydration is critical for maintaining energy. No matter how wise your food choices are, if you are dehydrated your energy levels will plummet.

  • Pro tip: Determine your fluid needs in ounces by dividing your body weight in pounds in half. For example, 150 pounds divided by 2 equals a fluid need of 75 ounces. Try to meet at least half of your fluid needs through water. If you find water boring, try a flavored sparkling water or add a squeeze of lemon, lime or orange juice. You can even add a splash of 100% tart cherry juice or pomegranate juice to eight ounces of water to add a little pizazz.

Alcohol can make you feel tired, due to its sedating effects. In fact, while many people believe having an alcohol beverage at night will help them fall asleep, it unfortunately can negatively affect the quality of your sleep, making you feel even more tired the next day.

The upside of energizing food
Choose to fuel your day the healthy way! By obtaining natural energy from energizing whole foods, you can avoid the dreaded crash from the added sugars and high caffeine levels in most energy drinks. Tap into the built-in nutrients that are naturally packaged within whole foods and see the energy-sustaining results for yourself.

To schedule a one-on-one consultation or learn more about Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services, visit or call 972.560.2655.

Article provided by Cynthanne Duryea, RDN, LD, and Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services.