Ever wondered what the difference is between coffee and an energy drink is, or why it’s socially acceptable to drink coffee but energy drinks get a bad rap? Brown University’s website defines energy drinks as “beverages like Red Bull, Rock Star and Monster, which contain large doses of caffeine and other legal stimulants like guarana and ginseng.
Referencing WebMD, Guarana is an ingredient derived from the seeds of a South American tree, and is high in caffeine. MedicalNewsToday.com states that Ginseng is an herb found naturally that is thought to provide an energy boost, lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, reduce stress, promote relaxation among other things.
To me at least, that doesn’t sound like the terrible monster the media makes energy them out to be. In extremes, energy drinks can be dangerous, nobody can refute that. I am not here today to preach about the health benefits of drinking energy drinks, BUT. because of the ingredients, I think they can help you gain both a mental and physical edge, resulting in improved performance for your stressful situations. For those of you that are aware of your sensitivity to stimulants, I want to first, briefly discuss caffeine and its effects, and after, show that, situationally, energy drinks can give you the boost you need in your lives. Now, let’s dig into caffeine.
Caffeine, is found naturally in kola nuts and cocoa beans, as well as other types of food. It is a stimulant, meaning “an agent that produces a temporary increase of the functional activity or efficiency of an organism” according to Merriem-Webster.com. Is it addictive? WebMD.com says “regular use of caffeine can cause mild physical dependence” BUT “doesn’t threaten your physical, social, or economic health the way serious addictive drugs do”. So, in our case, it’s not likely to cause us any problems. No surprise, It’s the most common ingredient in energy drinks, but how much exactly is in them? In a comparison of two articles by energyfiend.com and popular science.com, A 24 ounce monster energy drink would have 320mg of caffeine in it. In contrast, “Starbucks brewed coffee would have anywhere from 300 to 480 mg of caffeine with 24 ounces of coffee”. The amount of caffeine in energy drinks is not some absurd number that the media tries to portray it as, and for a regular coffee drinker, it shouldn’t present any problems.
However, in high concentrations, caffeine can cause sleep disturbances, anxiety, restlessness, etc etc etc. But did you catch the key phrase? In high concentrations. In high concentrations, alcohol can severely impair your motor skills, cause blackouts, and result in alcohol poisoning. In high concentrations, fast food can cause obesity and as a result, Heart disease and stroke, High blood pressure, and Diabetes. In high concentration, vitamins and supplements can cause unnatural behavior in the body, counteracting natural body processes too much and leaving the immune system weaker in its defenses against invaders. So to conclude, the caffeine content in energy drinks is in a reasonable range, and when consumed, can provide you with energy you may need. So let’s move on to why people REALLY drink energy drinks.
Let’s just say for example, I have 2 or 3 cans a day of monster Energy Drink. After 2 years of drinking these on the regular, I couldn’t possibly be affected by the caffeine and other ingredients anymore right? Although I probably have a tolerance to some ingredients by now, my brain knows that I’ve had an energy drink. I associate these drinks with increased energy, quicker reflexes, and better athletic performance. If I drink one before practice, I now know the outcome is that I will perform better, and as a result of thinking it, I will do it. Similar situation, I’ve just drank a red bull before I started writing this speech. I also associate energy drinks with more mental focus and better memory. Even though I’m not affected much by it physically, I think that I will be able to focus on this speech, and as a result, I do stay on track and thoughts seem to flow fluidly. But, it turns out that energy drinks are not just placebos, they have real, tested results in both mental performance and physical performance.
Let me introduce a study done about the effects of Red Bull on the human performance and mood by the Psychology Department of the University of West of England. They conducted 3 different studies with 36 different volunteers, and assessed “reaction time, concentration, memory, subjective alertness and physical endurance. I quote “When compared with control drinks, Red Bull Energy Drink significantly improved aerobic endurance and anaerobic performance on cycle ergometers (ergometer being a tool used to measure work done by a muscle or group of muscles). Improvements in mental performance included choice reaction time, concentration, and memory which reflected increased subjective alertness. These consistent and wide ranging improvements in performance are interpreted as reflecting the effects of the combination of ingredients”. In a study done by Dutch scientists on literature about energy drinks from 1996 to 2006 concluded that cognitive ability is positively affected by the combination of caffeine and other ingredients in these drinks.
Still not convinced? Think about this. Both the ncaa and the Olympic committee ban the use of stimulants during their events. Stimulants, of course increase energy and efficiency of the operating body, and just happen to be the most common ingredients in energy drinks. Two organizations of this stature would not ban a group of supplements if they did not think it gave you an advantage over those who did not take them. As students and athletes, we have this advantage at our fingertips, and it goes by the name of RockStar, Amp, Monster, and RedBull, all of which can be bought at Sheetz, and can be called upon on demand.