Health Tips > Nutrition Bites > Do Energy Drinks Really Help in Beating the Afternoon Slump?

Do Energy Drinks Really Help in Beating the Afternoon Slump?

View All Section Pages

Do Energy Drinks Really Help in Beating the Afternoon Slump?

Are you looking to recharge your batteries in the middle of the afternoon?  Many people who are in search of a quick fix to combat midday fatigue may grab an energy drink. The beverage is well-marketed and promises physical and mental benefits that make them very enticing.

Are they really the best source of energy, or are there better ways you can beat that afternoon slump? Here’s what you need to know about energy drinks and healthier ways to give your body a boost.

What are energy drinks?

The term “energy drink” refers to a beverage that contains stimulants, with caffeine as the primary ingredient, typically combined with other potential additives such as vitamin B12, taurine, ginseng, guarana and green tea that are claimed to provide extra energy. These other ingredients are not regulated substances by the Food and Drug Administration.

By definition, “sports drinks” are not in the same class as energy drinks. Sports beverages refer to flavored drinks that often contain carbohydrates, minerals and electrolytes, and sometimes vitamins and other nutrients. 

Do energy drinks really increase energy?

The term “energy” can be misleading. Energy comes from calories and carbohydrates, not caffeine. Energy drinks primarily contain simple carbohydrates from added sugar. Caffeine does not provide actual energy but can impair sleep and therefore diminish energy! There is limited evidence that energy drinks can significantly improve physical and mental performance.

Are energy drinks safe to consume?

The average eight to 12 oz. energy drink contains approximately 80-150 mg of caffeine. Some bottles contain more than one serving and therefore the caffeine may reach as high as 300 mg. Since these drinks are usually consumed quickly, the caffeine rapidly affects the body. Cooper Clinic recommends adults consume no more than 200 mg of caffeine a day (equal to two 6 oz. cups of coffee). Caffeine can become harmful if consumed in large doses. Side effects may include restless sleep, heart palpitations, acid reflux and heartburn, and bone loss in post-menopausal women. It also increases blood sugar and can raise blood pressure.

Examples of popular energy drinks and caffeine content:

  • 5-hour ENERGY® (2 oz.): 215 mg
  • 5-hour ENERGY® Extra Strength (2 oz.): 242 mg
  • Monster Energy Drink® (16 oz.): 160 mg
  • Red Bull® (12 oz.): 111 mg
  • ROCKSTā˜…R (16 oz.): 160 mg

Better ways to boost your energy levels:

  • Drink plenty of water. Hydrating with water is a safe, easy and inexpensive way to increase your energy levels. Keep water handy to sip on throughout the day. Add a boost of flavor with a squeeze of lime, lemon or orange. Add True Citrus® flavor packets to your water to get that fresh squeezed juice taste without the fuss.
  • Make breakfast a daily routine. Start with a healthy breakfast to set the stage for the rest of the day. Studies show eating breakfast wakes up the metabolism, improves alertness and keeps your energy levels stable until lunch. Some examples are oatmeal, berries and a cup of nonfat yogurt or an egg, slice of whole-wheat toast and a banana.
  • Choose healthy carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the body’s best source of fuel. Select high fiber, whole-grain breads and cereals, sweet potatoes, dried beans, fresh fruits and vegetables. Try to limit processed carbs such as sugary drinks and sweets which may cause your energy levels to sharply rise and then crash a short time later.
  • Sustain your energy levels with protein at each meal. You might feel fatigued if you don’t eat enough protein. Protein-based foods take longer to digest than carbohydrates so when paired together, your body has more sustainable energy. Lean sources of protein include chicken, turkey, fish, lean read meat, nuts, tofu, egg whites, low-fat milk and yogurt.
  • Eat a healthy snack. When you feel a slump in the middle of the day, you may need a snack to keep your blood sugar more steady. Try a combination of complex carbs with some protein or a small amount of healthy fat. Some examples are low-fat Greek yogurt and fruit, apple slices with almond butter, mixed nuts and dried fruit, low-fat cheese and whole-grain crackers or raw veggies and hummus dip.

Bottom Line: Consume caffeine in moderate amounts, but your best bet to improve your energy levels is naturally through healthy nutrition regimen, regular exercise, adequate sleep, sufficient hydration and generally maintaining good health.

Article provided by Elana Paddock, RDN, LD, CDE, registered and licensed dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Cooper Clinic