Cerebral Hacks

Nutrition

Energy Drink And Its Effect On Your Brain

July 21, 2012 by Andrianes Pinantoan in Nutrition with 1 Comment

Energy drink

Like most people, you have probably sampled your fair share of energy drinks, whether you drank it before your weekend marathon or while on your way to the office, your reason for drinking it remains the same ̶ you want an energy boost.

If you were wondering whether energy drinks actually work to give you that extra boost, then the answer is yes, but not necessarily in the way you may think.

Research has shown that energy drinks do give athletes the kick they need to push through the pain and keep going, but not by strengthening tired muscles; rather the energy drink stimulates the brain and gives them the incentive to continue. Some research even indicates that energy drinks can have an effect without being ingested.

A recent study, carried out by a group of researchers for The Journal of Physiology, showed just how powerful energy drinks can be. The researchers prepared three types of drinks, one that contained glucose, one that contained maltodextrin (a carbohydrate) and another that contained neither of the two. Each drink was disguised by artificial sweeteners to ensure that they tasted the same.

The drinks were then tested on a group of athletes who were asked to complete a challenging set of timed tasks. During these tasks, the athletes rinsed their mouths with one of the three drinks. The athletes who had rinsed their mouths with glucose or maltodextrin were able to outperform those who had used the water disguised as an energy drink.

The athletes who had used the glucose or maltodextrin energy drinks also had a higher power output and pulse rate, although they had not worked harder than the other athletes. Later, with the help of brain scans, the scientists found that glucose and maltodextrin triggered a response in the brain that is associated with pleasure or reward, which could help to change a person’s perception of their workload.

The artificial sweeteners did not have this effect.

So, energy drinks work by sending a type of signal to the brain, rather than actually providing the body more energy to keep the muscles working efficiently.

Despite these positive brain boosting effects, energy drinks are not necessarily the healthiest option, and in cases where they are overused or abused, they can even become dangerous. When it comes to long distance driving, many drivers tend to rely on energy drinks to keep them going throughout the night without sufficient breaks and rest stops.

The problem with this is that although energy drinks do give a temporary boost, they are known to cause energy slumps when they wear off. Tired drivers may drink a can of Red Bull and be fine for an hour, but after that they will experience a dramatic drop in their energy levels and will have trouble concentrating or reacting to sudden alterations on the road.

A drowsy driver can pose a significant threat to others on the road and can even be compared to driving under the influence of alcohol. The Institute of Advanced Motorists has called for drivers to be aware of the dangers associated with relying on energy drinks, stating that driver drowsiness is responsible for nearly 300 deaths each year in the United Kingdom.

Energy drinks are also thought to be responsible for more problems in schools, due to the fact that young teens and even children are already reliant on the substance to keep them alert during school hours.

In the United States, a third of 12 through 24-year-olds say they regularly consume energy drinks such as Red Bull, Monster, Full Throttle and Amp.

Those who drank energy drinks in combination with alcohol got drunk twice as often as those who did not mix the two.

These types of energy drinks are laden with caffeine and sugar and have been known to cause nausea, abnormal heart rhythms and other health problems when overused. At a high school in Colorado Springs, a group of students fell ill after they had consumed large amounts of the caffeinated energy drink Spike Shooter, which led to energy drinks becoming a banned substance at the school.

In another case four students in middle school were taken to the emergency room with sweating and heart palpitations after consuming an energy drink called Redline.

In Sydney, a government investigation into energy drinks was carried out after several high school students suffered nausea and dizziness as a result of drinking energy drinks. They found that nearly three quarters of all energy drinks being sold in New South Wales exceeded the state’s legal caffeine limits of 320mg per liter.

In the United Kingdom, a school in East Sussex requested that local shops not sell energy drinks to their students due to the adverse effects they were having on them, and in some countries, including Norway and Denmark, certain energy drinks have even been banned due to concerns about their safety.

One of the main concerns that public health services have about energy drinks is that unlike coffee, they can be consumed relatively quickly, because they are cold and refreshing, which may cause people to consume them more frequently and in larger amounts than coffee.

Another danger is the new trend of mixing energy drinks and alcohol, like the popular vodka Red Bull drink that is a favorite among regular club goers. Drinking an energy drink that is high in caffeine causes users to feel more alert, which means they may consume more alcohol than they normally would.

A study, published by Academic Emergency Medicine, found that those who drank energy drinks in combination with alcohol got drunk twice as often as those who did not mix the two. They were also more likely to become injured while drinking and require medical attention.

This is not to say that energy drinks are bad, rather the abuse of energy drinks is bad. If you use some common sense and practice moderation, you shouldn’t have a problem.

Don’t gulp down energy drinks to stay awake at work or on a long-distance drive, because nothing can substitute a good night’s sleep. But, if you need a quick pick-me-up to get you through the last hour of work or to get your workout in on a day when you don’t feel like it, then an energy drink may present the perfect solution.

Remember, the mere taste of an energy drink could be enough to give your brain the boost it needs to perform more efficiently, so enjoy your energy drinks in moderation and you will get the benefits without the side effects.

Image by nattu

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About Andrianes Pinantoan

Andrianes Pinantoan is a long time blogger and an avid student of the brain. He's fascinated with how the mind works and its application in everyday life. When not working, he can be found behind a lens.

View all posts by Andrianes Pinantoan →

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One Comment

  1. melissaOctober 1, 2012 at 6:48 pmReply

    i think energy drinks is bad for you. one of my friends had a heat a tak .plzzz be carful of what you put in you body.:(

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