We've all been there before. You're tired, but know you need to get off your butt and exercise. You want a little pick-me-up before hitting the gym, so you stop by a convenience store and grab an energy drink to get you going.
Which energy drink should you grab? What ingredients should you be looking out for? Should you even be reaching for an energy drink?
Let's discuss the consumption of energy drinks before exercise.
Does caffeine help with sports performance?
The answer is tricky. Let us explain.
Drinking a caffeinated beverage, such as an energy drink, will stimulate your nervous system. This stimulation will give you a temporary energy boost. With the right dosage, your mental performance will also receive a boost.
Studies have shown that your cognitive functions can improve as a result of drinking energy drinks. This will allow you to get more done in a short amount of time.
Studies have shown that the right amount of caffeine before a workout may improve endurance in running and muscle strength and endurance for lifting. While caffeine can help, it needs to be taken in moderation as too much caffeine can cause ill effects during and after exercising.
But wouldn't you rather have a longer-lasting energy boost than a just a short energy spurt? If so, look for a drink with naturally sourced caffeine rather than the typical energy drink with synthetic caffeine.
One of the lesser-known facts about caffeine is that there are many sources of caffeine. Some of the sources are natural, plant-based caffeine while others are synthetically produced.
Synthetically produced caffeine from Chinese pharmaceutical plants is the most popular caffeine source in soft drinks and energy drinks. Synthetic caffeine is quickly absorbed into your body, giving you the energy you crave faster than that of a naturally sourced caffeine. However, synthetic caffeine will lead to a much quicker crash.
Green Tea caffeine is a naturally sourced caffeine that your body metabolizes differently than coffee, meaning it will affect you differently.
What could be THAT much different? It’s all caffeine, right?
Well, it’s actually something pretty beneficial. The caffeine found in Green Tea sticks to the antioxidants in the tea. This causes the caffeine to be absorbed slower by your body. As a result, you will not get the immediate caffeine rush you would with synthetic caffeine. Instead, your caffeine will slowly release over time, giving you more sustained energy.
Caffeine is also known to give people the shakes or jitters. With Green Tea caffeine, that is absent due to one of the antioxidants called L-Theanine, which is an antagonist to caffeine. Who wants to be shaking when they're trying to work out? Avoid synthetic caffeine.
Caffeine is also a diuretic, meaning it will cause you to urinate, leading to possible dehydration. If you're going to be consuming these ingredients before a workout, you need to offset them with electrolytes to help with hydration.
Sugar in energy drinks
Sugar is right behind caffeine as the most common ingredient in energy drinks. A sugar rush only adds to the caffeine buzz you'll get from gulping down an energy drink, but, will it help or hinder your exercise?
On top of sugar being a less than ideal addition to an active lifestyle, sugary drinks are known to make you prone to losing fluids. With no added electrolytes in most leading energy drinks, this sugar will only work against you and help dehydrate you.
Is there a better alternative for sugar in energy drinks?
Erythritol and Stevia are two natural sugar alternatives that can be used instead of the dangerous artificial sugars. These sugar alternatives are generally found in small amounts in fruits and vegetables.
Erythritol only has 6% of the calories of sugar but retains 70% of the sweetness. Erythritol doesn’t spike your blood sugar or insulin, so this makes it a great sugar substitute for diabetics. Studies have shown that erythritol acts as an antioxidant, reducing blood vessel damage that has been caused by high blood sugar levels. Erythritol also will not cause your teeth to decay, unlike sugar and other artificial sweeteners.
Stevia also makes for a great natural sugar substitute. Stevia has no calories and is 200x sweeter than sugar. Studies have shown that stevia has the potential for treating diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. Antioxidant compounds, including kaempferol, can be found in Stevia. Studies have shown that kaempferol can reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer by 23%.
BCAAs in energy drinks
Some energy drinks claim to have BCAAs and CoQ10 (coenzyme 10) but they don't list how much of each of these ingredients are found in each drink. While these can be beneficial ingredients, it's hard to determine how much value they are bringing to each drink without knowing how much of each you are consuming.
Branched-CHain Amino Acids, aka BCAAs, are essential proteins found in your foods. Your body receives energy as your muscles burn these amino acids. The three amino acids that make up the branched-chain amino acids are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These are essential amino acids, meaning your body cannot produce them.
While these sound like a great addition to a drink, they're not 100% necessary.
"If you're eating an overall healthy diet and you're balancing your protein throughout the day, you really don't need to take BCAAs in supplement form," says Joy Dubost, RD and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
These are some foods that can BCAAs from:
- Whey, milk, and soy proteins
- Beef, chicken, fish, and eggs
- Baked beans and lima beans
- Whole wheat
- Brown rice
- Almonds, Brazil nuts, and cashews
- Pumpkin seeds
While they can do a lot of good, they can also lead to some negative effects. An issue with BCAA consumption is that they fight for absorption with other important amino acids.
High doses of BCAAs can reduce serotonin production. This is ideal for exercise as serotonin increases fatigue, but it can also be dangerous as serotonin is essential for regulating anxiety, mood, and depression-like symptoms.
What energy drink should I drink before I workout?
Here at Kill Cliff, we love a good energy drink, but we're aware of the possible dangers of the many unnatural ingredients that many popular energy drinks contain. We wanted an energy drink with a strong caffeine buzz coming from a natural source, with no artificial sweeteners.....so we made one.
Kill Cliff IGNITE is a sugar-free, naturally sweetened energy drink that delivers the jolt you crave with 150 mg of naturally-sourced green tea caffeine (about a cup and a half of coffee). Additionally, Kill Cliff IGNITE includes only FDA-regulated ingredients in its specialized blend of B-vitamins and electrolytes. It provides you with 10% of your daily values of magnesium and potassium, which helps regulate hydration and blood flow.
So, whether you want sustained clean energy to help you through your day, or you want a natural alternative pre-workout drink, Kill Cliff IGNITE is your go-to option! Check it out!