Energy drinks have become increasingly more popular with several subgroups of people. There are hundreds of brand names, and each claims specific benefits. In particular, weight lifters have begun to ponder the benefits of using energy drinks to boost their workouts. A claim that requires scrutiny is the possible muscle building benefits of these rather inexpensive drinks.
Energy drinks were designed to provide people with the energy to meet the fast pace of today's society. The companies that produce these drinks claim numerous physiological and psychological benefits. With sometimes 20 or 30 ingredients, including caffeine, taurine, ginseng and B12, we feel that one of those at least should give us more energy. In reality, an energy drink is a soda with a boost. It's still a carbonated beverage with too much sugar and caffeine, according to the High Beam Research website.
Energy drinks don't claim to increase energy by their sugar content, but rather by various stimulants, herbs and vitamins. Of the numerous ingredients, the only two with legitimate research backing their benefits are caffeine and vitamin B12. According to a 2008 article in "Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise," energy drinks containing caffeine increase mental alertness and physical endurance. Caffeine has been linked to an increase in lipolysis, which is the breakdown of body fat. The increase in fat breakdown leads to longer endurance for athletes. There is no evidence that these benefits lead to muscle growth for bodybuilders. Meanwhile, vitamin B12 is essential in forming new red blood cells, maintaining the nervous system and supporting the metabolism. A lack of vitamin B12 may lead to anemia, balancing problems and weakness.
The Food and Drug Administration does not review or approve energy drinks. There have also been no long-term studies to determine the effects of the lesser-known ingredients in energy drinks. Additionally, there are risks for athletes who consume too many energy drinks. According to USAToday, these risks include, but are not limited to, dehydration, tremors, heat stroke and heart attacks. France and Denmark have banned a common energy drink, Red Bull, due to its involvement in the death of a young athlete. Another common side effect of energy drinks is insomnia. While sodas can contain about 40 mg of caffeine, an energy drink sometimes contains up to 280 mg. Stimulants such as caffeine and taurine have also been linked to heart arrhythmias, according to the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition."
Building muscle requires discipline and hard work. In order to complete an intense weight-lifting session, the human body requires adequate energy in the form of carbohydrates. Energy drinks often contain the simplest form of carbohydrates, sugar, in excess. Consuming large amounts of sugar can lead to an increase in body fat or even conditions such as diabetes. It is also imperative to be well hydrated before you lift weights. The caffeine in energy drinks can lead to dehydration by increasing urine output. From a nutritional standpoint, consuming energy drinks does not build muscle and may actually hinder it.
Weight lifting to build muscle requires dedication. There may be several instances in which mental fatigue prevents someone from heading to the gym. In these cases, an energy drink may provide the actual or perceived benefits of boosting motivation and alertness. Energy drinks do not contribute to muscle building directly, but they may do so indirectly by increasing motivation.
- American Dietetic Association: Rethink Your Drinks
- USA Today: Overuse of Energy Drinks Worries Health Pros
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise; Caffeine Improves Physical and Cognitive Performance During Exhaustive Exercise; Eef Hogervorst, et al.
- The American Jounral of Clinical Nutrition; Caffeine and arrhythmia; Martijn B Katan, et al.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin B12