Energy Drinks: Healthy Choices for Energy Boost? (cont.)

Her advice: "If you have any medical condition, hypertension, or heart disease, avoid all drinks that have multiple stimulants."

If you want to try an energy drink, she recommends trying a small amount the first time with a meal to see how your body reacts to it. She advises avoiding physical exertion during this trial period.

Need a Boost?

When you need a boost -- whether to study for a test, prepare for a workout, or just get past an afternoon slump -- there are healthier ways than energy drinks, the experts say. Among the energy-boosters they recommend are a healthy diet, physical activity, and a good night's sleep.

And when you need a quick fix? "Energy drinks sound like they would be better than a latte, but a coffee drink made with skim or soy milk is a much better choice because we know more about the effects of caffeine," says Sass.

They recommend no more than 2-3 servings a day of caffeinated beverages, preferably served along with food. If you find caffeine overly stimulating, try decaf or half-caffeinated beverages.

Other energizing beverages include sports drinks, fruit juices, water, low-fat milk, and good, old- fashioned water. "Drink more water," suggests Farrell. "Being dehydrated can lead to fatigue."

Also make sure you're getting enough carbohydrates. Fresh and dried fruit, vegetables, cereal, low-fat yogurt, and whole-grain breads are just a few of the many nourishing foods that can give you energy.

Eat meals every few hours, don't skip meals, and take a good look at your eating and sleeping habits, suggests Farrell.

If you're feeling run down, Sass suggests taking a look at the reasons why you are so tired instead of trying to fix it with energy drinks.

"Try to get more sleep or increase your physical activity -- both will help sagging energy levels," she says.

The bottom line is that while energy drinks are not necessarily harmful, many just don't live up to most of the claims they make. Think of them as drinks that are highly concentrated in sugar and caffeine, and drink them with caution.

"We don't need energy drinks," says Sass. "Don't take trendy energy drinks at face value. Question the marketing of these products, and find alternatives that contain ingredients that are known to be healthful."

Published Oct. 20, 2006.

SOURCES: Cynthia Sass, MPH, MA, RD, spokeswoman, American Dietetic Association; board-certified specialist in sports dietetics; co-author, Your Diet is Driving Me Crazy: When Food Conflicts Get in the Way of Your Love Life. Suzanne Farrell, MS, RD, spokeswoman, American Dietetic Association.

Last Editorial Review: 10/20/2006

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