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The Harmful Effects of Energy Drinks: Why Men Who Exercise Should Avoid Them

written by: Cheryl Gabbert • edited by: KJ Fitness,Ink • updated: 8/24/2009

Energy drink advertisers would like to make men think that their products are not only harmless but healthy. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Add to that the effects of exercise on the body, and energy drinks can become even more of a problem.

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    Energy Drinks: Healthy or Harmful?

    Energy drinks are all the rage, especially with young men. With names like "Rockstar", who wouldn't want to try one? A quick glance at the ingredients these cans and you'll find natural-sounding herbs like guarana, ginseng, and green tea. You'll find B vitamins listed too, as well as many other healthy-sounding ingredients. It's easy to feel like you're drinking something that's good for you, but are you? Not at all. Energy drinks can include more sugar and calories than the average soda. You'll consume up to 400 calories and as much as 40 grams of sugar if you drink an entire can. Since each drink can include two servings, a quick glance at the can could be deceiving.

    Also, energy drinks that contain guarana can contain 3 times the caffeine of coffee. The strong stimulating effects of these drinks can cause some pretty severe side effects, including high blood pressure, heart palpitations, nervousness, as well as extreme irritability. These effects are compounded by taurine, another common ingredient that increases heart rate and blood pressure as well. Men who use these drinks for extra energy before a workout could increase their heart rate and blood pressure to dangerous levels, depending on how much has been ingested, and the ingredients of the drink.

    Drinking caffeine-laden energy drinks before or after a workout can also cause an increased risk of dehydration. Men tend to sweat a lot with exercise, and high levels of caffeine can contribute to even more dehydrating water loss, which can be dangerous. A man who is participating in a high-intensity workout who has already maximized his heart rate, and decides to guzzle a couple of energy drinks, could end up with a dangerously high heart rate and blood pressure. If he happens to have any hidden arrythmias, this could become a dangerous situation.

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    Better Ways to Energize and Rehydrate

    There are much better ways to rehydrate your body than downing energy drinks. Instead of drinking an energy drink before a workout, go for a tall glass of water with a generous squeeze of lemon juice. If you need a pick-me-up, a glass of orange juice will do the trick. The vitamin C and natural sugars in fresh orange juice are an effective and natural energy booster. You will get much better hydration from water and fruit juices that are free of caffeine than you could ever receive from an energy drink anyway.