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Posted on: May 26, 2019 at 5:08 pm
Last updated: May 28, 2019 at 9:40 am

When it’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon and you feel your eyelids getting heavier by the minute, do you wake yourself up with jumping jacks or reach for the closest caffeinated beverage you can find? Take a closer look at how you deal with dipping energy levels. You could be putting yourself at risk of unnecessary health complications. 

32-year-old Samantha Sharpe of Leicester, U.K. wants to warn people of the nasty health effects that energy drink consumption can have. The young woman has been living with a pacemaker since February of 2018 as a result of health complications stemming from her caffeine habit.

“In 2014 I was drinking five or six a day until I had the pacemaker fitted in February 2018,” she told LeicesterLive.com.

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Sharpe said she began to consume energy drinks as a short-term way to stay alert on the job. Predictably, this was merely a band-aid solution. After downing an energy drink, Sharpe noticed her heart rate speeding up, only to be followed by a sudden crash in energy, which she tried to remedy with another energy drink.

“It would give me headaches, I’d be grumpy, and I’d need another one to keep me going. I wouldn’t sleep and I had an overwhelming feeling of doom when trying to sleep,” she said. (1)

Sharpe’s beverage of choice quickly caught up with her. She sought medical attention for her symptoms and was reportedly diagnosed with a blockage in her heart, kidney stones, and pre-diabetes. Her doctor fitted her with a pacemaker and gave her a strong warning to quit her highly caffeinated lifestyle.

Now, Sharpe is recovering. “I don’t black out anymore and I can’t feel my heart messing up anymore. My heart used to skip beats,” she said. Sharpe hopes others who hear her story will learn of the serious consequences popular energy drinks can have. (1)

The Truth About Energy Drinks and Your Health

Since its conception, the energy drink industry has grown exponentially (2). And emergency room visits related to energy drink consumption has increased right along with it. Between 2007 and 2011 alone, ER visits in the US linked to energy drinks doubled. (3)

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health created a report warning the general public about indulging in energy drinks. In it, they list many of the known side-effects of excess caffeine consumption.

These include heart rhythm disturbances, elevated heart rate, and elevated blood pressure, and can also seriously harm children and adolescents’ cardiovascular and nervous systems. As you might suspect, caffeine has also been linked to increased anxiety, difficulty sleeping, dehydration, and a number of digestive problems. (4)

Moreover, most energy drink brands contain both synthetic caffeine and natural sources such as guarana or green tea. Most energy drinks, either contain artificial sweeteners or excessive amounts of added sugar, which comes with its own long list of health concerns. (4)

Energy Drinks Compared to Other Caffeine Sources

Caffeinated beverage Amount of caffeine/drink, mg
5-h energy™ bottle 215
Arizona Iced Black Tea (16oz) 30
Bang Energy (16oz) 357
Caffeine Powder (1/16 Tsp.) 200
Coca Cola, Coke Zero, Diet Pepsi (12oz) 34
Dannon Coffee Yogurt (6oz) 30
Dunkin Donuts™ Medium Brewed Coffee (14oz) 178
Dunkin Donuts™ Medium Latte (14oz) 97
FDA official limit for cola and pepper soft drinks(12oz) 71
Herbal Tea (8oz) 0
Lipton Decaffeinated Black Tea (8oz) 5
Maxwell House Decaf Ground Coffee (2 Tbs. makes 12oz) 2-10
Maxwell House Light Ground Coffee (2 Tbs. makes 12oz) 50-100
Monster Energy™ (16oz) 160
Mountain Dew (12oz) 54
Pepsi (12oz) 38
Red Bull™ (8.4oz) 80
Rockstar™ (16oz) 160
Snapple Lemon Tea (16 oz) 37
Starbucks Grande Chai Latte (16oz) 95
Starbucks Hot Chocolate (16oz) 25
Starbucks Refreshers Can (12oz) 50
Starbucks™ Grande Caffe Americano (16oz) 225
Starbucks™ Grande Caffe Mocha (16oz) 175
Starbucks™ Grande Coffee Frappuccino (16oz) 95
Starbucks™ Grande Ice coffee (16oz) 165
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Table source: 2017 research study published in the World Journal of Cardiology

10 Ways to Boost Your Energy Instead of Energy Drinks

So what do you do if you hit the mid-day slump at work, just like Samantha Sharpe? Luckily, there are many healthy habits you can try to fit into your daily routine to keep up your energy levels without putting a toll on your body.

  1. Reverse sleep deprivation. More people are chronically sleep deprived than you might expect. Learn more about your optimal sleep schedule here.
  2. Get moving. A sedentary lifestyle can contribute to fatigue and poor focus. (5) Break up long periods of sitting by taking the time to stretch, go for a walk, take the stairs, or practice some desk exercises.
  3. Limit alcohol consumption. When patio season hits, you might want to think twice about that chilled glass of wine or beer. Alcohol is a depressant, and can quickly deplete your energy levels (not to mention the other effects).
  4. Skip the added sugar. A diet full of processed, sugary foods could be one of the most common causes of fatigue in the West. Filling up on “empty calories” can lead to an erratic eating schedule that takes your body on an energy roller coaster. Try taking a break from sugar for just two weeks and take note of how you feel afterward. (6)
  5. Emphasize healthy relationships. Loneliness isn’t just an emotional, mental, and spiritual problem. It can be a physical one too. Research points to a link between social isolation and low mood and energy, while strong connections can be associated with improved mental and physical health. (7)
  6. Eat brown rice. Try swapping a few servings of white carbs with brown rice, which is high in manganese and fiber, but comes with a low glycemic index. Brown rice can help keep your blood sugar levels and your energy levels steady. (8)
  7. Drink yerba mate. Yerba mate has natural caffeine content, but unlike other caffeine sources, does not have an impact on blood pressure or heart rate.  (9)
  8. Eat goji berries. According to Healthline, “Research has suggested that goji berry juice could provide antioxidant protection, assist with mental performance and alertness, and help decrease feelings of fatigue. (10)
  9. Make stress-busting activities a part of your daily routine.  Your wellness is more than just physical. Don’t underestimate the serious toll that chronic stress can take on your body. Make sure your lifestyle includes self-care activities that help you release stress and anxiety before they become overwhelming. (11)
  10. Make an appointment with your physician to identify potential underlying health reasons for your low energy. Conditions such as hormonal imbalances, chronic fatigue syndrome, dietary deficiencies, and mental health issues can all have an effect on your alertness and energy levels throughout the day.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and is for information only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition and/or current medication. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.

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Emese Graham
Health Expert
Emese believes women's health, mental health, and spiritual health really matter, so she jumps at the chance to bring those conversations to light. In her spare time, Emese enjoys finding challenging workout videos on Youtube (because gyms are hard for introverts), and she's all about getting creative in the kitchen and making recipes a little different every time - who needs measuring cups?

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