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The Truth Behind Pre-Workout and Energy Drinks-- by Alexa Geist

Energy drinks and pre-workout seem to be taking the world by storm right now. Personally, I know anytime I walk out the door I am bound to see someone holding one, whether it be a Celsius, Alani Nu, Redbull, or Monster. But how good are these drinks really for your health?

Let’s start off with what makes an energy drink, an energy drink. According to the CDC, an energy drink is any beverage that contains large amounts of caffeine in addition to added sugars and legal stimulants like guarana and L-carnitine. The big focus we’re going to talk about here is the dangers of excessive caffeine intake.

Due to the excess caffeine and stimulants in these beverages, there is the potential for some harmful effects on your body when overconsumed. This can include dehydration, irregular heartbeats, increased anxiety, and insomnia. Many people use energy drinks to help provide focus and reduce sleepiness, and these advantages have been proven in many studies. However, the use of energy drinks may lead to a decrease in quality sleep after their consumption. In children, this concern is even greater as caffeine may harm their developing cardiovascular and nervous systems.

Over the last 15 years, there has been an increase in emergency room visits due to large consumptions of energy drinks. Often, these concerns are due to heart problems, as the excessive caffeine leads to increased heart rate and blood pressure which then leads to a decline in heart health over time. Additionally, many hospitalizations are the result of energy drinks in conjunction with alcohol consumption. Studies have shown that the combination of energy drinks and alcohol can lead to increased binge drinking.

Pre-workout supplements are a little less straightforward. Typically, these come as powders meant to be mixed with water that also aim to improve your energy and athletic performance. There are little testing and ingredient regulations required of pre-workouts, and so each supplement may have different ingredients.

When looking for a pre-workout supplement, be sure to steer away from anything with excessive caffeine, artificial sweeteners, or substances not third-party tested. The two biggest concerns surrounding pre-workout are due to the high amounts of caffeine and the trend of “dry-scooping,” referring to taking the powder without mixing with water. Dry scooping is often done due to the belief that it produces effects faster but can be dangerous for your lungs and heart due to possible choking and irregular heartbeat.

Overall, energy drinks and pre-workout supplements have their pros and cons. General recommendations for adults is no more than 400mg of caffeine per day, so be careful to ensure that you are not exceeding this limit. Consider holding back from any other caffeinated drinks if you’re choosing to have an energy drink and try to limit yourself to 16 fluid ounces per day. Combining both an energy drink and a pre-workout supplement should not be necessary, so consider the option that is best for you. Additionally, all the supplements found in pre-workout can be found in a well-balanced diet. Before adding these into your diet, make sure that you are consuming sufficient vitamins and minerals everyday (for more about vitamins and minerals, check out this blog post as well). If you feel that energy drinks or pre-workout may be a poor choice given concerns for underlying health conditions, as always, talk to your doctor!

this blog post was guest-written by Alexa Geist, a Clemson University 2022 Graduate with a BS in Chemistry and a minor in Mathematical Sciences and the Medical Office Assistant at Cardona Direct Primary Care

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