Energy drinks are like candy (or sex) in that abstinence is probably your safest bet but, if you are going to indulge, it’s important to chose the right one and to pace yourself.

The Safest Risk is the One Not Taken
Most energy drinks are carbonated, which can erode tooth enamel.
Many energy drinks contain large amounts of sugar, which should be limited in a healthy, well-balanced diet.
Energy drinks are SUPPLEMENTS, which means the product is NOT regulated for safety like food and drugs. In fact, it is up to the manufacturer to verify the product’s safety AND effectiveness. There are simply far too many supplements on the planet for the FDA to monitor every one, so supplements should be taken with a doctor’s advice and with great caution.

7 Ways To Wake Up Sans Caffeine

  1. Take a walk
  2. Drink some water
  3. Eat a healthy snack, or a meal if you haven’t eaten in over 3 hours
  4. Stand up and stretch your calves, hamstrings, shoulders, etc
  5. Find a secluded spot, like the restroom, and do lunges, cross-punches or tiny jumps
  6. Tell someone a joke or find a funny joke online
  7. Find a sign around you and see how fast you can mentally or verbally alphabetize the letters in one of the words

Choosing Your Perfect Match: Assess your fatigue level
The energy drink you pick should depend on your level of fatigue. Someone who is pulling an all-nighter in the E.R. should not be drinking the same energy drink as someone who is trying to survive the most boring lecture in the history of college classes.

“I could fall asleep standing up.”

Option 1: Call it a day and go to bed already! Study after study has shown the health benefits of a good night’s sleep, plus there are numerous metabolic consequences of not getting decent shut-eye. If at all possible, skip the energy drink and find the time/place to get either a 20 minute nap or 6-8 hours sleep.

Option 2: Get the most powerful energy drink available. How do you know which one is the most powerful? Use these three tips:

  1. No Calories = No Energy. A calorie is, by scientific definition, a unit of energy. That means, if an energy drink has no Calories, there is nothing but the caffeine to fuel your body. While sugar is not the best fuel (as opposed to whole grains and lean protein etc), a drink with both sugar and caffeine will fuel your body better than caffeine and B-vitamins alone. NOTE: For the biggest boost, avoid the energy drinks with juice (see below)
  2. Caffeine content is not always listed, but the drink’s ingredients are required to be listed: Try to find an energy drink with caffeine, taurine (which protects the heart), carnitine (which helps in the process of turning fat to fuel) and any of the B-vitamins. NOTE: You can seriously hurt yourself by consuming too much caffeine too fast. For maximum effect and for your safety, savor that drink (see below)
  3. Size Matters. Look at the Servings per Container. If you are tired enough to fall asleep standing, you might need more than a few sips. Of course, as explained below, taking a few sips at a time is the best way to maximize the caffeine boost, but more servings per container means you will have enough sips available to get you through whatever event is delaying your sleep

“I am so bored, I am falling asleep.”
Option 1: Do you NEED and energy drink, or do you just WANT one? Try the 7 Ways To Wake Up Sans Caffeine (listed above)

Option 2: Get the least powerful energy drink available, one that will effectively wake you up but not overwhelm your system with more than it needs. Overdoing it is the fastest way to develop dependence and tolerance, which means the drinks will become less and less effective.  Look for these clues to identify the more mild energy drinks:
  1. Juice content: Juice has to be pasteurized to be safe for consumption, but the heat from pasteurization may degrade some of the caffeine. This seems counter-intuitive because coffee is a hot beverage. However, the hot water is necessary to dissolve and extract the caffeine from the coffee beans, but in an energy drink the caffeine has already been extracted, isolated and purified. Look at the label – a higher juice content means a less vigorous (yet still effective) caffeine boost. 
  2. Non-carbonated: The carbon dioxide in carbonated beverages irritates the stomach lining, which increases the absorption of caffeine. This irritation effect is also the reason champagne affects people quicker than beer – the bubbles in the champagne speed up the absorption of alcohol in the stomach. A non-carbonated beverage will have less of a kick than its carbonated counterpart. 
  3. Alternative energy: an energy drink with no caffeine? Yes, such a thing does exist. These drinks typically have large doses of B-vitamins and some other source of fuel, like protein or sugar. These drinks are seemingly the best option for those that just need a little help focusing or waking up. NOTE: B-vitamins are water-soluble, so an over-abundance is likely to go down the drain (literally). Check the percent daily value of B-vitamins and stick to products that don’t go overboard. 
Timing is Everything: Pace Yourself
Caffeine has a half-life of 4-6 hours. That means that if you chug the whole energy drink in less than 20 minutes, you have started the clock on the break-down and elimination of the caffeine from your body. Now think about what would happen if you took 4-6 sips of the energy drink every hour. Unlike hot coffee, energy drinks do not go bad when they get cold, so why rush through the drink? Savoring the drink means prolonging the peak concentration of caffeine through the bloodstream. The added benefit is the discovery that all you needed was the first 4-6 sips to wake you up. So what do you do with the rest of the drink? Put it in an empty water bottle and save it for tomorrow. Take note of which drink you used and buy a less potent drink next time. Not only will you reduce your chances of developing a dependence and tolerance, you will save money from making one energy drink last more than one day. 
The bottom line is that energy drinks are not a necessary evil, for they are neither necessary, nor evil. The key is to knowing when to get an energy drink and when to go without, knowing how to pick a drink to match your needs, and knowing how to savor the drink to sustain the boost. 
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