Functional Beverages

“Want some whiskey in your water? Sugar in your tea? What’s all these crazy questions they’re askin’ me?” Mama Told Me (Not to Come), Three Dog Night, 1970. Lyrics by R. Newman.

These were a few of the simple questions asked by college students in the 1970s. Today, college students are asking:

“Do I want vitamins or minerals in my water?”

“Do I want amino acids in my water?”

“Do I want fiber in my water?”

“Do I want a beverage to enhance my sports performance?”

“Do I want a beverage to help me stay alert and provide energy so I can study?”

Beverage choices have exploded! You can find a beverage for just about any need you can ponder. But are the claims true? What is beneficial? What may be harmful?

ENERGY DRINKS Blue Ox. Venom. Full Throttle. Monster Energy. Rage. Cocaine. Atomic Energy. Red Bull. The names say it all. And they promise even more—unrestrained energy in a can. Need a pick-me-up? Get an energy drink! Want to enhance your workout? Get an energy drink! Need to study all night for that midterm exam? Get an energy drink! Apparently, the ads are working: More than $2 billion a year is spent on energy drinks.

Energy drinks are nonalcoholic beverages containing purportedly energy-enhancing ingredients. The primary ingredients are sugar and caffeine. Other ingredients may include vitamins, amino acids, guarana, carnitine, inositol, ginseng, glutamic acid, ginkgo biloba, royal jelly, and yohimbe, among others.46

There are several nutrition and health concerns regarding use of energy drinks:47

¦  Energy drinks are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Any amount and any mixture of ingredients can be used without being proven safe or effective.

¦  The level of caffeine found in most energy drinks is not suitable for children or anyone sensitive to caffeine.

¦  Mixing energy drinks with alcohol increases the risk of heart arrhythmias.

¦  Using energy drinks before or during exercise may cause nervousness, lightheadedness, and nausea.

Miniglossary of Energy Drink Ingredients

What's in my energy drink?

Caffeine central nervous system stimulant

Carnitine [KAR-nih-teen] synthesized from the amino acids lysine and methionine in sufficient quantities to meet the needs of most people; it helps the body convert fatty acids into energy

Creatine [KREE-uh-teen] an amino acid synthesized in the body; used as a dietary supplement to increase lean body mass and strength; the amount added to most energy drinks is too small to be of any benefit

Ginkgo biloba [GING-coe bye-LOW-buh] an herb used to treat any number of conditions, including fatigue and failing memory

Ginseng [gin-SING] an herb used to support overall health and boost the immune system; research has not been conclusive enough to prove health claims

Glutamic acid [gloo-TAM-ik] a nonessential amino acid found in plant and animal tissue; used as a flavor-intensifying seasoning

Guarana [gwuh-RAH-nuh] an herb chemically equivalent to caffeine

Inositol [ih-NAH-sih-tall] once identified in association with the B vitamins; a type of sugar (related to glucose) found synthesized in the body and many foods

Kola nut an herb chemically equivalent to caffeine

Pyruvate [pie-ROO-vate] fatigue fighter and fat burner

Royal jelly substance secreted from the saliva glands of honey bees; provides food for all young larvae and is the only food for larvae that will develop into queen bees. It has been incorrectly claimed to impart extra energy and to have restorative properties; can be potentially hazardous for individuals who may suffer allergic reactions

Yerba mate an herb chemically equivalent to caffeine

Yohimbe [yoh-HIM-bee] touted as an aphrodisiac, a cure-all for sexual dysfunction; also claimed to be able to alter body mass, muscle mass, or exercise performance when combined with resistance training. None of these claims have been proven by research

SOURCE: L. Bonci, "Energy" drinks: Help, harm, or hype? Sports Science Exchange 2002; 15:1-4. Retrieved June 2008 from http:// Www. gssiweb. com/Article_Detail. aspx? articleid=310

¦  Caffeine is a diuretic and may be counterproductive for replacing fluids lost during exercise.

¦  Mixing several different stimulants (caffeine, guarana, kola nuts, yerba mate) can intensify their effects and become unsafe.

¦  Sudden cessation of use of heavily caffeinated energy drinks may cause caffeine withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms include headaches, mood swings, and trouble concentrating.

Energy drinks tend not to live up to most of the claims they make. Don’t take the ads at face value. It’s also a good idea to question the marketing ethics behind energy drinks. These beverages should be used with caution, and certainly should not be used by everyone.48 Want more energy? Want to enhance your workout? Want to be at your best studying for that midterm? Eat a healthful diet, drink plenty of water, and get some sleep!

SPORTS DRINKS The first sports drink was invented by Dr. Robert Cade and a team of scientists at the University of Florida (UF) in 1965. They were attempting to design a beverage to alleviate dehydration and muscle cramps encountered by their football players. To do this, their beverage had to replace fluids and electrolytes lost due to heat and humidity during practices and games. They named their drink after the UF mascot, and thus Gatorade™ was born.49 The sports beverages market exploded in the 1990s, and today it is a $2.6 billion business.50

Sports drinks are formulated to replace fluids and electrolytes (minerals) lost through sweat and provide energy for muscles.51 They may help delay fatigue and help with postexercise recovery of electrolytes and glycogen synthesis (see Chapter 10). Flavorings are generally added to enhance fluid intake.52 What should you look for in a sports drink?53

¦  6 percent carbohydrate in the form of glucose, sucrose, and fructose

¦  Sodium

¦  No carbonation

¦  No caffeine

See Chapter 10 for more about water, fluid-replacement drinks, and exercise.

Sports drinks containing only fructose should be avoided. It slows fluid absorption and causes abdominal cramps. Carbonation can also cause stomach discomfort, and therefore should be avoided. Caffeine, as you know, can cause dehydration and should not be a component of a sports drink.54

ENHANCED" WATERS Enhanced water? If you think plain water is boring, you might be tempted to try some of the newest “waters” to hit the market. You might think they taste better, and they certainly are prettier. As you gaze at the display shelf, how do you decide which one to choose? The pink one? The purple one? The peach-colored one? And you just might be convinced to believe that you actually need water with added vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs, antioxidants, and fiber.

Let’s begin with waters that have added vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins (taken in excess of amounts we need) added to water will flush out of the body along with the water. Fat-soluble vitamins are almost impossible to absorb without the presence of fat (see Chapter 7). The only ingredient in “vitamin waters” that your body just might use is the sugar. If the calories are in excess of what you need for energy, your body will use it to make fat.

How about the water with fiber? Everyone knows Americans don’t get the recommended amount of fiber each day. The fiber added to water is maltodextrin. There is no research to demonstrate that maltodextrin works in the same way as fiber from whole grains, vegetables, and beans. Also, because maltodextrin is a soluble fiber (Chapter 4), it won’t help with “regularity.”55

Although no research has ever shown that antioxidant supplements help prevent disease, “antioxidant water” is in stores, claiming to “help protect your body.” What makes “invigorating” or “energizing” water so invigorating or energizing? It just might be the 50 milligrams of caffeine per bottle (about the same as a cup of coffee). Herbs added to enhanced water are not added in amounts that might be therapeutic.56

Most enhanced waters are no more healthful than other beverages containing added sugar. Adding vitamins and minerals to calorie-dense foods does not make them nutrient dense. Some of the ingredients added to these specialty waters may not have proven health benefits. If you really need enhancement, a vitamin/mineral supplement is a better choice.

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