Looking for a quick boost? It’s better to choose food over energy drinks or caffeine.
“People are using caffeine instead of food for energy, but there is an overarching lack of evidence to show that caffeine can help with physical or cognitive performance,” said Tiana Barker, a registered dietitian nutritionist for Intermountain Health. “When it comes to energy, food, using the ‘rule of threes,’ is the best source.”
Next to multivitamins, energy drinks are the nation’s most popular dietary supplement of choice for teens and young adults, the National Institutes of Health reports. About one-third of children between the ages of 12-17 consume energy drinks regularly.
“Student athletes often ask me if energy drinks, containing B vitamins and caffeine, are a good way to energize before a workout,” Barker said. “I tell them I don’t recommend energy drinks because the short-term boost isn’t worth the long-term outcome.”
Energy drinks, coffee and other supplements have caffeine, sometimes in high amounts, Barker said. Recommended caffeine intake for adults is up to 400mg per day, equivalent to about 4 cups of coffee; in adolescents, less than 100 mg of caffeine is recommended, as it is a stimulant that can affect growing bodies.
Effects of drinking too much caffeine or a beverage containing copious amounts of caffeine may include:
Some drinks also can contain too-large doses of some nutrients and micronutrients that can have detrimental effects on the body over time, Barker said. For example, copious amounts of caffeine, taurine, sugars, and B-vitamins may contribute to poor cardiovascular health.
“Some studies show that caffeine can blunt hunger leading to inadequate intake, lower energy availability and reserves, then more reliance on caffeine for a quick boost of energy leading to a downward spiral,” Barker said.
For healthier energy boost, Barker says it’s best to eat food. She uses the “Rule of 3’s”: Three meals a day, and up to three snacks as needed, approximately every 3 hours for consistent energy availability.
“Ultimately, energy and highly-caffeinated drinks are no substitute for food for long-term energy and health,” Barker said.
To learn more or make an appointment with a registered dietitian nutritionist about your food and energy needs, visit Nutrition Services at intermountainhealth.org.