By Michael A. Smith, MDFeeling more energized is all about producing more ATP. Stimulants like caffeine and quick energy sources like sugar may help at first, but they certainly don’t last.
Why? Because their long-term effect on ATP production is pretty much nil.
And let’s be real, a large bolus of caffeine loaded with sugar in the form of an “energy drink” can be flat-out dangerous. Surely, better options exist.
Short-term Dangers from Energy DrinksIndividual responses to caffeine vary, and these drinks should be treated carefully because of how powerful they are. Energy drinks' stimulating properties can boost your heart rate and blood pressure, dehydrate your body, and, like other stimulants, prevent sleep.
Energy drinks should not be used while exercising as the combination of fluid loss from sweating and the diuretic quality of the caffeine can leave someone severely dehydrated.
When used occasionally, energy drinks are not necessarily bad for you, but they shouldn't be seen as "natural alternatives" either. Some of the claims they make like "improved performance and concentration" can be misleading.
Some energy drinks have no caffeine, but instead use the stimulant guarana, which is the equivalent of caffeine. Guarana contains about four times more caffeine than coffee. Others may say that 1 can is 2 servings so you have to calculate the correct amount of caffeine.1
If you think of them as highly-caffeinated drinks, you'll have a more accurate picture of what they are and how they affect you. You wouldn't use Mountain Dew as a sports drink. And a drink like Red Bull and vodka is more like strong coffee and whisky than anything else.
ATP: A Real Solution for Low EnergyIt’s not a lack of stimulants that causes us to feel tired, it’s low ATP production that does. This is why real energy supplements produce sustainable energy by producing ATP. Let’s start with Asian Cordyceps – an interesting endoparasitic fungi, to say the least. They attach to the larvae of ghost moths, producing fruiting-bodies full of energy and endurance nutrients.2,3
Studies show that the Cordyceps supports energy levels by promoting healthy levels of ATP - the energy currency used throughout the body.4,5 Cordyceps also supports healthy insulin sensitivity allowing your cells to efficiently take up sugar from your blood to enable stable energy output.6
In one study, healthy adults age 50-75 took 333 milligrams of Cordyceps extract three times daily for 12 weeks. These study subjects were able to perform a stationary bicycle exercise at maximal levels for over 10% longer before muscle fatigue could be scientifically detected.7
Now take the Cordyceps and add Panax ginseng, an important adaptogenic herb that traditionally is used for stress management. Recognized as one of the most beneficial ginsengs available, it is the species traditionally used in China and Asia.
Evidence indicates that ginseng supports ATP production in the mitochondria.8 Studies have shown that this extract promotes both physical and mental energy, including cognitive performance.9
Make More ATP and Feel EnergizedMainstream medicine and popular culture have conspired to produce a toxic response to fatigue in the form of stimulant drugs or caffeine/sugar combinations that have potentially addictive, and even fatal, adverse effects.
Both cordyceps and ginseng have hundreds of years’ worth of proven energy-boosting benefits without addictive or toxic potential. Both supplements are now known to act by raising ATP levels, making more energy available to brain, muscle, and other vital organs, while restoring more youthful energy levels.
If more "get up and go" is what you need, consider looking into them!
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- J Altern Complement Med. 2010 May;16(5):585-90.
- Am J Chin Med. 2009;37(6):1139-52.
- Neuroscience. 2011 Mar 31;178:169-80.
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