Americans spend millions of dollars on energy drinks and energy bars every year. Often times, the makers of these products add certain elements to make this a healthy choice, such as vitamins, minerals, herbs and whey. However, many times the two active ingredients most commonly found in these products are sugar and caffeine.
There are certain advantages in these products for high level training athletes, but for most of us, the vast majority of these bars and drinks only add hazardous toxins, chemicals and useless calories to their diet. Sugar and caffeine, in the long run, do the exact opposite of providing energy. Sugar provides a very brief explosion of energy followed by a plummet of energy, as your pancreas and other glands do all they can to balance out the toxins to the blood sugar. In the end, we suffer from significantly diminished energy and not much more.
When caffeine is used on a regular basis (daily), it will cause a burning out of the glandular system resulting in energy levels below normal. The myth of replacing depleted carbohydrates with sugar immediately following a workout is only appropriate for the high level athlete. For the moderate level, these extra sugars just turn to fat. It’s also very important to replace the water you lose when you exercise. Caffeine acts like a diuretic, causing you to lose even more water.
Some Simple Guidelines:
Energy does not come from sugar. Taking in simple carbohydrates (sugar, honey, white flour like pasta or bread) before a workout or event will cause a quick spike in blood sugar followed by a fall. Additionally, simple carbohydrates and excess complex carbohydrates will cause sluggishness and only hurt your performance.
If you are looking to create natural energy right before a workout, eat some complex/simple carbohydrates like apples, plums, pears, citrus fruit (not juice) or berries. This will give you a small spike without the huge plummet of energy.
A few hours before a workout, complex carbohydrates, some fat and a little protein will usually help, such as sweet potatoes, brown rice, olive oil, flax oil, walnuts, almonds and eggs. These are all relatively easy to digest and will give you more sustained energy for the day.
During a workout or immediately afterwards, sports drinks and bars are very popular and are used to replace the lost carbohydrates. But remember, you are using the products that contain chemicals, colorings and preservatives that are not recommended at all. Instead, sweeteners like honey, maple, cane or brown rice syrup are more natural and can be found in many healthier bars and powders.
After the workout or event is long done, your body is nitrogen-poor and your muscles have been broken down. That’s why you need amino acids from animal proteins like chicken, fish, beef and eggs, as well as complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes or brown rice.
Although many experts have advised people to load up on carbohydrates before a workout or event, the truth is that burning sugar is not what happens over long workouts. Therefore, rather than loading up on carbohydrates, more people are loading up on fats and small amounts of protein, with no more carbohydrates than the body can easily store anyway. Toward the end of a workout, only then may you find it necessary to replace the depleted carbohydrates with a glucose drink or gel.
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