4 Healthy Alternatives to Energy Drinks

Traditional energy drinks can cause you to crash. Try these healthy alternatives to beat the afternoon slump.

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By Lisa Evans

Maggie Starbard/NPR

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If reaching for an energy drink to get over the mid-afternoon slump is part of your daily routine, consider this: a 16 oz. can of Red Bull contains 52 grams of sugar, about the same amount as 11 Oreo cookies. Although energy drinks claim to provide a boost to mental and physical stimulation, Tristaca Curley, a dietician based in British Columbia, says these effects are short lived. "You may feel energized for an hour or so and then a couple of hours later you crash and [may end up] feeling worse than you were prior to the energy drink," says Curley.

Even more concerning are the health-damaging ingredients found in these drinks including excessive doses of caffeine and other stimulants that increase your heart rate and blood pressure and can lead to irritability, anxiety and an inability to sleep. "Some of these stimulants last in your body for several hours so if you're having one mid-afternoon, it could still be in your system at ten o'clock at night," says Curley.

Related: 4 Food Combinations That Will Boost Your Health and Productivity

Replace your afternoon energy drink these healthier alternatives:

Green Juices and Smoothies
The dark green vegetables such as spinach, parsley and kale used in green drinks are a great source of B vitamins which our body requires for metabolism to run at its peak. "If your metabolism is [high], your body is able to produce enough energy at a faster rate," says Curley. Since the best sources of energy are whole foods, high metabolism combined with a diet full of vitamins and nutrients will have you feeling fueled all day long.

Green Tea
It contains a smaller amount of caffeine than coffee does, and Curley says that the many health benefits of green tea (includingdecreased risk of heart disease and cancer) make it a great energy drink option. There's also evidence that green tea helps improve mental clarity and performance, making it a great alternative to an afternoon cup of coffee.

Protein Shakes
Lack of protein is a common cause of fatigue. A high quality protein shake can help your body reach its nutrient requirement, but Curley warns that simply mixing a protein powder into a shake won't give you an energy boost. Protein requires carbohydrates to turn into an energy we can use. Add fruit, wheat germ or quinoa to your shake with 10 grams of protein from a powder, yogurt, milk or soy milk for a more sustainable energy boost.

Water
Curley calls water the world's best energy drink. "All of the metabolic reactions that happen in our body happen in water," she says. "As soon as we're dehydrated all those metabolic reactions start to slow down and you start to feel sluggish." Dehydration is one of the mainreasons we experience a drop in energy. If you think drinking water is boring, spruce it up by adding fruit slices or some blueberries or strawberries. The fruit provides some carbohydrates and B vitamins for an extra nutritional punch.

Related: Sharpen Your Memory with Brain-Healthy Foods

Lisa Evans

Lisa Evans is a health and lifestyle freelance journalist from Toronto.

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