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Energy drinks and PT: good or bad?

By Robert Cline 2nd Medical Group ambulance shift supervisor

In today's Air Force and all throughout the military, there is a big demand on personal health and fitness. Airmen are exercising, trying to eat healthy and doing everything in an effort to get an edge on passing today's physical fitness exam. When looking for this edge, many Airmen are turning to energy drinks. The question is, are these drinks really good for us during physical fitness?

Energy drinks appear to be gaining in popularity. There are several energy drinks out there, and they all contain the same basic ingredients.

According to a popular energy drink Web site, one original drink contains caffeine comparable to a cup of the leading premium coffee. The popular Web site, www.webmd.com, states that one eight-ounce cup of coffee contains 180 milligrams of caffeine. In comparison, another popular brand of energy shot contains 125 milligrams of caffeine.

How does caffeine work? Caffeine works by causing the natural drug epinephrine to be released by the brain. Epinephrine causes the body's heart rate to increase. Caffeine can also result in restlessness, a loss of fine-motor control, headaches and dizziness.

Now, the trick question is what happens to our body when we exercise? Our heart rate increases and we attempt to sustain our blood pressure. Whenever we exercise, our heart rate should usually rise to between 100 - 120 beats-per-minute. Ask yourself, what is your heart rate going to do if you have already had one energy drink, and now you are exercising? How does exercising increase our heart rate? It is increased in the same manner that energy drinks increase our heart rate; the release of epinephrine. Instead of having a normal epinephrine release, you are actually releasing double the amount of epinephrine. This double dose of epinephrine causes the body's heart rate to rise to possibly dangerous levels during normal exercise.

Please be mindful of what you are placing in your body before exercising. Energy drinks that we believe to be good for us may provide temporary pick-me-up and energy. However, when used at the wrong time, the same energy drinks that we perceive to be good can have devastating effects on our body. Limit your consumption, especially during exercise, and don't be a casualty to energy drinks.