Though many us still reach for coffee or candy when we hit that seemingly inevitable 3 to 4 pm energy drop at work, the newest trend seems to be downing a can of Rockstar, Red Bull or Monster. However, energy drinks are mostly liquid candy spiked with caffeine. To be fair, some energy drinks include herbs, vitamins and amino acids but that still does not make them an elixir.
No matter, according to February 2011 Consumer Reports, the company says people drink 5-Hour Energy more than seven million times a week. Although energy drinks didn’t even exist in the U.S.until 1997, it seems we can’t get by without them.
The question begs to be asked: why do we need sugar and caffeine to keep going? There are two reasons which are intricately tied together. Having converted to energy and used up our lunch, our blood sugar is now dropping and our “energy bank” is closed. Candy bars supply a ready source of glucose (blood sugar) which can be converted to energy. However, this is only a flash in the pan. Soon, the sugar-high caused by the candy bar or soft drink is followed by a sugar-low, and the vicious cycle continues.
This drop in energy levels requires our adrenal glands to make more of the stress hormone cortisol which is the messenger that regulates blood sugar levels. However, when we are habitually stressed out (and who isn’t?) our adrenals can’t muster making appropriate levels of cortisol unless they get a good kick from caffeinated drinks. Seemingly, all is well. We’re operating again. However, this is the hormonal equivalent of flogging a dead horse.
What is the alternative? The solution is simple but requires forethought. Instead of coffee, drink a cup of green tea for an almost instant energy infusion with added health benefits such as lowering cholesterol and fighting cancer.
Instead of a candy bar, eat a good snack before you get hit by the 3PM low energy “truck.” Good snacks to keep blood sugar levels humming are low sugar foods that contain some protein and fat. Here are some examples: a piece of pear with walnuts, a small cup of plain yogurt with fresh fruit or granola, slices of apple with cheese, celery or carrot sticks with hummus or other dip, a handful of nut mix with raisins (not M&M’s), and crackers with cheese. You don’t need much. And like a well oiled machine, you will keep humming until dinner time.
Why should this matter? The hormone cortisol is involved in many processes in the body, and spiking blood sugar levels can first raise, and then eventually exhaust your cortisol levels, setting the stage for morning fatigue and other unpleasant consequences.
Among the many long term benefits of your foresight and planning will be healthy blood sugar levels, better mood, lasting energy and improved performance. And that just makes life more fun on and off the job.