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Pumped on Caffeine pt2
Caffeine acts as a diuretic, a substance which causes excessive loss of fluids from the body via urination, possibly leading to severe dehydration. Dehydration is disadvantageous to anyone who consumes the drink, but more so to athletes who have the beverage prior to a sporting event for an extra spurt of energy. Athletes have reportedly collapsed, fallen seriously ill or died during the period of exertion and prolonged sweating. The Journal of American College Health claims that persons who regularly consume these drinks are prone to a whirlwind of irresponsible and reckless behaviour such as engaging in unprotected sex, substance abuse and violence. Energy drinkers risk becoming highly addicted to the caffeine in the drinks as well, and thereby, suffer the consequences of this addiction.
In the late 1990s, club-goers and university students became part of a craze that spread throughout Europe and the Americas in the blink of an eye. They began using energy drinks as a mixer for their alcohol. This has led to the evolution of ready-to-serve, alcoholic energy beverages which combine, the same amount of caffeine in two cups of coffee with the alcohol of four to five beers. Young people consume this lethal combination in an attempt to rid themselves of the unwanted side effects of high levels of alcoholic consumption. However, this combination only masks the damage as it is still occurring. The stimulant effect of the caffeine masks the depressant effect of the alcohol, and the drinker is less aware of how intoxicated he/she really is. Individuals who consume a mix of alcohol and caffeine are said to feel more alert and risk getting three times more intoxicated than an individual who consumes only alcohol. The caffeine will eliminate the drowsiness associated with being drunk, but it delays the feeling of intoxication, encouraging an individual to consume well beyond their normal limits. Hence, the mix does not cancel out the perils of the other, but rather, exacerbates them, creating a potentially dangerous situation. Furthermore, they are both diuretics and instruct the nervous system to perform completely opposite functions. Alcohol slows down our brain’s functions and impairs one’s motor skills, coordination, speech, reflexes and rationale, while caffeine increases blood pressure levels and heart rate leading to heart palpitations and abnormal heart rhythms.
To reduce and maybe even eliminate the health risks associated with energy drinks, the best alternative is abstinence. Of course, a healthy and balanced diet, sufficient rest and daily exercise will always do the best job. One should practice good eating habits and avoid skipping meals, eating every few hours whether by snacking on fruits or having a sandwich. For those who are unable to keep up with these habits because of a demanding lifestyle, many other alternatives that are probably cheaper are available without the buzz, excess worry and stress on the nervous system. Eating a complex carbohydrate like trail mixes with dried fruits, granola, fresh fruit, cereal, low fat yogurt, whole-grain bread, peanut butter, fruit and vegetable juices or lots of water can keep you hydrated whilst safely and slowly increasing your energy levels, without the nerve-wracking rush. Energy drinks are not naturally beneficial to us, as the human body does not require its main active ingredient, caffeine to function properly. Therefore, as the debate continues on whether they should be banned or not, it is important that one remembers, too much of one thing is never good, doing everything in moderation. We as young people are called to make the choice that is best for us. The benefits of these beverages should not be taken for face value and we must further educate ourselves to make an informed purchasing decision.
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