Energy shotIs there a better energy drink than Red Bull, Monster, or Rockstar?  Of course! But first,

Why Energy Drinks are Problematic

Those canned energy drinks, popular with the tech crowd, students, and those doing shift work can be problematic none only in terms of your health, but also for developing normal circadian rhythms.

Here are the main reasons that energy drinks are bad for you and can cause problems:

  • Caffeine – These drinks have tons of (primarily) artificially derived caffeine.  Yes, caffeine wakes you up and stokes your metabolism, but frequent use can cause adrenal burnout, a screwed up sleep-wake cycle, and insomnia.
  • Sugar – The second method these drinks use to increase your energy is through sugar.  Consuming sugar leads to a spike in blood glucose, which (very) temporarily makes you feel like you have more energy and are more alert.  The problem is, particularly with liquid sugar, your blood sugar falls just as fast and you’re left feeling drained, hungry, and sleepy.  This fall out prompts you to feel like you need more sugar, perhaps another energy drink, which in turn can lead to blood sugar problems such as diabetes and weight gain.
  • Preservatives and other Artificial Ingredients – In order to make these toxic drinks last on the shelf for months (or years) they need to contain preservatives, chemicals which can slowly impair liver function, accumulate in fat cells, and cause weight gain. Artificial ingredients, such as colorings have been linked to ADD/ADHA, and reduced focus and concentration. They may also have the same effects at preservatives.

What is Better than an Energy Drink

There are many things that are much better for you and your energy level than crazy toxic energy drinks. The following help to restore or maintain a healthy circadian rhythm, naturally support good energy, and prevent side effects and health problems.

  • Lifestyle Changes – If you’re always struggling to stay awake, concentrate, and focus, you may to sleep more.  Or check your diet for foods that may be causing your fatigue. If you’re only using energy drinks during “crunch time,” then perhaps better planning and time management needs to be prioritized so projects can be completed during your naturally alert, productive hours.
  • Movement and Exercise – When you feel low energy or find it difficult to concentrate, this is the perfect time to go for a walk, lift some weights, or somehow move your body.  Getting the blood flowing can help your brain feel revived.
  • Sunlight – Sun exposure helps to maintain the wake-sleep rhythms so your body knows daytime is work time and supports you in your efforts. It can also improve your mood, which helps your energy levels.
  • Water – Water is critical for so many physiological processes including neuron firing, which can affect performance and mental clarity.
  • Tea, Mate, Guayusa – These sources of naturally-occurring caffeine can offer similar a pick-me-up feeling as energy drinks, but are superior in many ways. They are sugar free (to begin with), which means no blood sugar roller coaster or path for metabolic derangement. The caffeine occurs naturally in the plant, which generally makes it safer, especially since it exists alongside the other compounds in the plant for synergistic effects as in L-Theanine in tea. Plus the lower levels of caffeine are safer, and therefore less prone to cause adrenal fatigue. Most dried forms of these herbs will exist without any preservatives or artificial ingredients. Even bottled forms of these herbs (like Runa) will tend to have fewer additives than energy drinks, again making them safer all around.


Struggles with energy, particularly mid-afternoon are nearly universal. It was my own fatigue and struggle against that brain fog and drowsiness that pushed me to create Belight Tea, and inspired me to research what was really going on, the results of which I share in my book Your Mid-Afternoon Energy Crash and What You Can Do About It.

Let us know in the comments below what you’ve tried beyond energy drinks to help maintain energy, support focus and concentration, and improve productivity.

Photos courtesy of Flickr users: theimpulsivebuy and Mike Mozart.