I had asthma as a boy and as a teenager, hindering my ability to ever be thin and athletic. In college, fortunately, I began to break through the wall of exercise-induced asthma. Over time I could run longer and longer distances, eventually being able to run up to seven miles at a stretch. Currently, in a more relaxed state, I do about four miles a day, occasionally walking a bit in the middle.
During my sophomore year in college, shortly after beginning to run regularly, I discovered energy drinks. Red Bull was the default drink, though I also hit up Monster on a regular basis. Other brands rotated in and out, though I always returned to the slim, attractive cans of Red Bull in the end. These days a plethora of energy drink brands line the supermarket aisles, with energy teas, energy “shots,” and other concoctions joining more traditional energy drinks. I’ve even chewed “energy gum,” which was sent to me one summer in a care package.
According to recent reports these drinks and other energy concoctions are less-than-healthy, being considerably less beneficial to young athletes than water. Both energy drinks and sports drinks are, unsurprisingly, laden with calorie-rich sugar, providing a heavy damper to the caffeine jolt. Despite knowing this for years, I still imbibed.
I wanted the energetic buzz that energy drinks provided, figuring that getting a “good start” to my run would equate to more than enough extra calorie-burning to neutralize that extra sugar.
When I got an iPod with a pedometer and calorie-burned meter I realized, to my chagrin, that I wasn’t burning nearly as many calories as I thought. An exhausting run would barely excise 500 calories from my body. Two 8.4 oz. cans of Red Bull, at 110 calories apiece, would cut that calorie burn by almost 50%…a high price to pay for a buzz.
Additionally, energy drink consumption before a run could sometimes induce cramps or feelings of bloating, thereby preventing that “good start” I craved. I would run slower than usual for many laps, letting my body adjust before slowly increasing speed…and likely burning fewer calories in total. Energy drink consumption, therefore, might have actually made me burn fewer calories on occasion.
I know all these things…but I still imbibe. My energy drink habit continues, though it is currently well controlled. Only on occasion do I drink a Red Bull before a trip to the gym – still seeking the buzz and its “good start.” My workout starts with a 110-calorie deficit.
I should stick with water, I know.
But that “good start” is a dream to a runner, is it not? I crave the days I can start a run with high energy and avoid feeling pangs of pain in my knees and a pop in my ankle. For that dream I still experiment with Red Bull – half a can right before, a full can an hour before, etc. Calories in…roll the dice on extra energy out.
And millions of Americans may be in the same boat. Our energy drinks load us down with calories and don’t contribute to our workouts, but we keep imbibing in order to try and achieve that energetic and painless exercise experience. In short, we’re hooked. It’s great marketing for energy drink companies – who doesn’t want more energy? If the extra energy is giving us calories we just figure that more energy will burn it off…a never-ending cycle.
I don’t know if I’ll kick the cycle any time soon, but my energy drink budget is certainly lining the coffers of Red Bull distributors.
An 8.4 ounce can of Red Bull, consumed this morning during my browsing of the daily Internet news.