The 4 Most Common Energy Zappers

Written by Bridget on . Posted in Food and Health Education

Part 1

I’m sure many of us would agree that more energy is something we would not pass up! Feeling energetic often translates to feeling happier, healthier and more ready to face any challenge along our path. We are much more productive, effective and clear-minded.

Energy is an area I am passionately researching and focusing on at the moment as I see daily how much of a difference it makes to the quality of a person’s life.

Not to mention, when people focus on the behaviours that give them more energy, they usually, as a side-effect, gain all of the benefits they tend to give themselves a hard time about achieving; clearer and younger looking skin, a leaner physique, more confidence, increased fitness, just to name a few.

Over time I have come to notice a few common tactics and methods people resort to, in an attempt to improve their energy levels and make it through their day. Life can be very fast paced and it can seem like we are doing our very best just to hold on to the back of a truck, taking off at 80km an hour!

Over the next 4 issues I would like to explore the 4 Most Common Energy Zappers I see, and offer some insight on how you may overcome these.

The first most common energy zapper has to be CAFFEINE!

How many people do you know who cannot start their day without a dose of caffeine (OKA coffee)? And which beverages are most popular around that 3pm slump? (Coke? Red Bull? Another coffee?)

In 2002, the five most popular beverages consumed by adult Australians when eating out of home were in order: coffee (excluding cappuccino), carbonated drinks, bottled water (still), cappuccino, then milk. The Australian instant coffee market is worth about $425M a year.

These stats are a pretty good indicator that caffeine makes many of our motors run, and that so many of us rely on the kick it gives us to keep us going through our hectic days. The truth is, in the long term, caffeine can be one of our biggest energy zappers!

So just what is caffeine and is it really that bad?

Caffeine is a naturally occurring substance found in plants. It belongs to a group of chemicals known as xanthenes that stimulate the central nervous system. It is found in coffee, black and green tea, cola drinks, guarana, chocolate and chocolate drinks. It is also an ingredient in some over-the-counter medicines for coughs, headaches and weight loss.

In small doses caffeine can increase alertness, however in large amounts it can cause mood changes and sleep difficulties. Although we may “sleep” at night, we wake unrefreshed because our sleep pattern has been disturbed. Caffeine causes us to spend less time in the essential recovery, deep phases of sleep, and more in the less restorative, lighter phases of sleep.

It also affects our hormone signalling processes so that we feel more stressed and tired overall. Symptoms such as, persistent anxiety, headaches, heart palpitations, upset stomach and insomnia are reported to result from regular consumption of moderate to high levels of caffeine.

If people regularly consume moderate to high levels of caffeine they can build up a tolerance in which they need to increase their intake to get the same effect. This can lead to dependence on caffeine, so that when caffeine is reduced or not consumed withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue and flu like symptoms may occur.

Some argue that becoming a regular caffeine consumer from a young age can lead to chronic high intakes over a lifetime. In children, decreased reaction time and restlessness have been noted at intakes greater than 95mg per day, which is equivalent to 2.7 glasses of cola soft drink.

As a guide, the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) Expert Working Group on The Safety Aspects of Dietary Caffeine, describe daily intakes of caffeine, for a 70kg adult as:

Low- 80 – 250 mg / day (approximately 1-3 cups instant coffee)
Moderate- 300 – 400mg / day (approximately 4-5 cups instant coffee)
High- >500mg / day (approximately more than 5 cups instant coffee)

Lastly, caffeine is a diuretic which means it causes us to lose fluid through extra urination. As a result, we end up dehydrated. As little as 2% dehydration affects concentration levels and contributes to irritability and fatigue.

So! How can you continue to enjoy your coffee without zapping your energy levels?

A few tips:

  • Each person has an individual tolerance to caffeine, however, in general more than about 2-300mg tends to have a negative effect on most people, even if it is not clearly noticeable- thus more than the equivalent of 2-3 cups of instant coffee is probably detrimental
  • Ensure for every caffeinated beverage you have you drink an extra 2-3 glasses of water
  • Try topping up your energy levels with extra water, fresh air and a quick dose of physical activity! (“Drop and give me 10!”)

Try the above recommendations for the next month and let me know how you go! 🙂

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