In the world of energy-boosting stimulants, caffeine reigns supreme. People turn to caffeinated drinks, powders, pills, and other supplements to supply a pick-me-up after rolling out of bed and again as the day drags on. What is less clear-cut is which kind of caffeinated product is the best for users, both in terms of effectiveness and the associated health risks. Although it’s the most widely used, coffee is sometimes spurned by those who dislike the taste, with many reaching instead for regular and sugar-free energy drinks to supply their stimulant of choice. But given the negative press surrounding caffeine-laden products – and energy drinks especially – many people want to know: Are sugar-free energy drinks worse than coffee for your heart? To find out, keep reading as the amino acid supplement experts at aminoVITAL® discuss this common question.
Why Are Sugar-Free Energy Drinks Bad for Your Heart?
As our understanding of nutrition, drugs, and the effects of each on the human body grows, it’s become clear that some popular food and drink products are actually detrimental to a person’s heart health. Chief among these problematic products is energy drinks, which tend to be loaded up with ingredients designed to do one thing: make you more alert. While this is undoubtedly a useful benefit, the way that energy drinks produce the effect has shown to be potentially harmful.
Even when sugar – perhaps the unhealthiest part of many energy drinks – is removed from a product to create a sugar-free energy drink, some issues remain, largely due to the caffeine content of these beverages. At most, an average adult can safely consume about 400 mg of caffeine in a day, but the adverse effects can start well below that point. Men who consume more than 300 mg (or more than three cups of coffee) on a regular basis have been shown to have a higher rate of heart attacks1, according to one study, and can experience unpleasant side effects ranging from anxiety and jitters to headaches and insomnia.
But even if you consider 400 mg the upper limit on caffeine intake for heart health, many sugar-free energy drinks make it easy to consume far too much of the substance. Although caffeine concentration in an average energy drink is similar to that of other caffeinated beverages, these drinks come in large cans that can contain two or three times more liquid than a mug of tea or coffee. Because of this increased volume, someone drinking a sugar-free energy drink can wind up with several hundred milligrams of caffeine after just one can; drink two, and you could be approaching or exceeding the commonly accepted safety limits.
How Sugar-Free Energy Drinks Compare to Coffee for Heart Health
Because both coffee and sugar-free energy drinks seem comparable in a number of ways, it’s understandable to wonder why one might be worse for your heart than the other. After all, neither drink contains any sugar (unless you add it yourself, in the case of coffee), and their levels of caffeine per serving are fairly similar. As mentioned above, however, it all comes down to how much you drink.
When you pour yourself a cup of coffee, you’re serving yourself about 90 mg of caffeine, well below the 400 mg threshold. A can of a popular energy drink, however, could contain well over 100 of this stimulant, and it’s not uncommon for users to go through two or three cans over the course of a day. This consumption adds up; drink just three sugar-free energy drinks and you could be looking at 450-500 mg of caffeine, compared to the 250-300 mg in the same number of cups of coffee.
That said, it’s quite possible to limit your caffeine intake when using sugar-free energy drinks, just as it’s possible to overdo it with your coffee consumption. Someone who drinks cup after cup of coffee or who goes in for the extra-large serving size at their local coffee shop could have the same problems with caffeination as even the most overzealous energy drink fan. Ultimately, it’s the total amount of caffeine you consume that determines the risk to your heart, and both beverages have plenty of it.
Heart-Healthy Alternatives to Coffee and Sugar-Free Energy Drinks
Since caffeine is the offending substance in both sugar-free energy drinks and coffee, beverages that offer less of the drug or that eschew it entirely may serve as useful alternatives that can help you reduce the strain on your heart. The following are a few of the possible substitutes for your next energy drink or cup of coffee:
- Green tea, which offers a more mellow energy boost, thanks to the amino acid theanine
- Amino acid energy supplements, which can provide fuel for the muscles and limit fatigue during exercise
- Yerba mate, a tea-like drink that offers more or less caffeine, depending on how it’s steeped
- Energy bars, which can provide complex carbs and protein for extended energy
Add an Amino Acid Supplement to Your Routine for More Energy During Workouts
Picking the right energy booster for you will depend on how fast you need the energy and how long you want it to last, but you have a lot of options. Amino acid supplements like those from aminoVITAL® can be particularly helpful for those looking to maintain the intensity of a long workout or who want to perform at their peak during their practice or game. Learn more about the benefits of amino acids by visiting aminoVITAL® online or calling (888) 264-6673 today.