Staying awake without the Bull

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By guest blogger Natalie Ast

With midterm season in full swing, it can be tempting to forgo sleep and stay up late studying (or partying). Many people turn to energy drinks like Red Bull to give them the so-called “wings” to keep them up all night.

But Red Bull and similar products are risky pick-me-ups. Just last week Health Canada released a case study about an 18-year-old who had a seizure after consuming two cans of the energy drink on an empty stomach. But are there any healthier alternatives?

Dr. Manikkam, who specializes in naturopathic medicine, suggests that those seeking out natural energy boosters first take a look at the ingredients in the products that they’re considering.

“If you can’t read the label, don’t buy it,” says Manikkam. This eliminates Red Bull, which contains hard-to-pronounce ingredients like glucuronolactone and phenylalanine.

Sugar is another common ingredient to avoid.

“Sugars give you a rush for 10 minutes, and then give you a low that’s even worse,” says Manikkam.

Most energy drinks contain copious amounts of sugar and around 80 to 200 mg of caffeine, the equivalent of about two cups of coffee. This puts drinkers at risk of heart problems, insomnia and tachycardia, a form of caffeine intoxication. Manikkam suggests one cup of black coffee with no sugar is a natural alternative.

If black coffee is too strong for you, self-brewed green tea is a great way to boost energy. Green tea gives your body energy for a longer term and also acts as a detoxifier, so you can also say goodbye to pimples and those extra pounds. Just stay away from stay away from popular sugary versions like Arizona. To sweeten the taste, honey is healthy alternative to sugar or sweetener.

Ginseng is a popular ingredient in many energy drinks and shots. Ginseng roots or supplements can be good sources of energy, but should be used under the supervision of a doctor because they can interfere with many medications and lead to sleeplessness.

Getting enough vitamin B is essential to your overall health and will boost your energy supply. The vitamin B complex works on your adrenal glands and helps break down carbohydrates. The vitamin can be found in vegetables like avocado, peas, artichokes and spinach, or in various supplements.

But if you regularly don’t have enough energy to get you through the day, it’s probably because of other factors like a poor diet, stress or a lack of sleep.

“I usually ask [my patients] ‘Why is it that you need energy?’ It’s usually not enough sleep or exercise. If you have regular exercise, it’ll boost your energy,” says Manikkam.

“The best way to have enough energy for late nights is to rest, be active, eat well and “stay hydrated.”

Photo by Marta Iwanek

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