Energy Drinks – Providing Energy or Draining Energy?

I see a lot of runners that have been taken in by the advertisements of drinks such as Powerade, Red Bull, Monster Energy, Relentless, Lucozade and Powerade. The advertisements claim that these drinks actually IMPROVE performance and are almost ESSENTIAL to an athlete’s diet…

All this sounds Great, But let’s look at how these drinks may be affecting your health and performance.Most Energy Drinks contain similar substances. E.g. High sugar and sweetener content, as well as caffeine.“Well yea, I already know that… but I need sugar and caffeine for my training and races?”


Caffeine does have its benefits but using it too much can cause a variety of health problems. A potent combination of refined sugars and caffeine stimulates the secretion of the hormone Cortisol from the adrenal gland. Cortisol is known as the Stress Hormone and is a mechanism that helps us to either run, or fight when under threat! This explains how you get that sudden burst of energy when being chased by a dog! It creates this energy by converting glycogen, amino acids and fatty acids into glucose ready to be used by the cells. Although Cortisol helps us to get this energy, an excess of cortisol (from energy drinks, overtraining, stressful situations and poor nutrition) can causes symptoms such as:

1. Fat Storage around the abdominal area
2. Disrupts sleeping
3. Increases Blood Pressure
4. Breakdown of muscle tissue
5. Increased cravings

All of which will help you to run like the picture below.

Many of the runners I’ve spoken to have a similar routine….1. You wake up in the morning and need a ‘kickstart’ – Coffee it is.2. By Lunchtime you are feeling sluggish – you have some red bull or lucozade to wake you up.

3. By the evening you need another kickstart to get you through your training session – so you take an energy drink or some chocolate with you to the track.

4. After the Session you are craving sugary or fatty foods but because you’ve trained at a moderate intensity you think it’s ok to eat whatever you like…. So you have lots of calories, stimulants and other foods with very little nutrition.

Is this you?

By CONSTANTLY taking in energy drinks and coffee (as well as other poor nutrition habits and other stressors) you are severely overworking your adrenal glands. Over time the gland becomes fatigued and the amount of cortisol that can be produced is diminished – reducing the amount of glucose that can be provided to the cells. This is when problems occur. Tiredness and fatigue are all too common in runners due to high cortisol levels and overworked adrenal glands.


So, here are 6 steps to increase your energy levels


1. Reduce your intake of these energy drinks, and foods/drinks high in sugar and caffeine

2. Drink  more Fresh and Clean water – Bottled or Filtered

3. Consume a diet rich in Nutrients – Meat, Fish, Vegetables, Fruits

4. For runners doing longer distances e.g. Marathons… you will need to replenish with carbohydrates, amino acids and electrolytes. Homemade versions are going to be a lot better than the commercial drinks filled with sweeteners and refined sugars.

5. Get 7-8 hours sleep per night

6. Greens drinks can also help with energy levels and vitality.



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Luke is the North East Running Leader of the Year and coaches runners of all abilities with Run Eat Sleep.

He is also the South Shields parkrun Event Director and Hosts the Run For Fun Podcast.

Luke runs for Gateshead Harriers and has Personal Bests of 15.39 for 5k, 32.11 for 10km and 70.57 for Half Marathon.

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