In Part 2 of our series on Natural Energy, we take a closer look at ingredients in the top natural energy products and supplements. Dr. Hyla Cass tells us about what to look for, including vitamins and herbs, and what to steer clear of when choosing one of the many popular products that promise a boost these days. Dr. Cass is one of the country's foremost authors and speakers on the subject of integrative medicine.
Natural Ingredients for EnergyThere are ingredients to look for, and to be aware of, in energy drinks, gels, and supplements:
- A lot of energy products are very high in sugar. This is a concern not only because of calories, but also because sugar is just not healthy for you. Another concern is the artificial sweeteners in energy products.
- Look for herbal ingredients that are proven to be safe.
- Specific ingredients to look for are the B vitamins, vitamin C, yerba mate, goji berries and açaí. These provide energy and a lot of benefits.
- The B vitamins help the body convert food into fuel and play an important role in the nervous system in helping to make the neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers in our brain.
- B vitamins are easily destroyed when foods are processed, which is one reason many people are deficient. They are also depleted during stress.
- They are water soluble, so they are not stored in the body for long and need to be replenished daily.
- The B vitamins B-12, biotin and folic acid are particularly essential for energy.
- Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron, is important for immune system, is an antioxidant and is also needed for building strong muscles. Natural vitamin C is found in acerola cherry and açaí.
- Yerba Mate is a South American herb that has high levels of antioxidants and xanthine alkaloids. These are natural stimulants that occur in herbs like this (including caffeine, theophylline and theobromine). Yerba mate has been used for centuries in South America to promote mental clarity and sustained energy.
- Goji Berries are packed with antioxidant carotenoids. That's what gives them their bright color.
- Açaí (ah-sigh-EE) is a berry, and it's a source of antioxidants and fiber, certainly needed for energy.
- Green Tea has a 5000-year history in China-and recent research associations-with health, energy and alertness. This is based on its antioxidant content and caffeine content which promotes alertness.
- Some energy products do contain caffeine while others do not. This is from either added or from caffeine-containing herbs, which contain it naturally. Check the ingredients.
- Just because something's natural, you still need to be aware of the ingredients.
- Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others; some get rapid heart rate and other symptoms from caffeine. In those cases it should be avoided or in very low doses.
- Dr. Cass recommended no more than 150 mg of caffeine per serving. For some people 100 or less is better. (For comparison, a cup of coffee has somewhere between 100-150 mg of caffeine.)
- Bottom line is safety first. People are tempted to guzzle energy drinks, which is not a good idea. You have to use judgment. Notice how your body responds.
- When used all the time, energy products do not give the same bang as when used periodically.