Looking for energy in all the wrong places

Don't rely on energy from a can: Eat right, exercise and get enough sleep.
Looking for a boost?

Energy seekers accustomed to slurping caffeine-laden drinks such as Red Bull might do better to reach instead for green tea, one health expert suggests.

But an improved diet and exercise will generate more energy over the long term, adds Teresa Moore, a competitive bodybuilder and clinical associate professor with the University of South Carolina's Arnold School of Public Health.

Green tea, Moore says, contains a caffeinated kick and is rich in antioxidants.

"If you're going to have something, green tea is a better alternative," says Moore, who also is a certified dietitian. "You want to stay away from high-sugar products."

Red Bull contains 27 grams of sugar, while Coca-Cola's new Vault energy drink contains 32.

Demand for energy

In many shops, energy drinks fly off the shelves at the rate of several cases a week, employees said.

"They deliver (Red Bull) two times a week," says Walt Tomihuro, a manager at the Corner Pantry in Columbia, S.C., for the past eight years. He added that a recent surge in energy drink popularity has sent soft drink companies scrambling to develop their own caffeinated concoctions.

"Everybody has come out with something, even Budweiser," he said, referring to the beer company's alcoholic B-to-the-E energy brew, a concoction of beer, caffeine, guarana and ginseng.

In addition to Red Bull, the Corner Pantry carries 20-ounce Vaults, 16-ounce SoBe No Fears, 16-ounce Coca-Cola Full Throttles, 8-ounce Anheuser-Busch 180 Energys, 8-ounce SoBe Adrenaline Rushes and 8-ounce Mountain Dew Amps.

Healthy habits for a better boost

As a bodybuilder, Moore has sampled energy supplement fads since the 1980s, trying ephedra products, protein supplements and the latest wave of ephedra-free energy drinks. After monitoring their effects on her body, she dismissed them all.

"I do better getting up in the morning, eating a good breakfast and using sheer willpower to get in the gym," says Moore, who won the middle class division and overall title at the 2001 National Physique Committee's South Carolina bodybuilding competition.

"I think that people tend to depend a little too much on these energy drinks," Moore said, noting that the Food and Drug Administration banned ephedra after it proved addictive over long periods of time.

She said a balanced diet and healthy sleeping habits will do more for energy levels than any quick fix can.

"Get out and walk 15 to 20 minutes every day," she says. This trains the body to wake up in the morning, conditions the heart and ultimately increases alertness and lifts energy levels "because your body is just functioning better," she says. "I've seen people notice it after working five or 10 minutes, and it doesn't have to be fast-paced."

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