No, I don’t mean solar panels, wind turbines or sea power. I mean alternative to Qigong. Whilst taking Louis for his morning walk I noticed someone had dropped an ‘Energy drink’ can on the floor. I started thinking what a shame it is that the first thing most people think of when they need an energy boost is something loaded with caffeine.
There’s no doubt that a coffee can help to increase alertness but too much caffeine can leave you feeling worse. Depending on how much you consume during the day, much worse.
After I got back and completed my morning Qigong practice I decided to do some digging and here’s what I found:
- Your average cup of coffee ranges between 75-100 mg of caffeine depending on whether you make it at home or from a coffee shop. Seeing as coffee is usually drunk hot, you sip it and drink it slowly.
- Compare that with caffeine laced ‘Energy drinks’ which are drunk cold and quickly and that have caffeine contents as high as 500mg per serving. 
- Energy drinks often contain taurine, which has been shown to increase blood pressure and heart rate when combined with caffeine. 
Whilst doing my research for this article I found this snippet that put a smile on my face: In 2009 German authorities found trace amounts of cocaine in the energy drink ‘Red Bull Cola” . Dr Jennifer Ashton said that: “The drug equivalent dose would be 12,000 litres.” That’s a lot of cola!
The dangers of too much caffeine:
- Sleep problems
- Elevated blood pressure
- Heart palpitations
Energy drink-related health problems stated in German studies :
- Liver damage
- Kidney problems
- Respiratory problems
- Heart rhythm disturbances
- Heart failure
And let’s not even discuss the dangers of combining alcohol with caffeine. Enough to say that:
- The FDA warned four companies that the caffeine added to their alcoholic malt beverages is an “unsafe food additive” and said that further action, including seizure of their products, is possible under federal law. 
I did some digging around to find out what the size of the market is for Energy drinks and sales in 2011 were predicted to exceed $9 billion dollars. That’s a lot of money.
Coffee contains an incredible number of chemicals, some good – antioxidants in the form of chlorogenic acids (CGAs), some beneficial – evidence suggest coffee could prevent type 2 diabetes, some bad – caffeine and has over 1000 aroma compounds. For a hardcore scientific, yet readable, account of the pros and cons of coffee read: Chemistry in every cup
How Much Caffeine is Too Much?
After spending half an hour checking various online sources from Health Canada and other reliable sources 400mg seems to be the upper limit. That’s about 4 cups (not mugs!) of coffee. Though pregnant women are advised to limit their intake to 200mg a day –
Better Ways To Boost Energy Levels
I will gladly go on record and state that I love a cup of coffee for tiffin, but if I need an energy boost I find the following far more productive than loading up on caffeine:
- Practice Qigong – My personal recommendation would be to practice Merry Go Round AKA: Big Turn Of The Cosmos. Ideally as Qigong, but this is one of those Qigong exercises that still manages to give worth while benefits practiced at the level of form only. It’s ideal for a quick pick me up. In this blog post I share 5 Qigong exercises you can practice in the work place without drawing too much unwanted attention: Qigong Exercises In The Work Place.
- Get up and move around – if you’re in an environment that stops you from having a quick Qigong practice then get up and stretch. Move around and if you’re adventurous you could try what I call 5 Star down. It goes like this:
- 5 Jumping Jacks, followed by 5 Sprint Squat Thrust, followed by 5 Push Ups
- Then 4 of each, 3 of each, 2 of each and then 1 of each. You can watch a video of what I mean here (from 00:00 to 01:27 – but it’s worth watching all of it if you have the time. Just remember to take it easy):
- I’ve used this quite a lot recently whilst engaged in book writing marathons. And it’s hard to beat when you need to get your concentration back.
“The bottom line is: we should stop feeling guilty about taking that ‘power nap’ at work”
- Personally I find that 20-25 minutes works best for me. But experiment and find out what works best for you. Though keep it less than 90 minutes to make sure you don’t wake up feeling groggy or disrupt your sleep at night.
I’m not saying don’t drink coffee, and I’m not saying don’t drink energy drinks. I am saying don’t over do it, remember moderation in everything. I was genuinely shocked at the research I found whilst investigating caffeine. As a chemical substance I’d never really given it much consideration until now.
When I think of how huge the energy drink business is (estimated $9 billion in 2011) I realise how huge the demand is for a quick, enjoyable and convenient way to raise energy levels. And I can’t help but wonder why Qigong still isn’t as popular as it could be.
Marcus James Santer
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- Arria A, O’Brien M. The “high” risk of energy drinks. JAMA. 2011;305:600-601
- Steinke L, Lanfear D, Dhanapal V, Kalus J. Effect of “energy drink” consumption on hemodynamic and electrocardiographic parameters in healthy young adults. Ann Pharmacother. 2009;43: 596-602.
- CBS News 26th May 2009
- Seifert S, Schaichter J, Hershorin E, Lipshults S. Health effects of energy drinks on children, and adolescents, and young adults. Pediatrics. 2011;127:511-527.
- http://www.fda.gov/food/foodingredientspackaging/ucm190366.htm – November 17th 2010.