Upcoming source of energy

First there’s class. Then the forgotten homework for Spanish. Afterward, the race is on to jump in the car and make it to work on time. But the work clothes are lying on the coffee table at home. The list of things-to-do is running off the page. Work is finished. Time to rush home and ingest a TV dinner. On the verge of beginning to relax, a realization settles in: the day has only just begun – it’s off to the club.

College students used to be dependent on coffee and caffeine pills for stimulation to keep them trucking through the wee hours of the night. But recently a new alternative has appeared: energy drinks.

The drinks emerged into the European spotlight in the 1980s, and the surge in sales is bursting into American culture. According to a report by Mintel, the market for energy drinks increased 366 percent between 1996 and 2000. Targeted at the 18- to 35-year-old population, this group has turned to energy drinks for a number of reasons.

Senior Mike Caraker said he first tried the popular energy drink Red Bull in London four years ago, where the drink is stronger than in America.

“It tastes better, and it’s more potent (in London),” he said. “It’s a win-win situation. It hypes you up a bit.”

A self-proclaimed “caffeine junkie,” Caraker continues to buy the drinks and has about one on average a week. He said if he didn’t get enough sleep one night, he may drink one, or if he was going out to a club, he might have one to increase his energy level.Dr. Ruth Reece of the Center for Healthy Lifestyles in Tampa said energy drinks increase blood pressure and heart rate and could be harmful to people with high blood pressure. But as far as using caffeine to get an energy boost, “half the world probably does that,” Reece said.

Although North America has only recently been exposed to the beverages, one energy drink, Lucozade, has been floating around the UK market since 1938. Liptovan, another popular energy drink that leads the Japanese market, surfaced in 1962, and, according to pharmiweb.com, sells an average of 2 million bottles a day.

Dietrich Mateschitz, of Austria, decided to enter a new competitor into the energy drink market in 1987 when he created Red Bull, the best known energy drinks in North America. Claiming the drink is “stimulation for body and mind” and that it “gives you wings,” the slogans have come in question in the UK and North America concerning the validity of the statements.

But companies from Sobe to Snapple to Pepsi have jumped on the energy drink bandwagon in recent years in an attempt to satisfy the consumer demand. In the UK, Red Bull ranks third in the number of beverages consumed, trailing behind Pepsi and Coca-Cola.

Eric Koomen, vice president for operations at Hype, said the energy drink industry in the United States grew 200 percent last year alone.

“I think people are looking to do more with their days and time,” Koomen said. “People find a lot of uses for (energy drinks).”Other uses include using the drinks as a replacement for coffee, for avoiding a hangover, for a workout or before going out for a night. However, manufacturers warn the drinks should be used in moderation.

But Reece said energy drinks shouldn’t be used by athletes or someone planning to work out.

“An athlete should think twice about them,” she said.Reece said athletes should increase fluid intake with a drink such as Gatorade, which has an isotonic solution that immediately absorbs into the body but never with a stimulant, because it confuses the body, pulling it in two directions.

Energy drinks contain about as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, almost four times as much sugar as a normal soda, and some add vitamins and nutrients such as ginseng and taurine. Many of the drinks even glow under a black light or in the dark.

But the industry has been negatively targeted recently for a number of reasons. For example, people tend to drink more cans than coffee because of the colder temperature, making them easier to consume than a warmer beverage. Dehydration may occur if too much caffeine is ingested. A warning label advising that the product is not intended for young children accompanies some of the drinks, such as Mountain Dew’s version, AMP. There is also concern that those who cannot handle coffee should not ingest energy drinks.

“There’s danger in drinking anything too much,” said Peter Banstolk, president and chief executive officer for Jones Soda. The company has been producing energy drinks such as WhoopAss and Jones Energy drink since 1999.

“An energy drink is really a caffenated cold beverage,” Banstolk said.

Still, another issue is mixing the drinks with alcohol. Some companies, such as Red Bull, openly advocate the mixing, while others find problems with the combination.

“There’s no effect when they’re mixed,” Banstolk said. “People have been drinking White Russians for years.”

HYPE has recipes for drinks on its Web site, although Jean Scheedel, consumer representative for AMP, said this was not its original intent.

“Some may opt to mix it – but it’s not a mixer; it’s an energy drink,” she said.

But Reece said the mixture of alcohol as a depressant and the energy drink as a stimulant is a bad idea.

“You’re asking your body to do two things – speed up and slow down – and that can never be good for you.”

Caraker said he drinks a combination of Red Bull and vodka on occasion but doesn’t to drink them in excess because of the potential risks.

“I’m sure it’s bad for you if you do too much,” he said.

  • Contact Lindsay Fosterat oraclefeatures@yahoo.com