Some resort to using energy drinks to quench their thirst. And not only does it give them something cool to drink, but it also gives them an energy boost. That’s pretty much a win-win situation, don’t you think so?
But while people may think that these drinks are a better alternative to water, they could not be wrong more. You see, energy drinks have other ingredients than water. They feature copious amounts of sugar and caffeine as their components.
But can energy drinks really dehydrate you? Sugar in energy drinks can dehydrate the body mildly or severely. The degree of dehydration depends on how hydrated you already are and what activities you will be doing.
This article will focus on the dehydrating effects, if any, of caffeine and sugar in energy drinks.
Caffeine in energy drinks and dehydration
Caffeine has a lot of good and bad rep to it. On the upside, it has a ton of antioxidants which work great in promoting good health. On the downside, it causes restlessness, jitteriness, and other such effects. But in this case, we will focus on whether or not it can dehydrate you.
Well, reports on this conflict a great deal. You see, caffeine is a diuretic, and that may have you thinking that it can have dehydrating effects on the body.
You will hear people say that once they have some caffeine, they end up going to the loo a lot. And that can make them think that the caffeine is dehydrating them. But that is not all there is to it.
Yes, caffeine is a diuretic substance given that it promotes the excretion of water by the kidneys. As long as anything works in the formation of urine, it classifies as a diuretic.
However, with caffeine, it is not that direct a relation. Not everyone will end up going to the toilet more than they usually would. Recent studies show that you have to ingest at least 360 mg of caffeine for the diuretic effects to show.
If you are consuming many energy drinks, getting to this limit should not be hard. You would need to consume about four cans of standard energy drinks. Others have higher caffeine concentrations, and you could end up taking only two energy drinks to meet this cap rate.
Other than quantity, it also comes down to how tolerant your body is to caffeine. Some people often load up on caffeine, so much so that the body builds up some tolerance. For these people, the diuretic effects may not be as apparent as they would be in others. So, some people may not feel the dehydration as much as others.
Energy drinks and dehydration during exercise
How you spend your time after consuming the energy drink also matters. If you drink it and undertake some form of exercise, the diuretic effects will be few. It owes to you losing water as you move around. The body tends to try and save water by limiting the production of urine as you work out.
But if you plan on sitting and pretty much doing nothing, you will have some diuretic effects.
Thus, if you think about it, caffeine is a diuretic. However, it is not as effective as most other products in this category. It depends on several factors for it to affect the body.
Sugar dehydrates the cells
Sugar works in controlling water balance in the cells. It does so by moving through the membranes and equalizing the electrolyte ratios on both sides. If you have read about diffusion, you have an idea of how this works.
Molecules move from a region of higher concentration to that of lower concentration. And water moves through osmosis to areas of higher electrolyte concentration. When fluids outside the cells contain too much sugar, water moves to the outside, thus dehydrating the cells.
Having too much sugar in the body can thus trigger dehydration as water tries to equalize the concentrations. Where cells lack enough water, their functions reduce.
And when you have a lot of sugar in the bloodstream, the pancreas releases insulin, which moves sugar into the cells. This sugar works in providing energy to the cells such that they can perform as needed. What is in excess will end up as fat.
How to prevent dehydration from energy drinks
You should learn to listen to your body. It can tell you when you have had too little or too much sugar as well as other dehydrating substances. For instance, if your urine turns darker, you are likely dehydrated.
The same goes for where you experience thirst. It may be tempting to grab a jug of water and drink all its contents, but that is not advisable. If you have been thirsty for a while, you need to hydrate slowly.
Can you drink an energy drink for hydration? The answer is no. The sugar will only work in further dehydrating the cells. And as we covered earlier, caffeine has a mild diuretic effect on the body. So, if you are already going through a water deficit, you should not take energy drinks.
For people who exercise a lot, it helps to drink enough water in advance. Take at least three cups of water two hours before exercising. As you work out, hydrate every twenty minutes with small amounts of water.
And if you need a boost, energy drinks are not the solution. Instead, consider getting a sports drink as it can replace the lost electrolytes. After the activity, ensure that you keep taking water as your body will have lost a lot of it.
Can energy drinks cause kidney damage?
A study on the effects of sugary drinks on the kidneys seems to point to these drinks, causing kidney damage. The scientists used rats for this.
The rats were mildly dehydrated before being given sugared drinks. Some received plain water while others received water flavored with artificial sweeteners. Those that received sugared drinks had more kidney damage compared to those that drank water.
Note that this dehydration and quenching of thirst using sugared drinks took place over a long time. While the study is yet to take place on human beings, it points to a likely occurrence if the same were to happen.
From the above explanations, it is evident that sugar and caffeine could dehydrate the body mildly or severely. Thus, using energy drinks to hydrate is not advisable, given their high caffeine and sugar content.
When thirsty, reach for water or other similar fluid. Energy drinks work for when the body is well-hydrated, so long as you keep up with water and other plain fluids.
While studies on the renal effects of these drinks are limited, they point to possible adverse long-term effects. And you should be wary of these.