Infuriatingly, it often seems like, no matter what you do, your power to influence this clock is limited. Well, prepare for another sigh (or was that a yawn?) of exasperation. New research revealed that men's clock's are hard-wired to be around two hours behind women's. Early risers are often left to blearily battle against nature and, as a result, often search for a buzz in all the wrong places. We're looking at you, man clutching a can of fluorescent fizz during his morning commute.
With a market that has grown by 400% in five years, it seems we can’t get enough energy drinks. MH reveals which ingredients you should look out for as a safe shortcut to extra pep and which are more of a downer.
What is it? A drug which stimulates stress hormones in the central nervous system.
Does it work? The equivalent of a cup of filter coffee (80mg) can increase short-term recall and alertness by a third, according to researchers at the University of Arizona. “It works to boost key brain processes,” says Anita Bean, author of Food For Fitness (A&C Black.)
Is it safe? A Helsinki University study found the equivalent of three cups of coffee increases blood pressure by 14 points, putting strain on your major organs. “Over five cups a day can lead to heart palpitations, headaches, and even cardiac arrest,” warns Bean. “Reduce your caffeine intake until you most need it, for a safer hit.”
What is it? A root extract from panax shrubs, commonly found in East Asia.
Does it work? If it’s your brain, not your brawn needing a boost. “Ginseng aids mental function by balancing stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline,” says Watson. “It’s more beneficial in the office than the gym, but any effects are far from dramatic.”
Is it safe? Yes. “In the amounts in energy drinks it’s harmless – even if you take bigger doses you’ll suffer an upset stomach at worst,” says Watson. That’ll keep you awake in meetings.
What is it? A non- essential amino acid – used in the metabolising of fats.
Does it work? Sadly those “wings” are more ostrich than osprey. “Taurine relieves congestive heart failure and acute hepatitis of the liver, but no studies link it to increasing energy in fit and healthy humans,” says nutritionist Judy Watson. “In any case, your body assembles the taurine it needs from animal protein sources.” Meanwhile, Cornell University research on rats shows taurine supplements could actually slow brain activity (explaining your willingness to fork out £15 for another drink).
Is it safe? “On its own, it lowers blood pressure, but just one can of taurine-heavy energy drink has been proven to increase the risk of blood clots forming,” says Watson. Splash on a few lashings of vodka and you might as well just add an ambulance to your order...
What is it? The sugar your body breaks carbs down into – so it’s absorbed straight into your bloodstream.
Does it work? For a short burst. “It aids physical performance, but won’t boost concentration, and leaves you more tired half an hour later,” says Professor Jim Horne from the Loughborough Sleep Research Centre.
Is it safe? If you’re not diabetic, and it doesn’t become a habit. “Regular large doses can cause your body to stop burning fat, and can even contribute to diabetes,” says Bean. “Fats and protein slow the absorption of glucose.” So eat a slice of toast with peanut butter as you drink to lessen the severity of the energy rollercoaster.
What is it? A caffeine-crammed South American shrub seed extract.
Does it work? Yes. “Maybe due to the combination of caffeine and essential oils in the seed extract, taking a 200mg dose can improve all reaction times by up to 30 milliseconds,” says Penny Hunking from Energise Nutrition (energise.co.uk).
Is it safe? Again, a thumbs-up. University of Florida nutritionists found the amounts in energy drinks do not pose health risks. “Guarana has a natural synergy with the body, which filters out excess levels with no obvious side-effects,” says Hunking. Unlike the fall-out from last night’s visit to the local. But you may be better off taking a separate guarana supplement, to control your intake and avoid the side-effects from the other, less-friendly ingredients in that shiny can.
Contains: Glucose, taurine, caffeine, B vitamins.
Best for Afternoon meetings: “It provides a mental boost, but stick to one can to avoid the jitters,” says Penny Hunking.
Contains: B vitamins, 4-8% carbohydrate.
Best for Endurance sports: “Instantly hydrating but only boosts performance in activities over an hour,” Hunking says. Not one for the bedroom, then.
V Energy Drink
Contains: Glucose, caffeine, taurine, guarana, B vitamins.
Best for Deadline crisis: “All the major stimulants will get your brain buzzing, but use it as a last resort for short-term energy,” says Watson.
This article originally appeared on Men's Health UK.