Added sugar is one of the unhealthiest aspects of the typical American diet, and a large amount is consumed through sugar-sweetened beverages like sweet tea, soda, coffee drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, lemonade and more. Many people fall prey to the mindless consumption of sugared beverages, drinking them throughout the day in place of water without thinking about the high amounts of sugar and calories they're putting into their bodies.
Some people also drink beverages like soda, tea, coffee, sports drinks and energy drinks for the short-term energy boost they provide. However, when these beverages contain high amounts of sugar, the disadvantages outweigh the benefits.
Why Sugary Drinks Are Harmful
Visceral fat is the type of fat that surrounds the internal organs and an excess of visceral fat is especially dangerous to your health, interfering with hormone balance and increasing the risk of Alzheimer's, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. One study examining over 1,000 participants and published in the journal Circulation suggests that sugared drinks increase the proportion of visceral fat in the body. After six years, those who drank sugar-sweetened beverages on a daily basis had the highest increase of visceral fat.
Obesity has a wide range of negative effects on the body. Immediate effects can include joint pain, fatigue and lack of cardiovascular endurance. Because obese people are often fatigued, they are some of the most likely people to turn to heavily-sweetened coffee, sugary sports drinks and other harmful ways to increase energy. The high levels of sugar, in turn, help to maintain their obesity, perpetuating a vicious cycle. Obesity also has undesirable long-term effects on the body, including an increased risk of:
- high blood pressure
- type II diabetes
- chronic pain
- heart disease
- sleep apnea
- gallbladder disease
- death by any cause
Two-thirds of Americans are now overweight or obese, and heavily-sweetened beverages are a huge contributing factor. According to Dietary Guidelines for Americans, no more than 10 percent of caloric intake should come from added sugar. If you eat 2,000 calories a day, this means you should consume less than 13 teaspoons of added sugar in a day. For reference, one can of Coca-Cola contains 12 teaspoons. Limiting or eliminating sugar-sweetened beverages will reduce your risk of obesity, and therefore all the diseases and side effects that obesity causes.
Natural Ways to Increase Energy
Getting plenty of sleep and exercising regularly can go a long way towards combating fatigue. When you're still not quite energetic enough, the best way to increase energy levels is to combine a healthy lifestyle with natural supplements that are either sugar-free, or provide real nutritional benefit.
Gingko biloba is a tree native to China. The extract obtained from gingko leaves is used as a supplement, and it's great for boosting mental energy. Gingko biloba is often taken in pill or capsule form.
Ginseng is an herb often found in energy drinks and teas. This is a perennial plant found in North America and Eastern Asia, and the roots are effective for boosting energy.
If you're often fatigued, it could be a sign of vitamin B deficiency. There are a wide variety of B vitamins, and they're needed for many bodily processes from brain cell maintenance to carbohydrate metabolism. Although B vitamins are easily obtained through diet alone, you may benefit from taking a B-vitamin supplement, which is one of the best healthy ways to increase energy.
Maca is one of the most powerful ways to increase energy, providing B vitamins as well as other fatigue-combating properties. This ancient Peruvian root is versatile for cooking, or you can take it in pill or extract form. Maca provides a range of benefits including maintaining hormone balance, promoting healthy mood, and boosting libido-related sexual function.