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As a travel nurse, it is important to keep your energy up, but are you risking your health to do it? Caffeine is a powerful stimulant and one of the world's most widely consumed psychoactive drugs. The Food and Drug Administration classifies it as safe and legal, but it can be toxic is large doses.
Caffeine is not the only concern in some of the caffeinated drinks on the market today, either. Many are full of refined sugar and chemicals designed to improve the taste and extend the shelf life. Consider five caffeinated drinks that are unhealthy additions to your diet.
Energy drinks are marketed with clever taglines and neon colors to make them appealing to the younger consumer, but there have been fatalities linked to the use of highly caffeinated products like 5-Hour energy. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Dawn Report shows a skyrocketing trend, with emergency room visits related to energy drinks doubling in the last few years.
Energy drinks are being used in combination with alcohol, too. The high sugar and caffeine content works to mask the effect of the alcohol, so drinkers tend to binge without feeling drunk. The caffeine does not reduce the danger associated with drinking, though, such as driving while intoxicated or acute alcohol poisoning.
It is a mix of coffee and sugar in a can and marketed like an energy drink. For many consumers, it is also a chance to indulge in their favorite iced coffee treat without waiting in line at a coffee shop. They get the power of a double shot of espresso and the burst of energy that goes with it, all from something they can buy at the grocery store.
What comes in these drinks might surprise you, though. They are often laced with additives like chocolate flavoring that increases the calorie count and sodium content. Starbucks's Doubleshot Energy Coffee Drink, for example, is 210 calories with 2.5 grams of fat and a high sodium level.
Speaking of coffee, the cups you buy at your local coffee shop don’t fare much better health-wise. A Starbucks Grade Caffe Americano mixes three full shots of espresso with water to get 225 milligrams of caffeine in a 16-ounce cup. A Dunkin’ Donuts turbo coffee is 395 milligrams in a 20-ounce cup.
The sugary taste of a soft drink is a powerful draw when you are working a long shift, but the health consequences are ominous. The Harvard School of Public Health states that people who drink one or two cans of soda a day increase their risk of type 2 diabetes by 26 percent. A long-term habit can lead to gout, obesity and heart disease.
It is not all about the calories, either. There is evidence that the metabolic effects of the sugar used in soda contribute to chronic disease.
If sugar sodas are bad for you, then diet drinks must be a better choice, right? The problem with diet sodas is the additives used to make them taste good without the calories. A University of Minnesota study found that people who drink one diet soda a day had a 34 percent higher risk of metabolic syndrome, increasing their chances of heart disease.
So, what should you be drinking while on the job? Statistically speaking, coffee and tea are not bad choices, because they come loaded with antioxidants and flavonoids. Harvard suggests up to four cups of black coffee or tea a day are healthy drink options. It is when you start adding the milk and sugar or supercharging the caffeine content that the health benefits drop.
Water is, of course, the best choice because it restores the body fluids and helps balance electrolytes. That rehydration can give you the energy boost you need without the help of caffeine.