Lately, I have been feeling like a zombie. And not the “Walking Dead”-type zombie looking for its next meal, but instead the one looking for any opportunity to get some sleep. Finals are right around the corner and the preceding weeks have been full of papers and projects and less and less sleep.
But, I consider myself blessed to have yet resorted to mass amounts of caffeine to keep kicking this semester. I do consider the kid I spotted at the TECH Center with three Red Bull energy drinks and Starbucks in his hand unfortunate. His jittering fingers were going a mile a minute on the keyboard and I was waiting for the moment his heart would explode, turning the TECH Center into a real-life horror scene. Luckily, that didn’t happen, but I am pretty sure that he went home and instantly crashed.
Many of us rely on energy drinks and large amounts of caffeine to stay focused and awake during finals, but the highly caffeinated and sugary drinks are unhealthy and ineffective for what we want. We want to stay focused and alert, and energy drinks will only provide a temporary fix that will eventually leave you crashing and feeling even more fatigued. The reason for the crashing is the high amounts of sugar and glucose found in energy drinks. For instance, a 8.4-ounce Red Bull has about 27 grams of sugar and a 15-ounce Starbucks Doubleshot Energy Coffee Drink has about 26 grams. The drinks give you a sugar high that will only last a short while.
Not only do energy drinks have an unhealthy amount of sugar, they also have an unnatural amount of caffeine. Most energy drinks have the same amount of caffeine as two or three cups of coffee. A typical cup of coffee has about 100 milligrams of caffeine. Some energy drinks like Full Throttle or 5-Hour Energy contain 200 or more milligrams of caffeine.
Lori Clements, Temple’s dietitian, warns that high caffeine levels can lead to health issues.
“High caffeine consumption can lead to decreased appetite and severe dehydration,” Clements said. “Dehydration and lack of nutrient intake can lead to fatigue and low concentration levels.”
According to WebMD, it is safe for the average adult to have about 300 milligrams of caffeine per day. But consider what else you drink and what other foods you consume each day that contain caffeine as well. Most likely energy drinks will send you over the daily recommended limit.
So why do we continue to go for energy and highly caffeinated drinks during finals? Aren’t the end-of-the-semester meltdowns mixed with the high amounts of alcohol we don’t want to speak of enough on our rundown bodies? Try considering different ways of getting energy to help you push through the remaining weeks.
For one, get some sleep. I know that sounds absurd at a time like this, but instead of rewarding yourself for studying with three hours of Netflix, try going to bed at a decent time. Sleeping is the best way to give your body an energy boost.
When it comes to food and drinks, drink a lot of water. Water keeps your body hydrated so you’re more alert and functioning. Another drink that gives you a good energy boost is green tea. Green tea not only has a ton of health benefits such as being a great source of antioxidants, but it also contains about 30 milligrams of caffeine, which will give you a boost without dragging you down.
Whey protein is another great way to get energy. Protein keeps you energized and going all day. You can find whey protein mix at just about any grocery or drugstore. You can follow the directions on the mix and blend it into a smoothie with fruit, ice and milk. Just make sure to get whey protein that’s low in sugar.
Or, you can skip the drinks all together and eat your energy. Try eating foods high in protein, fiber and good carbohydrates.
“During finals week, try some quick energy sources like whole grains and fruits,” Clements said. “Make sure to pair them with amino acids in meat and dairy protein to help with concentration levels, as well as some healthy fats.”
For breakfast, try incorporating peanut butter or eggs to gain protein and keep alert all day. For lunch or dinner you can try eating lean meats or fish like salmon. If you’re hungry or want a snack, go for almonds or other nuts instead of sugary energy drinks.
Fiber will definitely keep your body going all day as well. It seems pretty simple but almost all fruits and vegetables will give you a good amount of fiber. Try to add some more in during finals time instead of high calorie snacks. Brown rice and beans are high in fiber as well, so try including them into your lunch and dinner. The same goes for healthy carbs. Try some whole wheat bread or lentils.
All of these tips may sound pretty simple, but skipping the energy drinks and going for some of these healthier, better options could help you focus more and perform better. Increasing your energy in a healthy way will kick you out of your zombie-like state and avoid any end of the semester horror stories.
Brianna McGrody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.