Energy and the Southern Woman (April 10, 2018)
As you may or may not know, I recently participated in the Southern Women’s Show (a local event which features fashion, food, fun, and scantily-clad firefighters). It was a story in itself, which, if you finally come in for that appointment you have been putting off, I would be happy to tell you.
But to get to the point here, whenever it got a little slow, I would meander around and look at the other booths to see what the marketplace thinks that Southern Women find of interest (besides half-naked firemen, that is). I noticed that a lot of them (the booths, not the firemen) seemed to be selling consumables purported to increase the “energy” of the consumer.
(I also noticed that the booth selling weird-colored lipsticks with glitter had more traffic than any of them. Upon inquiry, I was told that the big attraction of this product is the “shock value”. I’m not sure how to process that particular bit of information, but I offer it up for what it’s worth.)
Energy! Now THAT is an interesting subject. Here is the hot medical skinny on energy. You get it from food. Specifically, from calories. Even more specifically, from carbohydrates. Your body can extract it from non-carbohydrate foods, but it takes some extra work. Ultimately, the food you eat and the degree to which your body can process it determines how much energy you will have.
But in the everyday human experience, “energy” means different things to different people. In the context of the Southern Women’s Show, it can probably better be described as the feeling that would make you want to get up and go to the Show rather than stay home watching reruns of the Golden Girls. Energy is the feeling that you want to get up and DO things, and having enough of it is very important. Plus when you DO have enough, that is a very, very good feeling.
Here’s a little doctor’s secret for you: A person with a healthy, properly functioning body will have enough energy for every rational thing that they need to do. People who do not have enough energy are either demanding way too much from their bodies or their bodies are not functioning properly. (If you are in the first category, by the way, it won’t be long before you become a member of the second one too.)
In my non-trendy, antiquated doctor opinion, most people suffering from continual lack of energy are trying to do too much. However, there were no booths dedicated to getting people to cut back on their activities, not surprising because I could tell you myself that there’s no money in that at all. There is, however, money (apparently) in selling people stuff to swallow that you promise will give them more energy.
So, mindful that I did have a newsletter to get out this morning, I collected a handout from each booth that promoted its consumable primarily as an energy booster. And I’m going to discuss them, what they do, and why they are crap.
Purple Tiger Energy. This presents itself as an all natural product (you see “all natural” on these products a lot) that increases your energy and speeds up your metabolism to produce weight loss. It probably does do that a little bit, too, because it contains a TON of caffeine.
Caffeine increases your energy and speeds up your metabolism. But it does it temporarily, and it does it by pushing your body a little harder than it naturally wants to go. In small quantities it may actually have some positive health effects. SMALL quantities.
Purple Tiger passes off its caffeine content by stating that one capsule contains “only as much as a cup of coffee”. (Which is 90 milligrams) But you multiply that times four, the daily recommended dose of Purple Tiger, and we are starting to live on the edge, baby, especially if you get caffeine from other sources as well. So if you really want to consume a lot of caffeine, I'd get it from coffee or tea or some other genuinely natural source and stay away from supplements.
Also. It mentions that it contains a “proprietary blend” of a lot of healthy-sounding stuff. You see “proprietary blend” listed on every single Magic Supplement out there, and it is supposed to be what gives each product its special kick. But they are really just a trick.
That is because a couple of hundred milligrams of a blend of ten to twenty ingredients isn’t going to have enough of any one ingredient to give you its individual benefits. Everything out there that might be good for you, from ashwagandha to zinc, needs to be provided in a certain quantity to get a biological effect. Smaller quantities don't do jack. So if you mix, say, alpha-lipoic acid (which needs at least 300 mg per day to get a beneficial effect) with chocolate powder (you need at least 400 mg per day of cocoa flavanols) and ten other ingredients, then put 200 mg of the mixture in each capsule, you get – nothing.
This is a theme in supplements of this nature. They tell you that they have fabulous ingredients A through Z, but if you look those individual items up you find that even if each item actually could have a useful effect, there can’t possibly be enough of that ingredient present to give you those effects. In other words, they are included, and listed, only to give the pill enough boasting rights to lighten your wallet the desired amount.
B Lite. This one’s got a fair amount of caffeine too (although the daily dose gives you just half of Purple Tiger’s), but that’s not their selling point. THEIR selling point is that they contain a lot of B vitamins.
Selling the ridiculously cheap B vitamins at ridiculously high prices is a scam that has been around for quite a while. There IS a tiny bit of science behind it, of course.The B vitamins are crucial to the production of energy - fact. Deficiencies in them can result in fatigue - fact. But - most important fact - taking more than your body requires does not, repeat not, result in extra energy. Once you’ve made up any deficiencies you might have had, you’ve gotten all you’re going to get out of that pill.
B Lite is essentially a B-complex plus caffeine plus that previously discussed “proprietary blend” nonsense thrown in, and they have the nerve to sell it for about $2 a day. If you are genuinely deficient in one or more B vitamins (including B12), you can effectively supplement for a few CENTS a day.
I have four more “supplements” to discuss and lot more ranting to do on this subject, so I will put it off until next time. Dear reader, I hope that this is helping you. And that you are at least half as thrilled as the Southern Women's crowd was at the Jacksonville Firefighters fashion show.
--dr. diane holmes
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