This depends entirely on the calorie content of the particular food or drink you are considering, since energy is measured in calories. For instance, one can of Red Bull has 110 calories and is almost pure sugar (27 grams), so it will indeed give you its promised “boost” but will probably not be all that sustainable. A single serving serving (1 ounce) of raw almonds, on the other hand, has 170 calories as well as a plethora of vitamins, proteins and calcium which will help you sustain your energy levels more effectively than an energy drink with a similar calorie count.
As mentioned above, it does depend on the calorie content of the food or beverage in question, but I would add that it also depends on the complexity of the carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are divided into two categories–simple and complex. Basically, simple carbohydrates are smaller chains of sugars that are broken down much faster by your body, whereas complex carbohydrates are longer chains that digest more slowly. Using the example above, Red Bull contains mostly simple carbs which is why it takes effect quickly but it’s the same reason that you crash. Complex carbs from bread and pasta will give you a steadier supply of energy that won’t make you crash.
It is very likely that you get a lot more energy from food (and rest) than from energy drinks. An energy drink only has 100-200 calories, and these are made up most of sugar, which is burned quickly and has no nutritional value. If you were to eat a normal diet of 2000 calories, and if you happened to eat healthy food within that diet, you would be consuming plenty of fruits and veggies and other foods with high nutritional content that would give you complex, lasting energy rather than short-lived, artificial energy (like sugar and caffeine). Remember, calories = energy, so if you are active and plan on using your calories, food is your best bet for energy.
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