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Need A Jolt?

Power bars and drinks aren't the best boost

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You say you've got the mid-winter doldrums? That you just can't get yourself motivated? That Seasonal Affective Disorder is bringing you down? Is that what's troubling you, bunky?

Well, just pop open the tab on a Power Drink or tear the wrapper off a Power Bar, and you'll be up, up, up and away to a newly energized you!

The only problem is that, while these power boosters may revitalize you temporarily, they don't provide any real nourishment and you could come crashing down to earth after that initial energy surge.

Sure, energy bars contain protein and fiber, along with vitamins and minerals. But the most common sweetener that's used in them is high fructose corn syrup, which has been shown to be worse for test animals than sugar. The protein and fiber? Soy protein isolate and whey protein, found in products like Atkins Advantage, BioZone and Balance Bars, are the waste products of the soy oil and cheese industries. Apple and lemon fiber — used to create a crunchy effect in Clif Bars — is made from what's left over after squeezing the juice out of the fruits. For a much more natural energy enhancer, you'd be better off munching on bananas, raisins, dried apricots or fig bars.

Power Drinks have overtaken bottled water as the fastest-growing category in the beverage business. Loaded with sugar, caffeine, taurine (an amino acid), guarana, vitamins, and herbals like ginseng and gingko biloba, they'll rev you up fast. But watch out for the plummet that'll make you want to down another can. All that caffeine can wreak havoc, especially on very young people (and kids are drinking them), pregnant women and those with heart conditions.

Even though it's inadvisable to mix them with booze, these energy elixirs, such as Red Bull, are marketed heavily in bars. Combining these stimulants with a depressant like alcohol could be heart-hazardous, and it also has a dehydrating effect. Some dehydration deaths have been linked to the combination, although a spokesperson for Red Bull North America says the links "have not been proven."

Dehydration often causes a lack of energy, and you know what's a surefire way to combat that? Drink water. And more water. Orange juice — that's good, too.

When you're in a slump and you need a quick pick-me-up to get you through the long, dreary, boring day, it seems like an easy fix to grab a bar or a can of power potion. Instead, go for some energy boosters with fewer negative side effects: fruits, whole grains, sunflower seeds, carrots, nuts, and that ever-important water. You might try running around the block, too. Energy begets energy, so get off your butt and exercise. You'll feel rejuvenated, bunky.

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