Saturday, December 18, 2010

Energy Drinks- what's the deal? Good, bad, side-effects?

I'm not going to lie, occasionally I'll have a red bull, but very rarely, because I personally don't care for them, nor do I feel that "burst of energy" that the commercials talk about, and I certainly don't grow wings. From Monster, Rockstar, NOS, Redbull, Sugar-free Redbull, to Full Throttle, and the hundreds more that are out there, how do you know which ones are good, which ones are bad, and which ones really serve their purpose of providing "energy"?

I'm going to talk a little bit about the facts first. Energy drinks are NOT going to kill most people, BUT they certainly aren't good for you either. I personally don't believe that any of them are good for you, but just an opinion based on the research I have done. I think if you have one maybe once a week or a few times a month, you will be fine, but I know some people that slam these things down like there's no tomorrow.

First I will talk about the negative side of these drinks. Number one: they are EXTREMELY high in sugar (minus the sugar-free ones, but we'll get to those later). We all know sugar in moderation is not a big problem, but in excess, which is what these drinks contain (EXCESS REFINED SUGAR), is not only bad for glucose levels in the blood, it contains massive amounts of calories (15 calories per teaspoon), and excessively high amounts of caffein, well over the FDA limit for soda (which is 65 mg per 12oz can). Caffein can cause a jittery feeling, insomnia, panic and anxiety attacks, stomach problems, rise in blood pressure,  and in rare cases CARDIAC ARRHYTHMIAS, which is where the heart can skip a beat and in some cases is difficult to get back on track causing death. If you are an unhealthy individual who has history of blood pressure problems, heart problems, gastric distress or diabetes, you should at no time drink these. Not to mention, there is no doubt that these drinks are bad for the teeth and aging processes of your body. How much sugar  and caffeine are exactly are in these energy drinks? (Keep in mind there are variations in flavors, so I'm giving the basics here)

Monster:   16 oz Monster, there is 54 g Sugar
                 Caffeine: 160 mg
Rockstar:  16oz Rockstar, there is 62g Sugar
                 Caffeine: 160 mg
Nos:         16 oz Nos has 54 g sugar
                 Caffeine: 260 mg
Redbull:   8.46 oz can of Redbull has 27 g Sugar
                 Caffeine: 80 mg
Full Throttle:  16 oz has 58 g sugar
                      Caffeine: 144 mg

You can see all of these well exceed the amount of caffeine considered safe by the FDA. There is no daily recommended daily intake for sugar grams themselves, but there is an allowance of carbohydrates, also known as polysaccharides, which as you know from my previous discussion are complex sugars. The carbohydrates recommended per day, for the average healthy adult (both male and female) and child, is 130g/day. Most people eat much more than than this, which is one reason the obesity rate is so high. 1 teaspoon of sugar is 4.2 grams of sugar, which is about 4 grams of carbohydrate. NO MORE than 25% of your 130 g carbohydrate should come from sugar, which is around 50g. In each of these energy drinks the range of TEASPOONS of sugar is about 7 (red bull)-15 (the others),  let's take the 15g so at 15x4 g/carb = 60, so there you have it, you've already had over the recommended grams of sugar for the day. Along with the negative side effects I listed above, you can see why energy drinks are not a great choice.

Negative effects of Alcohol and Energy Drinks:
There been a lot of controversy on alcoholic energy drinks and mixing regular energy drinks with alcohol. Why the buzz? In a very simple explanation, energy drinks are an upper, very high in caffeine, and alcohol is a downer (hello? passed out?), mixing high doses of the two can potentially put the heart into shock. Redbull and vodka for example: Redbull has 80 mg of caffeine, which will cause a rise in blood pressure and heart rate, when alcohol is added to this, it can send mixed signals to the nervous system and bring about problems with the rhythm of the heart beat, which in some people who are medically unstable, cause fatal disturbances among the heart rhythms.

Sugar-free Energy drinks:
Although they have less sugar, hence less calories, they still have the same amount of caffeine. So the guideline for the mixing with alcohol remains, and the possible negative effects on heart, blood pressure, and heart rhythm still apply. Because sugar-free energy drinks have less sugar, the effect of the "crash" is much less noticeable.

The Dreaded "Crash":
If you've noticed that quick uppity feeling after you consume and energy drink and notice that about 45 minutes to an hour later you get sluggish and tired, you're not imagining it. The amount and type of sugar (glucose and fructose) that went into your system are high in their glycemic index so they spike your blood sugar rapidly (which is why they are so dangerous for diabetics), but after that spike, your blood glucose levels drop dramatically, which cause fatigue (tiredness), difficulty in concentration, etc.

They "work" for some people, others they don't. In my opinion, when I have an energy drink, I do not care for the jittery feeling, rapid heart rate, and the crash later. I wouldn't recommend energy drinks to most people more than once every week or two, if you feel the need. The side effects are more dangerous and detrimental than I think are willing to risk. The calories, the sugar, and the outrageous amount of caffein are not healthy for your body. It's you decision, this is just my view, giving you the facts.

Have a Healthy Day! <3


  1. I've noticed that I don't get the "energy rush" either! I just get the jitters, but that's only from some of the drinks. This is such good information for this time of year because so many students just drink one after another during finals. Are there any healthier ways to give yourself a "jump start" if your feeling tired? Obviously, a nap is good, but what if you don't have 15 min to snooze?

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