So you stayed up late studying for that thermodynamics test last night and you’re hoping to nail it. You know the material and you’ve been to every class but you’re just not feeling up to speed. After all, staying up until 1 am on a Thursday night was no easy feat, half your friends went out to the bar and you barely were able to resist participating in thirsty Thursday. But alas! You prevailed and now you just need an energy drink to boost your brain power. You own this test!
What do you pick? Red Bull? Liquid Ice? A Monster Java Bean? Maybe 5-hour energy? You pick your poison and feel like you did well on the test. You’re done with class and now it’s time get ready to celebrate, after all its Friday and you have no homework. So why did you crash on your couch for four hours after the test. Was it because you were burning the midnight oil for the test? Was it the stress of the week? Chances are the culprit is actually your energy drink.
Energy drinks claim to boost your energy, brain power, and alertness. They are part of the fastest growing and most popular drinks in America. However, the untold truth about energy drinks is that they can have negative effects on your health. The effects of energy drinks have not been widely studied, bringing their safety into question.
Most energy drinks contain ingredients such as caffeine, B vitamins, sugar, and herbs. Caffeine is the main power delivering ingredient in most energy drinks. The daily recommend amount of caffeine is 200 - 300 mg (according to the Mayo Clinic). Energy drinks can contain anywhere from 80 to 500mg of caffeine per serving. When high doses of caffeine are consumed, many adverse reactions can occur including, insomnia, rapid heart rate, palpitations, jitteriness, and elevated blood pressure. Consuming over 200 mg of caffeine can cause your blood pressure to increase by up to 14 points. Caffeine is also a diuretic, meaning it can cause you to become dehydrated. Over time, many people build up a tolerance to caffeine, so you they up consuming more of it to get the same effect, which can be harmful to your blood pressure.
Many energy drink labels also boast that they contain energy boosting B vitamins. While B vitamins play a vital role in our bodies metabolism, most people rarely have a B vitamin deficiency. And that’s the catch, B vitamins only boost your energy if you are deficient in them, which is typically a medical rarity. These vitamins are generally just flushed out of systems as soon as we take them.
Common herbs found in energy drinks include Guarana and Ginseng. Gurarana is an Amazon native, red fruit that boasts twice the amount of caffeine as a coffee bean. While it may increase your alertness, it also subjects you to the side effects of caffeine. Ginseng is extracted from the root of the ginseng plant and has been in shown in studies to boost brain power. The kicker here is that you would need at least 200 mg of the herb to feel this effect, and most energy drinks don’t contain this.
The last common ingredient found in energy drinks is sugar. One serving of an energy drink can contain as much as 12 teaspoons of sugar. The recommended daily serving of sugar is 6 teaspoons for women and 9 for men. When you consume that much sugar it goes straight to your blood glucose levels and that gives you an energy boost. The down side – You crash as soon as those levels drop. You also gain weight with that much sugar consumption, so its hardly worth the short-term energy boost.
Before you grab an energy drink, think about a healthier alternative to wake you up. Consider drinking green tea or regular black coffee. These drinks contain healthy amounts of caffeine (when they are drank in moderation), are typically less expensive, and don’t contain the sugar and artificial chemical that energy drinks contain.