How Are Energy Drinks Making You Feel?
Energy drinks are widely promoted as products that increase energy and enhance mental alertness. But what is the tradeoff for that mental alertness? Have you read the product labels on some of these drinks? When I’ve tried them, they give me a big rush of energy, but then I get jittery, anxiety, racing thoughts and then I crashed. Because of this, I found other, safer drinks to stay alert. My energy drinks do not include sugar or caffeine and yet I have all the energy I need without the crash.
Next to multivitamins, energy drinks are the most popular dietary supplement consumed by American teens and young adults. That’s a little scary. You will find good ingredients including taurine, B vitamins, guarana, ginseng, ginkgo biloba, antioxidants, and trace minerals.
The downside is that many of these drinks include significant amounts of caffeine and sugar – More than what anyone needs in a week let alone in a day. Sugar and caffeine make energy drinks a poor choice. Not exactly heart healthy or brain healthy and it will support feeling like you are an emotional rollercoaster.
Aluminum Cans And Your Nervous System and Brain Health
Let’s start with the not so obvious. Many energy drinks are served in aluminum cans. As you may know by now, the aluminum will leach into the beverage and will contribute to early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s and other neurological dysfunctions.
A few brands that come to mind are Red Bull, Monster Energy, and 5-hour Energy which at the time of this article, dominate the market. We like to add that soft drinks are technically in the energy drink category as well and can be just as hard on the nervous system. Consider Mountain Dew 53 mg of caffeine and 61 grams of sugar. Add to that Pepsi Zero Sugar 69 mg of caffeine. This is just not a recipe for health.
Why Worry About Sugar? I Don’t Have Tooth Decay
After water, sugar is the main ingredient in energy drinks. Why should this be a concern? Well, after tooth decay, cane sugar lights up eight pleasure centers in the brain. For comparison, cocaine lights up one pleasure center in the brain. Note, we are not suggestion consuming either of these substances. A nutritional comparison shows that a 12-ounce cola drink contains about 39 grams of sugar, 41 grams of sugar in an energy drink.
Research has found that consistently consuming high-sugar drinks of any kind will lead to weight gain and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and gout. And if that does not drive you to limit your sugar intake, it will cause depression and anxiety at a level that I never want to experience again.
Consider this…there are 4.2 grams of sugar in a single teaspoon. Now, imagine adding 7 to 10 teaspoons of sugar into your 12-ounce glass of water. Does that sound too sweet? You may be surprised to learn that’s how much added sugar is in the typical can of soda. This can be a useful tip to visualize just how much sugar is in your drink
The caffeine levels in the energy drinks range from 70 to 240 mg in a 16-oz. drink and 113 to 200 mg in an energy shot. For comparison, a 12-oz. can of cola contains about 35 mg of caffeine, and an 8-oz cup of coffee contains about 100 mg.
Excessive and routine consumption of energy drinks can lead to heart arrhythmias, headaches, high blood pressure, anxiety and panic attacks. In the US, more than 20,000 emergency room visits in 2011 were associated with energy drink use. NIH, Jan 13, 2021.
Bottom Line, Energy drinks are popular, but not a healthy choice. There are other alternatives that you will learn about in the Functional Food Program that are filled with nutrition that allow you to sustain your focus and energy without the crash and they skip the sugar and may have a minuscule amount of caffeine.
Author: Andrew T. Calhoun
Editor: Jodi L. Suson- Calhoun
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Harvard School of Public Health: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/energy-drinks/
N.I.H Study, July 2018: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/energy-drinks
Eat this not that: https://www.eatthis.com/news-dangerous-ingredients-energy-drinks/