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blog How Safe Are Energy Drinks?

How Safe Are Energy Drinks?

Sean Lake

about 2 years ago

Energy drinks continue to grow in popularity, especially with young people. And why not? They come in fun flavors and help us get going with the day. Some are carbonated, others are just like tea. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, energy drinks are the second most popular supplement, following multivitamins. But while they should be classified as a supplement, many people enjoy them as if they are a soda…and that can have consequences. Unlike coffee or sodas, they aren't consistent in their caffeine content. They also may be high in sugar and other ingredients that are not well researched or regulated.

What is an energy drink?

The problem with answering a question like “what’s an energy drink?” is that they are all so vastly different and there are few, if any, regulations as to what can be classified as an energy drink, to begin with. In general, they are beverages with stimulating ingredients to promote physical and mental energy. Typically, this is from caffeine, and oftentimes a lot of it. There are two major energy drink categories: energy drinks, which come in a standard 12 to 16-ounce container, and energy shots, which are highly concentrated liquids that are served in 1-2 ounce amounts. Both contain high levels of caffeine: energy drinks usually contain 0 to 240 mg of caffeine and 113 to 200 mg in energy shots. For reference, a cup of coffee usually contains about 95 mg. One problem with energy drinks is how we think about caffeine in general. The FDA says that caffeine has a half-life of four to six hours. This means that four to six hours after consuming caffeine, half of it will still be in your body. If you consume caffeine frequently throughout the day, your body may never truly be rid of it. This could become a problem if you drink energy drinks in addition to coffee. Most people probably do not need both in one day.

What else goes into an energy drink?

Other popular energy drink ingredients include:

  • Taurine: Taurine is an amino acid involved in the metabolism that is found naturally in meat, dairy, and fish.

  • Ginseng: While the actual benefits of ginseng are up for debate, many people report that this root helps them with energy and mental clarity.

  • Guarana: Guarana is a natural source of caffeine that doesn't have to be accounted for, meaning that your energy drinks have more than you even think.

Most energy drinks have so many ingredients that it can be hard to say which one is actually doing the most for you. Furthermore, the caffeine content is usually so high that it probably accounts for most of the “benefits.”

The effects of too much caffeine

The effects of energy drinks look a lot like the effects of caffeine:

  • Caffeine withdrawal

  • Anxiety

  • High blood pressure

  • Disrupted sleep schedules

Over time, these side effects can build up and take their toll, including decreased energy and loss of mental focus.

Caffeine isn’t all to blame

While energy drinks do frequently contain extraordinary amounts of caffeine, caffeine isn’t the only problematic ingredient. Many energy drinks contain high amounts of sugar that can make you feel energized at first and then leave you crashing hours later when the sugar wears off.

Negative side effects

While controlled studies have shown temporary positive effects of energy drinks, including athletic and mental performance, there are also some less than desirable side effects, including irritability, aggression, and stomach discomfort. The Harvard School of Public Health notes that these side effects were especially pronounced in young adults and teens, and energy drink habits were linked to conditions like obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Alternatives to energy drinks:

So if you are ready to take a break from your regular energy drinks, you may wonder how you can get the energy you need to make it through the day. Luckily, we have some ideas.

Vitamin B:

Vitamin B is a powerhouse when it comes to energy, which is why many doctors offer vitamin B shots to people struggling with energy. While our bodies produce some vitamins, we need to get Vitamin B from food or a supplement. There are eight B vitamins total, and we need all of them to maintain our energy. Vitamin B7, also known as biotin, helps your body break down food into energy that can be used. This is one of the major ingredients in our Fountain of Youth Collagen, which we recommend enjoying with water.

Green Tea Matcha:

Green tea and green tea extracts are popular in energy drinks, but green tea stands on its own when it comes to an extra kick of energy. Green tea doesn’t actually contain that much caffeine, but it also contains a great amino acid called L-theanine. This amino acid can actually counteract some of the jittery side effects of caffeine while boosting brain activity. We’ve got a great recipe for keto matcha if you’re looking for one.

Drinking more water:

It may sound too simple but it’s true: drinking more water can increase energy. Many studies have found that dehydration can lead to lower energy and poor athletic performance. And yet, surveys suggest that nearly 75% of Americans are dehydrated.

A healthy balance of proteins and carbs:

We are less likely to need supplements like energy drinks if we have enough energy to begin with. Eating a healthy diet with a balanced amount of whole grains and enough protein will give you energy that lasts.

Good old-fashioned coffee:

Unlike energy drinks with unspecified amounts of various ingredients, you know what’s in the coffee you make for yourself. You can choose to avoid a major sugar crash by sweetening with natural sweeteners like stevia or a little honey. You can also find sustained, keto-friendly energy with MCT oil.

The bottom line

When it comes to safety, you are probably okay drinking most energy drinks from time to time. That being said, they are considered supplements, and should be treated as such. Research the ingredients in your favorite energy drinks, and be cautious about consuming caffeine. If you find that you rely on energy drinks to get through the day, you may want to look at your diet, sleep, and how much water you drink.