Awful Truth about Energy Drinks
You can’t go to a sporting event, sponsored
outdoor activity or even the corner store without advertisements for energy
drinks staring you down. Will these handy beverages give you a jolt of
vigor or leave you in a slump? The answer is, both. And that’s not all
The active ingredient in energy drinks
vary, as do their side effects. None are superior, they all carry the
potential to do awful things to your body.
Caffeine – It’s good enough for coffee and tea, why not your energy drink? It works
like amphetamines, cocaine, and heroin in the way it stimulates the brain.
A typical 12 ounce can of caffeinated energy drink contains 70-100 mg of
caffeine, or the same as two sodas or a 6 ounce cup of coffee. Guarana, a
common ingredient in energy drinks, contains caffeine.
Caffeine works by blocking the chemical
that makes you naturally drowsy. The chemical, adenosine, is also
responsible for dilating the blood vessels. By hiding adenosine, caffeine
also causes the brain’s blood vessels to constrict.
Your heart rate increases, muscles tighten,
blood pressure rises, blood vessels near the surface constrict and more
blood flows to muscles. Caffeine also increases dopamine in the brain.
Dopamine is one of the chemicals responsible for feeling happy. Caffeine is
a cardiac stimulant and mild diuretic.
While the short term benefits may seem
positive, long term effects can be a real downer. Once the temporary
stimulation wears off, your brain suddenly starts to recognize adenosine and
a sudden mental sluggishness hits. Your heart racing is unhealthy unless it
occurs naturally and is allowed rest periods. Sleep is affected because the
internal effects of caffeine aren’t over when the “high” is. It takes up to
12 hours for caffeine to completely vacate your body.
As a diuretic, caffeine speeds along your
urination cycle, taking calcium with it. Long term, heavy caffeine use
could lead to developing osteoporosis.
Sugar – Most energy drinks, except those that are labeled “Sugar Free” and usually
those marketed as “Light”, are high in sugar. The sugar in an 8 ounce can
ranges from 5 to 8 teaspoons and usually accounts for 100% of the
carbohydrates (80 – 130 calories). The RDA for sugar is no more than 6 – 7
teaspoons of sugar for each 2000 calories consumed. One can of energy drink
contains all the sugar you should eat in a day.
Sugar gives you a quick bump of energy
because it is absorbed into the human body much faster than other energy
sources, like protein. Studies show sugar can take effect within a minute
of entering the body. Sugar raises the blood sugar level and gives you
quick energy. This is often short lived, though, because the body quickly
releases a blast of insulin, quickly lowering the blood sugar. When blood
sugar plummets, so does energy and endurance.
While the short term side effects of sugar
– crashing hours after consumption, increased appetite and the possibility
of cavities – are somewhat mild, long term effects are not. Type 2 diabetes
has been linked to sugar misuse. Weight gain due to the consumption of
empty calories is becoming a bigger problem in the US and around the globe.
Taurine, B Vitamins and Ginseng – These three ingredients are also commonly
found in energy drinks.
Taurine helps moving potassium, sodium,
calcium and magnesium into and out of cells and generates nerve signals.
B Vitamins are important for many functions
of the body including reduction of stress and depression, metabolism and
digestive system. Too much vitamin B can cause nausea, gout,
hypothyroidism, insomnia or reduced insulin release, among other side