Separating the bull from the facts when it comes to energy drinks.
Los Angeles-based editor, Jennifer, and I met for lunch on a sweltering hot day. She suggested we sit outside to get some fresh air. I obliged only because she was the gatekeeper to my ideas that morning – deciding which article topics she’d bring back to her editor and, ultimately, which (if any) I’d get assigned.
Within five minutes my makeup was melting faster than a soft-serve ice cream cone, and I was fixated on Jennifer’s jittery, amped disposition. Her sentences were swinging and swirling all over the place. I had never, ever met an editor this enthusiastic about tone and word count.
I left wondering if she was on speed, and prayed that she’d
still get back to her desk alright.
It wasn’t until I started working more with Jennifer did I realize that she wasn’t on illegal drugs (insert feel like an asshole here). She was on energy drinks – to which she later admitted downing two that morning. Yikes.
Quench your curiosity
Energy drinks are billed as boosting mental and physical energy. Anyone can purchase these drinks, so people assume they’re safe to consume. The problem is that, even though most contain exceptionally high doses of caffeine and stimulants, many tout themselves as “liquid dietary supplements,” which means they’re not held to The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) stringent guidelines of listing nutrition facts.
What you’re gulping
When it comes to some energy drinks, it’s simply not known. But one thing is for sure: you’re getting a hearty dose of stimulants in each swig – sometimes up to nine times the amount of caffeine you’d get in a cup of joe. The jolt is different than the kind you get from nursing a coffee. An energy drink is ingested much faster, often in a (no pun intended) monster-size dose, which means you’ll feel the energizing effects faster.
Guarana and Taurine: Guarana is another word for caffeine. One gram of this Brazilian cocoa is equal to 40 mg of caffeine. So, if you see this listed on the bottle, keep in mind that it’s in addition to the undisclosed amount of caffeine already in the drink. While the Mayo Clinic says that up to 3,000 mgs of supplemental Taurine a day is generally safe, keep in mind that no long-term studies have been done.
Sugar: The amount of sugar in each can might turn a weight-conscious gal sour on these sweet drinks. Most drinks have high fructose corn syrup, glucose, and sucrose – in sugar amounts that are, in some cases, four to six times greater than the daily recommended dose for adults. Take a good, long think about the crash you’ll get from that kind of rush.
Now, sip on this
The side effects most commonly reported include headache, insomnia, dizziness, and irritability . . . and possibly a case of the short-term crazies (see Jennifer). There is no shortage of stories about energy drinks causing stroke, poor mental health, dehydration (leading to kidney stones), high blood pressure and premature birth, however.
So, should you steer clear? That depends on your current health status and understanding of “everything in moderation.” What is known, however, is that there are better choices for hydration and energy boosts, like sports drinks that replace electrolytes, getting enough sleep, eating protein-packed snacks and even coffee. Oh, and drinking plenty of old-fashioned water. Yes, there’s still that.