What Happens When You Drink Too Many Energy Drinks

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Is It True That Energy Drinks Are Bad?

Is It True That Energy Drinks Are Bad?

Energy drinks have become increasingly popular since the early 2000s. According to Investopedia, sales of energy drinks and shots such as Red Bull, Monster, Rock star, and 5-Hour Energy will have reached $57.4 billion by 2020. Between 2020 and 2025, the industry is expected to grow by another 7%.

It's easy to see why: Americans' supply of good old-fashioned energy appears to be running out, from working moms to doctors on the night shift. However, there is widespread concern about the drinks, which have been linked to heart and neurological problems, as well as poor mental health and substance abuse among teenagers. The drinks have been blamed for ER visits, hospitalizations, and even deaths.


But what exactly are these energy drinks, and are they as bad as they seem?
What Are the Ingredients in Energy Drinks?

Megan Wroe, manager and registered dietitian at St. Jude Wellness Center in Brea, California, explains, "Energy drinks are ready-to-drink products that are marketed to increase energy and fight fatigue."

According to Dr. Larry Nolan, a primary care sports medicine physician at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, "any drink that contains a stimulant compound" can be considered an energy drink.

There are dozens of brands on the market, each with its own set of ingredients. However, the majority of them have a combination of:

  • Water that has been carbonated.
  • Sugar or other sweeteners, such as glucose, a type of sugar that is quickly absorbed.
  • Caffeine.
  • B vitamins are a group of vitamins that assist the body in a variety of functions.
  • Colors and flavorings have been added.
  • Taurine, ginseng, guarana, glucuronolactone, yohimbe, carnitine, and bitter orange are all energy supplements.


Are Energy Drinks Safe to Consume?

These ingredients, when combined, provide a daily fix for some people who don't get enough sleep or need a daily jolt to keep up with modern life. However, these beverages can have a negative impact on children and adolescents, who are more susceptible to the effects of certain stimulating compounds found in the beverages.

Wroe claims that energy drink products aren't safe in her opinion, but adds, "This is based on the situation. If someone has one of these drinks on a very rare occasion, it is unlikely that that single act will cause much, if any, harm. However, there are numerous potential complications over time."

When it comes to energy drinks, there are several reasons to be cautious:

  • Labeling ambiguity
  • Concerns about caffeine.
  • The amount of sugar in it
  • What they're used for.

Confusion in Labeling

The fact that not all energy drinks are well-regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration is one of the most common criticisms. According to Ruth Litchfield, an associate professor in the department of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University in Ames, this means energy drink companies can market their products as dietary supplements without including a nutrition facts label, leaving consumers to wonder if what they see is what they get.

"A supplement that has a supplements facts label has not gone through the FDA approval process to be on the market as a food item," she explains. "A nutrition facts panel, on the other hand, must go through the FDA approval process to prove its safety and efficacy before it can be sold."

Litchfield points out that even FDA-approved energy drinks aren't required to disclose how much caffeine and other stimulants they contain. "The biggest issue I see is that it's not required on the label, and in most cases, they're not disclosing the total stimulant dose in the product so people can make an informed decision."

  • Simply put, the contents may not be exactly what the customer expects, according to Nolan.
  • Concerns About Caffeine

Another problem, according to Wroe, is the caffeine content. "For some people, caffeine addiction and its link to cardiac issues is a concern."

While most healthy adults can consume up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day – roughly the equivalent of four 8-ounce cups of coffee or ten cans of cola – drinking multiple energy drinks on a daily basis could quickly push someone over that limit, increasing their risk of headaches and raising blood pressure and heart rate, according to Litchfield.

Consumption of these drinks altered heart rate and blood pressure, according to a 2019 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

"But many people drink more than one per day or may have one in addition to several cups of coffee," Wroe points out, noting that most energy drinks contain between each serving contains between 80 and 120 milligrams of caffeine.

Wroe adds that determining how much caffeine is too much is a personal decision. She explains, "I work with people who are extremely caffeine sensitive, and even a small cup of green tea makes them jittery." "Some people don't realize they're sensitive because they've grown accustomed to the side effects." However, once they stop taking caffeine, they quickly realize that they were consuming far too much for their individual bodies, even if it was only 400 milligrams."

Caffeine overdose can result in:

  • Heart rate has increased.
  • Blood pressure that is too high.
  • Jitters, tremors, and anxiety are all symptoms of anxiety.
  • Irritability.
  • Headaches.
  • Nausea or stomach problems.
  • Dehydration.

While most healthy adults can tolerate 400 milligrams of caffeine, Nolan points out that some people require significantly less, including:

  • Children and teenagers.
  • People who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • People who have high blood pressure or other heart problems.
  • Diabetic patients.


Contains sugar

Furthermore, these beverages typically contain a lot of sugar – often as much as or more than a can of soda. "My main concern with these products is the neurological and metabolic effects of excessive liquid sugar and artificial sweeteners," Wroe says.

"Many of the most popular brands now carry low- or no-sugar versions of their drinks as well," she says, citing high consumer demand for lower-carb or sugar-free alternatives. A variety of artificial sweeteners, such as acesulfame K (or acesulfame potassium), aspartame, and sucralose, are used to make them sweet.

Artificial sweeteners may reduce calories, but they may not improve the beverage's overall health profile, because all of these compounds have "been linked to neurological side effects and insulin resistance," according to Wroe.


What They're Used For

"How people are drinking these products" is also a major concern, according to Wroe. If you're mixing them with alcohol, for example, you might want to reconsider. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, caffeine can mask some of the effects of alcohol and increase the likelihood of binge drinking.

Participants who drank a cocktail with Red Bull and vodka had a stronger desire to keep drinking than those who drank a soda water-based fruit drink instead of Red Bull, according to a study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Although alcohol is a depressant, when combined with caffeine or other stimulants, you may not feel as drunk as you are. This can lead to a variety of problems, including binge drinking, drunk driving, unwanted or unprotected sex, and alcohol-related accidents and injuries. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, about 25% of college students mix alcohol and energy drinks, resulting in significantly more binge drinking than students who don't.

Furthermore, according to Wroe, substituting these drinks for meals can lead to problems. On the other hand, consuming energy drinks while eating a diet high in processed foods can be problematic. All of these factors can amplify the effects of these beverages, potentially putting your health at risk.


An Occasional Drink

The bottom line, according to Wroe, is that, like any other food, moderation is key. "To put it another way, asking if energy drinks are safe is akin to asking if donuts, soda, or deep-fried Twinkies are safe. You'll be fine if you have one, but more than a couple of times per year poses health risks."

While "moderate consumption in otherwise healthy adults is likely OK," Nolan adds, "unfortunately, the majority of energy drink consumption occurs in a younger population." Drinks that claim to increase energy and improve mental alertness and physical performance are, according to the NCCIH, the most popular dietary supplements consumed by American teens and young adults (after multivitamins).

Teens and adolescents should avoid these beverages, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, because their brains are more susceptible to the effects of caffeine. Caffeine can also affect bone growth and development, and it can be toxic to children and young adults in high doses.


Getting Rid of the Habit

When you're feeling tired, it's easy to fall into the habit of reaching for an energy drink. This habitual act can lead to far more consumption of these products than you intend or what is considered healthy.

If you've become addicted to energy drinks, Nolan suggests "talking with your primary care provider to help establish safe amounts and strategies to help you find healthy alternatives." For example, switching to an 8-ounce cup of black tea, which contains about 47 milligrams of caffeine, can significantly reduce your caffeine intake. Plus, if you don't add sugar, you'll be cutting out a source of extra calories from your diet.

Caffeine withdrawal can cause headaches, increased fatigue, drowsiness, and difficulty concentrating, according to Nolan, who warns that "withdrawal from caffeine can lead to headaches, increased fatigue, drowsiness, and difficulty concentrating."

Wroe points out that gradually weaning yourself off of energy drinks is often preferable to going cold turkey. "I recommend weaning off gradually to avoid headaches or jitters." Examine how many drinks you're currently consuming and gradually reduce your intake."

For example, if you're used to drinking two drinks per day, try cutting back to one for a while. After a week or two, see if you can go a day without drinking in between those days. "You could also try switching to coffee as a substitute to wean yourself off the energy drink," Wroe says.

If you want to reduce your caffeine intake, Nolan has some additional suggestions:

  • Pay attention to the labels and do your homework. Keep track of what you're eating and how much caffeine, sugar, and other stimulants you're consuming.
  • It's important to remember that it's not just energy drinks that can cause problems. Keep in mind that chocolate and other soft drinks and sodas contain caffeine or other stimulants.
  • It's also not just about the caffeine. The effects of the other ingredients, such as sugar, taurine, and guarana, are also important.

Consult your physician. If you're constantly craving an energy drink or have developed a caffeine addiction, talk to your doctor about what's causing this. It's possible that you're not getting enough sleep or that you have an underlying condition like depression that's making you feel sluggish and tired.

"Even when someone is extremely tired, such as during finals or after a night shift, extra energy can be obtained with a cup of coffee or tea." a small cup of orange juice with some protein," "When we look at the causes of fatigue, the best ways to solve this are better sleep and stress management, along with healthier eating." I don't recommend energy drinks at all, or only on extremely rare occasions, because there are so many other options.

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