We all have those days when we need a pick-me-up. Some folks like to start their day with coffee, while others might prefer to have an energy drink with their lunch. Next to multivitamins, energy drinks are one of the most popular dietary supplements in the US. However, many people are curious as to whether these sugary, caffeine-filled drinks are actually good for them. Let’s take a closer look.
Are Energy Drinks Bad for You?
Caffeine is normally fine for your body to take in when it comes in smaller amounts, such as the 100 mg in a cup of coffee. However, the average energy drink has around 250 mg of caffeine, making it a significantly higher percentage of caffeine per liquid than most other beverages ingested for their caffeine content.
This high amount of caffeine raises a number of health concerns. Primarily, high concentrations of caffeine have been linked to blood vessel complications, heart rhythm disturbances, high blood pressure, and increases in heart rate. Notably, the high quantity of caffeine can cause damage to younger people’s developing cardiovascular systems.
Many younger adults and even some teenagers who commonly drink energy drinks will often mix them with alcohol. These beverages combined raise a number of serious health concerns. The dehydrating potential of both substances when combined is increased, and they each offset some of the visible negative effects of the other.
When intoxicated, one of the limiting factors to binge drinking is the drowsiness that accompanies high alcohol intake. Likewise, when drinking energy drinks, the feeling of jitteriness and increased heartrate often keeps people from over-indulging in them. When alcohol and energy drinks are mixed together, however, they offset one another and can lead to a dramatic increase in binge drinking behaviors.
A single 16 ounce can of energy drink can contain as much as 62 grams of added sugars. This is a tremendous amount of sugar, and well exceeds the recommended daily allotment of added sugars in an adult’s diet. Added sugars in energy drinks serve to sweeten and mask the powerful flavors that the high caffeine content generates.
In the case of these larger, 16-ounce cans, the amount of sugar is enough alone to make them worrisome from a health perspective. The shorter, energy “shot” type of drink tends to have a high sugar content, usually around 30 grams, which still makes them high in added sugars. However, they tend to pack just as much caffeine as the larger-size drinks, so those health concerns remain.
Excessive consumption of energy drinks has been shown to interfere with the natural sleeping patterns of teenagers and young adults. Due to the high caffeine content, it’s likely that younger people, with more sensitive systems, stay up for much longer than they may even want to with energy drinks.
Staying up later means they’ll lose out on sleep, which will make it harder to focus on school or work the following day. This, in turn, leads them to drink energy drinks to wake up from their grogginess. Thus, energy drinks can be a negative, self-reinforcing habit.
The high amount of caffeine and sugar in energy drinks may also cause more strain on internal organs. For instance, the kidneys and liver, which serve to filter impurities from the blood, could be damaged by the high amounts of sugar and caffeine they filter.
Likewise, energy drinks can have a negative impact on the heart, causing it to beat faster and increasing blood pressure. In short, energy drinks put the body into “overdrive,” pushing it beyond its normal operating limits and putting extra stress on the internal organs. Drink them sparingly, if you really want to drink them, and consider replacing them in your diet with drinks like coffee or tea instead.