There has been a large debate surrounding energy drinks and their relative safety. The history of energy drinks goes back farther than most people realize. Before the 1950s, there were a number of energy-promoting beverages but they contained amphetamines which are classified as stimulants and many of which are now illegal.
It wasn’t until the 1960s that the first modern energy Lipovitan D was introduced in Japan. Since then, the market grew within the U.S. slowly adding ingredients like caffeine to soda and marketing them as alternatives to coffee. The introduction of Red Bull to the U.S. in 1997 started the energy drink explosion that we are currently still living in.
Since 1997, the world of energy drinks has increased exponentially and new brands of energy drinks are constantly popping up and trying to find their market niche. The dangerous part about these drinks is that they are often marketed to young children and can be deceptive in the amount of caffeine, sugar, and other ingredients they contain.
Some energy drink companies are even sponsoring social media influencers to market their drinks. This can be a dangerous notion to children that do not understand the risks associated with high energy drink consumption and the risk of developing issues such as insomnia, cardiovascular problems, and more.
Below is a breakdown of the reasons why energy drink consumption can be detrimental to your overall wellbeing and health. Understanding the potential risks and why energy drinks are bad for your health can enable you to make better health choices for trying to improve your energy levels.
Energy drinks are more than just energy in a can. They contain a number of vitamins, molecules, and sugars to help provide energy-boosting properties. While these can help temporarily increase energy levels, they are not ideal in their nutritional composition and can be detrimental when consumed on a regular basis and relied on.
Below is a closer look at the ingredients most commonly found in energy drinks that have the potential to be less than ideal for your overall wellbeing.
Caffeine is a molecule that is often acknowledged for its ability to temporarily increase energy and alertness. Routine coffee drinkers are well aware of the pick-me-up properties that caffeine can provide. While in moderation caffeine is completely safe, in excess it can lead to a number of health problems.
Caffeine works by blocking the binding of the neurotransmitter adenosine. Throughout a normal day, adenosine accumulates and helps to facilitate sleep. When you consume caffeine, it acts to reduce adenosine binding, which then increases your alertness and sense of wakefulness.
Energy drinks are particularly deceptive when it comes to caffeine because manufacturers are able to add as much caffeine per serving as they see fit. Many energy drinks utilize caffeine anhydrous, which is a powdered and isolated version of caffeine. Energy drink manufacturers can simply dissolve more caffeine anhydrous and increase its caffeine content.
Sugar is another ingredient that many energy drinks utilize. Added sugar helps to make the energy drink more palatable and enjoyable. A typical energy drink can contain upwards of 50 grams per serving, which accounts for most people’s daily value of added sugar in a single tall can.
Sugar in moderation is not a problem, but when it is taken in large quantities regularly, it can place a strain on your body’s ability to properly regulate blood sugar levels. Added sugars also add empty calories that are not paired with quality nutrition.
50 grams of sugar is equivalent to approximately 194 calories that can be better spent in terms of quality nutrition. Spending those roughly 200 calories on two eggs, greek yogurt, or a smoothie can provide you with much more bang for your buck than a measly energy drink.
One interesting aspect of energy drinks that isn’t glaringly obvious is that many energy drinks are high in sodium. Sodium is an important part of your health, but excess can lead to many health concerns such as high blood pressure.
The typical American diet is already high in sodium, and having extra sodium in your beverages can sneak in additional sodium without much thought. The FDA states that people should aim for less than 2.3 grams of sodium consumed per day. A single serving of some energy drinks can constitute nearly 10% of your daily value, and for those trying to watch their sodium intake, this can be less than ideal.
Potential health concerns
Energy drinks, when consumed too frequently, can have a number of potential negative outlooks on our overall health and wellbeing. With high concentrations of caffeine, sugar, and sodium you could be placing your health at higher risk when you consume energy drinks in excess.
Below is a closer look at some potential health concerns that can occur when energy drinks are consumed in excess.
Caffeine addiction is one of the leading forms of addiction in the modern world. The underlying mechanism that allows caffeine to provide a temporary boost in alertness and wakefulness also results in its dependency.
When caffeine is taken routinely, the body adjusts and adapts by increasing the number of available adenosine receptors (what caffeine works to block). Essentially the body makes up for caffeine binding and blocking receptors by springing up more receptors so adenosine can bind normally.
This results in habitual consumers of caffeine drinking more caffeine for the same desired effect. This also means that if you stop caffeine consumption, the body will have an abundance of adenosine receptors that the natural adenosine won’t be able to fill. This is the chemical basis by which the body becomes addicted to caffeine.
Those that are addicted to caffeine tend to shift from drinking energy drinks to get a quick pick me up to drinking them out of necessity since their body grows accustomed to the added caffeine.
Caffeine addiction can cause a number of unwanted side effects when you stop, such as headaches, irritability, and even muscle aches. Luckily, caffeine withdrawal only lasts around a week, and afterward, your body re-establishes its proper brain chemistry.
Another concern with energy drinks is that they can be a slippery slope to caffeine overdose. For an adult, the recommended daily allowance of caffeine should be less than 400mg. According to the FDA, less than 400mg is generally considered safe, but more could pose a potential risk.
Some energy drinks can contain upwards of 300 mg of caffeine in a single can. If you have a cup of coffee to start your morning and then have an energy drink later in the day you could potentially exceed the 400mg per day. Additionally, if you have multiple energy drinks in a day you could greatly increase your chances of caffeine overdose.
Symptoms of a caffeine overdose are essentially amplified versions of caffeine standard effects. A rapidly beating heart, nausea, feelings of anxiousness, sweating, and diarrhea can occur.
How to support natural energy
Caffeine is highly marketed as a solution to low energy, but in reality, it is a short-term fix to a larger problem at hand. Lower levels of energy can be caused by a number of different variables and those underlying reasons for having low energy should be the target of getting more energy.
Below is a closer look at some ways you can support and bolster more natural energy levels without caffeine. Energy drinks are always a short-term fix and finding and resolving underlying issues of low energy can provide you with more sustainable and natural boosts in energy.
A lack of quality sleep is one of the largest contributors to feeling low on energy and generally lousy. The body undergoes a number of physiological processes when asleep and when you get less than ideal sleep it can hinder your ability to be at your best the following day.
The best thing you can do for your sleep is to practice good sleep hygiene. Good sleep hygiene consists of a consistent bedtime and wake-up, reducing environmental distractions in the bedroom, and creating routines around sleep. Working toward all of these can allow for an easier time getting the perfect night's rest to fuel your day with natural energy.
Every bodily function has a cellular basis, and this includes your energy level. At a cellular level, the cellular component known as the mitochondria converts oxygen and carbohydrates into usable energy the cell can use.
The mitochondria can suffer from a reduced efficiency due to oxidative damage and MitoQ is a supplement that can help restore oxidative balance and support optimal mitochondrial health. MitoQ is a modified form of CoQ10 that is highly bioavailable to the mitochondria and can be just the support your mitochondria need to help support a higher standard of energy throughout your day.
In summary, energy drinks are oftentimes considered bad for you because they contain high amounts of caffeine, sugar, and sodium. It is important to be aware of the drawbacks to the short-term boost in energy that the drinks provide and understand that they are not long-term solutions to low energy levels.