The U.S. energy drink business is a $5.4 billion industry annually. Energy drinks are marketed to students who need “wings” to help stay awake during class or to study.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve or review energy drinks, because they are marketed as dietary supplements.
Therefore, many drink claims have not been proven, the amount of added ingredients is neither standardized nor identified on the label, and their safety is not known.
The best way to feel energetic remains eating healthy foods, regular physical activity, and getting enough sleep.
Common “Energy” Ingredients
Caffeine: a chemical compound that stimulates the central nervous system
Caffeine is safe in smaller doses. In larger amounts, it may cause blood-pressure spikes, headaches, nausea, sleeplessness, tremors, or dehydration as a diuretic.
Sugar: the same thing as sucrose, glucose, fructose, corn syrup, or high-fructose corn syrup
Sugar is known to give an instant boost, but after very little time will cause a crash in both energy and alertness. Additionally, sugar has 4 calories per gram. An 8.3-ounce Red Bull has 27 grams of sugar; that’s 108 non‐nutritional calories!
Guarana: a South-American plant that produces seeds with 4‐5% caffeine content, while a coffee bean has the caffeine content of 1‐2%
Guarana in a 16‐ounce energy drink ranges from 1.4 mg to as much as 300 mg. It is unclear how much guarana is in each drink, because many companies do not list a milligram amount. The safety of guarana in higher levels remains unknown, but these high levels could be easily achieved by consuming multiple drinks.
Ginseng: an extract made from the root of the ginseng plant
Ginseng may increase brainpower, but because ginseng is not regulated by the FDA, it is difficult to know what else you may be getting in your drink. The amount of ginseng in most drinks is minimal, and therefore, harmful effects are unlikely. However, first check with your doctor if you are taking any medications.
Taurine: one of the most abundant amino acids in the brain, which can act as a neurotransmitter—a chemical messenger that allows cells to communicate with one another
Most energy drinks have anywhere from 20 mg up to 2,000 mg of taurine in a 16‐ounce beverage. When taurine is dumped into the bloodstream after consuming an energy drink, it cannot pass through the membranes that protect the brain.
Even if this were possible, scientists believe that taurine would behave more like a sedative than a stimulant. Taurine is likely safe in small doses, but currently there is little research on taurine consumption in humans.
The drinks are riskiest when combined with alcohol. According to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the number of ER visits due to energy drinks increased tenfold in four years, from 1,128 in 2005 to 13,114 in 2009. According to this report, approximately half of the energy drink-related ER visits made by young adults aged 18 to 25 involved combinations of energy drinks with alcohol or other drugs.
The FDA is investigating claims that 5-Hour Energy was tied to 13 deaths in a four-year period and claims of five deaths tied to Monster energy drinks.
Because of their high caffeine content, the American Academy of Pediatrics concluded that energy drinks “should never be consumed” by children or adolescents.
Did You Know?
According to the FDA, soda manufacturers cannot have more than 70 mg of caffeine per 12‐ounces; currently there is no regulation for caffeine content in energy drinks.
Many “energy drinks” do not state their caffeine content; some have as much caffeine as 14 cans of soda.
Norway, Uruguay, and Denmark have banned Red Bull because of its negative health effects.
Caffeine is a stimulant, alcohol is a depressant, and both are diuretics. Combining the two may lead to dehydration and ultimately drinking more alcohol, because the burst of energy from the sugar and caffeine misrepresent the state of inebriation.
Consuming an energy drink before exercise could increase blood pressure or overstimulate the heart or nervous system.
How Do I Stay Energized Naturally?
Breakfast A balanced breakfast of carbohydrate, protein, and fat causes a more gradual release of energy over the entire morning, which maintains blood-sugar levels and delays hunger.
Water - the ultimate drink for hydration! Water aids in physical performance, prevents muscle cramps, and helps to maintain energy levels.
Soy Compared with other beans, soybeans are a rich source protein that contains as much complete protein as meat. Soybeans are a good source of B vitamins and essential fatty acids, including some omega‐3s, and contain isoflavones that may help lower risks for some diseases.
Green TeaThis hot drink known to aid in stress reduction and promote mental alertness. Green tea also contains polyphenols that may help lower risks for some diseases. Remember that tea contains caffeine, so look for a decaffeinated version or monitor the number of cups consumed.
Physical ActivityGetting regular physical activity is a well-proven strategy to increase energy, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote feelings of well-being.
SleepEstablishing a regular sleep routine—going to bed and rising at about the same time every day—will help you sleep and stay energized to meet the demands of your day. Consuming energy drinks or too much caffeine definitely disrupts sleep patterns and impacts how rested you’ll feel.
For more information about energy drinks, please contact the Office of Health and Wellness Education at email@example.com.