I recently realized that some people take energy drinks like juice without knowing how harmful it can be to their health when taken in such an unreasonable quantity.
Even in the USA, most youths and adolescents take these drinks to keep them awake, especially during exam seasons. I know a friend who consumes energy drinks like water, which is detrimental to an individual’s health.
I need this so bad; I can’t fall asleep now. Gosh! Where is this Red Bull? Is this what you tell yourself whenever you search through the house? Or, probably, your eyes scan through the store to look for a brand of energy drink.
In that case, you must be aware of the pros and cons of energy drinks.
What exactly are energy drinks?
Energy drinks are “any of various types of beverages that are considered a source of energy, especially a soft drink containing a high percentage of sugar and/or caffeine or other stimulants.”
These stimulants provide the consumer with mental and physical stimulation. Energy drinks may or may not be carbonated. They contain a variety of ingredients, such as amino acids, taurine, herbal extracts, sweeteners, etc., with the main ingredients being caffeine and sugar.
Commonly known energy drinks are Red Bull, Monster Energy, Rockstar, 5-hr Energy, NOS, Full Throttle, Xyience, Bang, Celsius, Zevia, Burn, and Amp Energy.
Content of Energy Drinks
The content or ingredients used in an energy drink can vary from brand to brand. Also, the amount of each ingredient used can vary as well.
However, here are some of the common ingredients often used in preparing energy drinks:
Caffeine is a legal and natural stimulant that is found naturally in coffee, tea, and cacao plants.
It is the main ingredient in energy drinks and is responsible for the energy boost that they provide.
Caffeine works by blocking adenosine, a neurotransmitter that promotes sleepiness. By blocking adenosine, caffeine increases alertness and cognitive function.
Sugar is a source of quick energy that is added to many energy drinks.
It is absorbed into the bloodstream quickly and provides a short-term energy boost. However, sugar can also lead to weight gain and other health problems, such as tooth decay and diabetes.
Some energy drinks are made with artificial sweeteners instead of sugar.
Taurine is an amino acid that is found naturally in the human body. It is said to improve muscle function and reduce fatigue. However, there is not enough research to confirm these benefits.
Taurine is often added to energy drinks because it is thought to help counteract the negative effects of caffeine, such as anxiety and jitters.
Ginseng is a root that is native to Asia. It is often used in traditional Chinese medicine to improve energy, focus, and cognitive function.
Ginseng is an ingredient used in energy drinks because it is thought to provide a more sustained energy boost than caffeine alone.
Guarana is a South American berry that contains caffeine and other stimulants. Guarana is thought to have a more sustained energy boost similar to Ginseng.
B vitamins are essential for energy production in the body. They help the body convert food into energy.
B vitamins are often added to energy drinks to help improve energy levels and also cognitive function.
Carnitine is an amino acid that helps the body transport fatty acids into the cells, where they can be used for energy. Carnitine is sometimes used in energy drinks because it is thought to help improve athletic performance and reduce fatigue.
Green Tea Extract
Green tea extract is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. It contains a number of antioxidants and other compounds that are thought to have health benefits, including fighting cancer.
Energy Drinks vs Sports Drinks
It is important to create the distinction between energy drinks and sports drinks in this blog post.
This is because people often use energy drinks in place of sports drinks and vice versa.
It is essential to know that energy drinks are different from sports drinks, which are drinks that enhance sports performance.
Sports drinks are flavored beverages that contain carbohydrates, minerals, electrolytes, vitamins, and other nutrients, while energy drinks use caffeine as their primary source of oxygen.
“Some energy drinks pack more than 500milligrams of caffeine, which is enough to cause caffeine toxicity.” On the other hand, most sports drinks contain 24 milligrams of caffeine per serving.
There is also a misconception among alcohol users that mixing alcohol with energy drinks helps neutralize the effects of alcohol.
In 2015, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) conducted research and concluded that it is doubtful for caffeine to mask alcohol intoxication.
Mechanism of Action of energy drinks
Caffeine acts as an adenosine receptor antagonist, preventing adenosine from binding to its receptors and exerting its inhibitory effects on the central nervous system (CNS). This leads to increased alertness, enhanced cognitive function, and a sense of wakefulness.
Caffeine also stimulates the release of adrenaline (epinephrine) from the adrenal glands. Adrenaline is a hormone that prepares the body for the “fight-or-flight” response, leading to increased heart rate, blood pressure, and energy levels.
Additionally, caffeine can enhance the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward, contributing to the mood-boosting effects of energy drinks.
Other ingredients in energy drinks, such as taurine, guarana, and ginseng, may also contribute to the overall effects.
So, with this mechanism of action, imagine taking three bottles of an energy drink! You can guess the result.
Pros of Energy Drinks
Now that we know something about its mechanism of action, let’s dive into the benefits.
1. Increases the alertness of consumer
This is probably the major reason why a lot of people consume energy drinks. The caffeine content in these drinks is what is responsible for this function.
Caffeine is a stimulant that can stimulate the release of adrenaline, which is known as the energy hormone responsible for the popular “fight-or-flight response”.
2. Improves consumer’s memory
Multiple studies have suggested that the combination of caffeine and sugar is what is responsible for this benefit.
This study, in particular, showed that consuming about 500ml of Redbull led to a 24% increase in concentration and memory.
3. Elevates the mood of the consumer
According to WebMD, some studies have shown that there’s the possibility of caffeine consumption resulting in elevated mood, especially for people with depression.
However, this possible benefit does not justify or mean that you should include caffeine in your daily diet.
Increase exercise performance
Energy drinks have been said to help boost physical performance, like in the case of people doing exercise or sports activities. However, it is important to note that sport drinks are different from energy drinks like i stated earlier on in this blog post.
The adrenaline produced under the influence of caffeine and sugar can help to increase your physical limits, although this can take its toll on your muscles after the effect has worn off.
Although these drinks are beneficial, taking them in excess and for a prolonged period of time can be very dangerous.
Why is that, Ruth? Well, here are the cons of energy drinks.
Cons of Energy Drinks
The main reason why energy drinks are harmful when taken in high amounts is due to caffeine overdose. The overdose of caffeine then leads to several unwanted effects.
The other additives also included when producing energy drinks can also be harmful to the body. Consumers will not always check the label or marketing details before purchasing a drink.
Here are some of the known cons of energy drinks:
1. Cardiovascular effect
Excessive caffeine consumption can lead to cardiovascular complications such as increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and irregular heartbeat.
These effects can be particularly concerning for individuals with underlying heart conditions because they can increase their risk of cardiac arrest (heart stoppage) – cardiac arrest is when the heart malfunctions or suddenly stops beating.
2. Panic attack and anxiety
Excessive caffeine consumption can trigger anxiety and panic attacks, especially in individuals with a predisposition to anxiety disorders.
The jittery, anxious feeling and energy surge associated with caffeine can exacerbate anxiety symptoms.
Caffeine can cause nervousness and restlessness, making it difficult to relax and sleep. The stimulating effects of caffeine combined with other energy drink content can interfere with the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, leading to insomnia and daytime fatigue.
4. Caffeine withdrawal symptoms
When you are used to caffeine consumption and stop abruptly, it can lead to withdrawal symptoms such as headache, fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and muscle aches.
5. Increased urination.
Caffeine has diuretic properties, which means that it increases the production of urine. This can lead to dehydration, especially if not accompanied by adequate fluid intake.
6. Type-2 diabetes.
Studies suggest an association between excessive energy drink consumption and an increased risk of developing type-2 diabetes. The high sugar content and processed ingredients in energy drinks may contribute to this risk.
7. Pregnancy & Birth Complications
Pregnant women should avoid or limit energy drink consumption due to the potential risks to the developing fetus.
Caffeine has the ability to cross the placenta and affect fetal development. It can lead to stillbirth, low birth weight, and more.
So, Who Are the Ideal Users of Energy Drinks?
Unfortunately, there are no strict age restrictions or regulations when it comes to energy drinks.
Some of the producing companies, however, advise children against the use of their products as it is preferable for youths and adults usage. It is now the responsibility of parents and custodians to ensure that children don’t consume this highly caffeinated drink.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warns that energy drinks have no place in children’s and adolescents’ diets.
An excessive amount of caffeine can affect the appropriate balance of carbohydrate, fat, and protein intakes needed for optimal growth development, body composition, and health.
Health organizations even advise that children should not take more than 100mg of caffeine per day, while adults shouldn’t go above 400mg.
Yes, we have the right to take energy drinks, but do they benefit us in the long run?
I believe that the companies producing these products need to do a better job of enlightening the public on the effects of what they are selling.
As I conclude, make sure you have a good knowledge of any substance you put in your body. Also, do all things in moderation.