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Are Energy Drinks Bad For You? Dangers Or Side Effects?

Are Energy Drinks Bad For You? Dangers Or Side Effects?

Short Answer: Yes, energy drinks can be bad for you especially when overconsumed.

There is no easy answer to that question because the answer is yes…and no.

There are definitely drinks out there that are healthier – like a kale avocado smoothie – and that is worse – brownie, ice cream, and chicken nugget smoothie.

There is a broad spectrum of beverages but the essential idea is that anything in excess is bad for you. Our bodies, like nature, crave balance.

Too much kale could block up your system for days and caffeine overdose is a very real thing.

So, are energy drinks bad for you? We’ve gathered together our own research to try and address some of the misinformation. Keep reading!

Typical Ingredients of an Energy Drink

Energy drinks contain stimulants, most commonly caffeine, which provides mental and physical stimulation.

They can contain sugar or other sweeteners, herbal extracts, amino acids and B vitamins to increase their stimulative properties.

Brands will also include different flavourings to create their own personal taste.

Typical ingredients you’ll see in energy drinks are caffeine, taurine, ginseng and B vitamins.

Taurine – The Wonder Molecule

Taurine is a naturally occurring amino acid and is believed to be helpful in treating a variety of conditions from high blood pressure to depression.

A typically healthy individual will naturally produce taurine on their own. However, a low-protein diet, such as veganism or vegetarianism, would require supplementation in order to notice any natural effects.

Taurine is a natural neural inhibitor, meaning it is a natural anti-anxiety drug, or in layman’s terms a happy drug. In fact, it is often added to anti-depression and anti-anxiety medication.

Happier people are more likely to engage in activities that prolong hormone highs, like exercising; which in turn helps to relieve stress. It’s a circle of happiness created by taurine.

For this reason, taurine is referred to as a “wonder molecule” in Japan where it is a huge part of their diet.

The Bull Sperm Myth

There is some speculation about the source of taurine in energy drinks. Many animal rights groups claim that the taurine used in energy drinks and other products is sourced from bull sperm.

Hence its name (Taurus the Latin for bull), and some brand names like Red Bull. However, I’m going to have to ask them to put aside their tin-foil hats.

Taurine was first discovered in ox bile in 1827. That is the extent of the link between taurine and bulls.

Taurine is typically synthesised in labs. No one is doing anything to any bulls for your energy kicks. Promise. It’s official. Taurine does NOT come from bull sperm.

Ginseng – All Healer

Ginseng is a powerful and widely used medicinal herb, which is understood to improve physical performance and mental focus.

It is a member of the Panax family, literally meaning “All-Healer” in Greek. It grows in the Northern Hemisphere only, with the Asian variant being the most powerful.

In fact, it has been used in Chinese medicine for over 5,000 years. As its original Greek name suggests, it has been used to help with every ailment – from mood disorders to diabetes, to mental and emotional stress.

However, you like it, – chewing the root, brewed in tea – it has some potential benefits besides an energy boost.

B Vitamins – Couldn’t B Any Better

The B-group vitamins are made up of 8 water-soluble vitamins that are needed for optimum metabolic function.

You are usually guaranteed to find at least four B vitamins listed on your energy drink’s nutritional facts.

These may include vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B12 (cobalamin), or vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid).

I have created a table below to show the benefits of B vitamins.

B VitaminsBenefits
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)convert food into fuel for energy production
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)reduces oxidative stress
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)boost brain function
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)helps the breakdown of fats and carbohydrates for energy
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)promotes healthy digestive and nervous system
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)keep the cells healthy
B Vitamins and their Benefits

Sugar & Sweeteners – Any Health Benefits?

Sugar isn’t always bad for you, in fact, there are many benefits to including it in your diet.

However, like many substances, in high amounts, it can be very unhealthy. It is particularly dangerous in drink form, as your body does not recognise the sugar intake.

Most energy drinks contain roughly 30 g of sugar. You’d be happy to know REIZE is sugar-free!

If you’re looking for a sugar-free energy drink, read my article here.

The artificial sweeteners used as substitutes for sugar help deliver the same ingredients without the refined sugar effect, but there has been some controversy over how they may affect your body.

The AHA proposes a sugar intake of no more than 24 to 36 g daily for women and men, respectively.

Caffeine – The World’s Favourite Psychoactive Drug

Energy drinks in Australia are strongly regulated and must comply with the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.

Some energy drinks contain up to 80 mg of caffeine per 250ml, the same as a cup of instant coffee. This means that the majority of energy drinks contain the same, or lower, levels of caffeine as a cup of instant coffee. And less than half the levels found in a standard espresso.

Most of the effects of energy drinks on cognitive performance, such as increased attention and reaction speed, are primarily due to the presence of caffeine.

Caffeine is the most popular ingredient in any energy drink. Indeed, it is the most popular drug in the world. It has been the world’s drug of choice since it was discovered by cherry-loving dancing goats in Ethiopia centuries ago.

Although caffeine sometimes has a bad reputation, if you have no underlying heart conditions or low tolerance to caffeine, it can actually be of great benefit to your standard of living.

Sides Effects of A Caffeine Overdose

  • heart palpitations
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • headaches
  • insomnia
  • nervousness
  • jitters

To avoid the side effects of caffeine, keep your intake within the limit which is 400 mg per day for healthy individuals.

Watch the video below to learn more about caffeine!

What Caffeine Does to the Body?

Alcohol and Energy Drinks

Alcohol is a depressant drug that slows down the brain and nervous system. Mixing alcohol with any other drug can be risky.

Mixing energy drinks with alcohol is particularly risky because the alcohol will slow you down while the energy drink speeds you up.

While in this state you can easily lose track of the number of energy drinks (and caffeine) you consume which can lead to intoxication or caffeine overdose.

The primary self-reported side effects associated with drinking alcohol mixed with energy drinks include:

  • dehydration and a worse hangover
  • sleeping difficulties
  • increased heart rate or palpitations
  • gastrointestinal upset, vomiting and nausea

Mixing energy drinks with alcohol can also give a person a false sense of sobriety. This is because their brain is stimulated by caffeine.

However, although their mind might be more awake and aware, their body is still drunk. This can lead to car accidents and other risky behaviour.

While mixing caffeine with alcohol is common practice, scotch and cola and Irish coffee being two well-known examples, it is always good advice to limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine.

Negative Press

Numerous cases were documented in a study written by Adrian Rollins, for the Australian Medical Association. The study focuses on cases where people died or suffered serious cardiovascular problems after consuming energy drinks.

Among those mentioned included “a 28-year-old man who collapsed while playing basketball after drinking three cans of energy drink five hours before the match. He was rushed to hospital suffering ventricular tachycardia and died three days later.”

A second case was “a 25-year-old woman with a pre-existing heart valve problem died from intractable ventricular fibrillation after drinking a 55-millilitre bottle of Race 2005 Energy Blast with Guarana and Ginseng.”

As you can tell from these two cases alone, the people involved either had an underlying condition or drank energy drinks in excessive amounts. The energy drink labels may not have included the recommended dosage, or perhaps the patients were unaware of the caffeine contents.

Either way, it was a tragic outcome resulting from an accidental overdose.

News reports from reputable and non-reputable sites began pummelling the masses with story after story of the negative effects of energy drinks. Which results in energy drinks having a bad public image. But, if used as per the manufacturer’s instructions, they are no more harmful than a cup of coffee.

Final Words

As I said before, yes and no.

If you are a healthy person with no caffeine aversion or sensitivity, then no. Especially if you aren’t planning on drinking more than the recommended dose.

And if you aren’t planning on washing it down with some Jägermeister. Energy drinks provide you with more energy and mental stimulation. As long as you don’t abuse their powers energy drinks can be a great addition to a healthy lifestyle.

Check out our comprehensive guide for even more energy drinks facts.

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