Energy Drinks: Good or Bad?

Not to be confused with sports drinks, these trendy beverages are a dangerous mix of sugar, chemicals and stimulants. We won’t keep you in suspense – they’re no good!

Why They Look Good

The promise of popping open a can and slurping immediate energy sure is appealing. Too bad it’s too good to be true. With names like Rocktstar, Monster, Red Bull and Amp they appeal to adolescents, college students and anyone who could use a boost. Celebrity endorsements and sponsorship of athletic teams also adds to the appeal. Flashy packaging and the fact that you can buy them at any grocery store or gas station further leads consumers to believe that they must be safe.

Why They’re Really Bad

The dangers about these drinks are real. Such as this tragic story where drinking 2 energy drinks in a day was suspected to contribute to the death of a 14 year old girl.

Energy drinks are sold as dietary supplements, not beverages. This means that they aren’t subject to the same scrutinizing safety standards as food and drinks.

At best these drinks are too high in sugar, which is no good for your waistline. The calorie free versions (full of artificial sweeteners) are also a joke – how can something with no calories give you energy?

It’s easy to confuse a stimulant boost with "energy." The major difference is – energy is real fuel, and stimulants only have a short-lived effect on your heart rate.

Aside from all those sugary calories, side effects of drinking energy drinks include increased anxiety and dehydration. Here are just a few of the potentially dangerous ingredients:

  • Caffeine: Can cause increased heart rate, anxiety, upset stomach and dehydration – many drinks have 2 to 5 times more caffeine than a cup of coffee.
  • Guarana: A caffeine-like product that compounds the stimulant effect.
  • Taurine: Promoted to help with focus, taurine, may have a sedative effect. Used to treat high blood pressure and congestive heart failure– very little is known about the safety of high-dose or long-term use.

It’s also become trendy to mix energy drinks with alcohol; this creates a dangerous combination of "uppers" and "downers" that may result in dangerous cardiovascular and neurological side effects.

Tell Us: Do you drink energy drinks?

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Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana's full bio »

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