We all get clobbered by the 3 o’clock slump sometimes. During those times, it seems the fastest, easiest way to pump up the ole’ energy is to suck down an energy drink. After all, they have vitamins and amino acids, so they’re healthy, right? Are energy drinks bad for you?
As the energy drink market continues to explode more each year, the medical research on them also increases. These sugary drinks have become ubiquitous in our culture, even for children and teens. As each new medical study is completed, we have more and more evidence that energy drinks are not healthy. In fact, they can ruin our health, especially when we drink them frequently and over a long period of time.
One of the major issues with energy drinks is the concoction of ingredients.
If you’ve ever looked at a label on one, you’ll see a list of ingredients as long as your arm. When these are combined, they accentuate the overall effects of the energy “high” received. Popular stimulant ingredients in energy drinks include caffeine, guarana, taurine, vitamin B, and ginseng. That’s a lot of stimulation!
Because not everyone responds to individual ingredients or the combination of them in the same way, drinking even one energy drink can cause major short-term health issues. Let’s take a closer look at some of the commonly reported health issues associated with energy drinks.
Let’s find out the truth: Are Energy Drinks Bad For You?
Increased Blood Pressure
Energy drinks raise blood pressure as they stimulate the nervous system and brain functions. They also increase stress hormones, such as cortisol, released in the body as the body reads the heightened stimulation as a need to deal with a stressful or dangerous situation. In one study at the Mayo Clinic, just one 240 mg energy drink caused a 74% increase in norepinephrine levels in the body of young, healthy individuals. Norepinephrine is both a stress hormone and a neurotransmitter, which also increases heart rate.
Most Westerns are already habitually dehydrated, which causes many health issues. The introduction of caffeine and guarana in energy drinks increases dehydration because caffeine is a diuretic.
Energy drinks are loaded with additives and manufactured chemicals which make our poor liver has to work even harder than it already does. The liver processes and removes the toxins we ingest, breathe and absorb from our environment. Not only do we add to the liver’s workload when we drink energy drinks, but we also overload it. It takes approximately 12 hours for the liver to deal with the caffeine and other chemicals found in these drinks. During that time, it can’t work to eliminate other toxic chemicals that the body has taken in that day. An overloaded, overworked liver makes us more susceptible to illness and disease.
The sheer amount of sugar and calories in energy drinks alone can cause significant weight gain. Some popular energy drinks contain 600 calories per can, most of which are “empty calories,” ones that don’t serve any nutritional purpose. Empty calories don’t fill you up or give your body the nutrition it needs, so people who consume them also eat their normal diets in addition to those extra calories per day. It’s not hard to see how quickly this could cause a weight problem.
Headaches and Migraines
Several common ingredients found in energy drinks are well-known for their tendency to prompt or intensify headaches and migraines, including artificial colors and sweeteners, sugar, caffeine, and the like.
Sleep Issues and Insomnia
It’s not surprising that too much caffeine makes it hard to get a good night’s sleep. But few people know that studies prove that caffeine can also cause disrupted sleep and daytime sleepiness. Can you say vicious cycle?
Many people drink caffeine every day without having a large, negative impact. However, each person’s body reacts differently to the stimulant and the common side effects of large doses can range from uncomfortable to life-threatening. There is a great deal more caffeine in energy drinks than in a cup of coffee or green tea. On average, 200+ mg of caffeine can be found in energy drinks. Studies show that most people begin to have negative reactions to caffeine at the 400 mg level, so those who ingest 2 or more energy drinks a day very well may suffer from the following:
- Increased heart rate and palpitations
- Nervousness can increase anxiety and panic attacks
- Increased blood pressure
- Dehydration and frequent urination
- Headaches and migraines
- Allergic reactions include vomiting, rashes, difficulty breathing, tight feeling in the chest, and swelling of the face or mouth
Anxiety and Depression
We all know what a caffeine and sugar crash feels like. When the stimulating effect of an energy drink wears off, individuals feel worse than they did to begin with. Along with the lowered energy, it’s common to also experience melancholy, depression, and/or anxiety during this crash. Those with depression or anxiety problems or other mental health issues are impacted even more by this crash.
Would it surprise you to know that some energy drinks have as many as 20 or more teaspoons of sugar in them? It’s true. These high sugar levels cause blood glucose levels to rise and fall quickly. In other words, they cause frequent energy spikes and crashes. Over a period of time when consumed consistently, these spikes and crashes can cause hypoglycemia and eventually diabetes.
Irregular Heartbeat and Palpitations
The combination of stimulants found in energy drinks causes the heart to become stressed as it works harder to increase physical readiness. These stimulants can cause irregular heartbeats and abnormal heart rhythms even in healthy adults, though those with heart conditions are especially at risk. Teens also experience palpitations and irregular heartbeat when consuming these drinks, according to a John Hopkins survey.
Allergic Reaction to Artificial Chemicals
Our bodies have become more and more sensitive to the many artificial chemicals we ingest as they become more prevalent in our diet. Energy drinks are typically full of artificial chemicals, including colors, flavors, sweeteners, and stimulants. There are currently over 90 known side effects from artificial chemical sensitivity, including migraines, rashes, difficulty breathing, hyperactivity, and anxiety.
Clearly the answer to “Are energy drinks bad for you?” is a resounding YES!
In clinical trials, it’s been shown that no one should be using these drinks as a way to fight daytime sleepiness—even healthy people. What’s even scarier is the number of children and teens who use these drinks on a daily basis to improve their mental and physical attentiveness. We’d be wise to encourage everyone to get the rest they need and use natural food sources to improve their energy levels instead.
In our house, we focus on getting good quality sleep instead of medicating with energy drinks. On the rare occasion (kids up all night, date night with some wine, or just plain not getting sleep) we do have a few tricks up our sleeves. I love me a good cup of mushroom coffee, and my husband prefers to drink his pre-workout Paleo drink.
If you want a pick me up, with some health-promoting ingredients, then check out my husband’s favorite drink HERE. They were awesome enough to give us a coupon code too. If you place an order and use coupon code REALFOOD10 at checkout, you get 10% off your order!
Here is a little more info on this Paleo Energizing Superfood. Nice ingredient list. My hubby loves the stuff!
- Ingredients: This product features four different blends that work together to provide the most complete pre-workout supplement available.
- Energy and Strength Blend
Yerba Mate Extract, Guarana, Tongkat Ali Root, Rhodiola, Schizandra Berry, Asian Ginseng, Ginko Biloba
- Metabolism Stimulation Blend
Raspberry, Lemon, Matcha Green Tea, Yohimbe Bark
- Vascularity and Anti-Inflammation Blend
Beetroot, Turmeric, Ginger, Devils Claw, Cinnamon
- Superfood Blend
Goji Berry, Blueberry, Acai, Maca Root, Bee Pollen, Royal Jelly
- Other Ingredients
Stevia Leaf, Natural Vanilla Extract
So, what do you say, are you going to kick the energy drinks to the curb? If you still need a little pick me up, opt for something that actually provides your body with fuel and healthy ingredients!