You can’t walk through a grocery store, a gas station or even a convenience shop anymore without seeing at least one shelf full of energy drinks. Monster, Red Bull, Amp, Shockwave and hundreds of other energy drinks have glutted the market, and they’re being bought up left and right by an eager public who wants to go fast and to go now. However, there are potential side effects to energy drinks, and if you don’t read what it is you’re pouring into your throat you could get a nasty surprise.
The two main ingredients of energy drinks are caffeine and sugar. Other ingredients like taurine, ginseng or other herbal extracts are meant to increase the effectiveness of the caffeine and the short-term rush the stimulant provides. The so-called energy that drinkers are experiencing is nothing more than a good, old-fashioned caffeine high that can last anywhere from an hour to a few hours. However the end is always the same; fatigue, soreness and potentially a throbbing headache. The reasons for this are actually pretty simple when you look at the chemistry.
Energy, in a nutritional sense, is calories like what you get when you eat real food. Energy drinks aren’t providing you with calories, but they’re filling your system with a drug. You get a quick fix, and the amounts of caffeine can make it possible to play harder and focus more narrowly. However, caffeine also dehydrates you and contracts your blood vessels. This is why if you down a can or two and then go lift weights or play football for an hour or so you’re going to be light headed and exhausted. Not only did you burn through your energy, but you’ve lost valuable moisture, making you doubly in need of real energy and real fuel for your body.
Energy drinks, unlike soda, are often billed as dietary supplements. Because of this the manufacturers can put almost any cocktail of stimulants and sugars they desire into the product because dietary supplements are put under different standards than food like soda is. Unfortunately, no matter how they’re billed, people will drink an energy drink to quench their thirst, to get wired before a hard game or to stay awake while they’re out drinking. This last is particularly dangerous because mixing alcohol in with an energy drink will make you doubly dehydrated, and the caffeine will partially blunt the effects of the alcohol which could lead a drinker to imbibe far too much because he can’t feel the alcohol hitting his system. Even if you don’t overdo it, if you don’t stay hydrated drinking too many “touchdowns” or other liquor and energy drink combos is going to give you one wicked hangover.
The good news is that, indulged in moderation, energy drinks are a quick rush that might wake you up enough to pay attention through your dragging final period of class, or which can give you a quick boost during your weightlifting session. The bad news is that energy drinks aren’t as healthy as some people think, and that if you overdo it, especially if you’re sensitive to caffeine, you could trip yourself into nervousness, shakes, irritability, exhaustion, dehydration and potentially death if you happen to be overly sensitive to the stimulants and you don’t know it.