Energy drinks have sexy names like Black Mamba, Full Throttle and Rock Star. College kids “chain drink” them like soda pop to cram for exams—some even wear t-shirts emblazoned with their favorite drink’s logos. These energy “uppers’ are now as ubiquitous as Coke and Pepsi. And they’re on the FDA’s watch list. Monster Energy is being looked at as a possible cause of five deaths.
Putting Your Body Into Overdrive
Today’s energy drinks are loaded with all sorts of things your body can do without — or least intake sparingly. Stimulants like caffeine, guarana, yerba mate, green tea, refined sugars and a whole cocktail of synthetic colors, flavors and preservatives are in common drinks. Unlike soda or coffee, energy drinks aren’t regulated by the FDA. In fact, these powerhouse uppers don’t even have to list caffeine amounts on their labels (some like NOS have over more than 160 milligrams of caffeine–and that’s after they lowered it from 260). Most nutritionists suggest you limit your caffeine intake to 400 milligrams (about three cups of coffee at 135 milligrams per cup). Even the sugar doses are on the high end in many energy drinks—a 16-ounce can of Monster has 54 grams of sugar—over a quarter cup. The other problem is that many people don’t “sip” energy drinks like coffee or tea, they gulp them down. This can quickly elevate blood concentrations of caffeine, which can increase the risk for side effects like a racing heartbeat and high blood pressure. Aetna has a caffeine table that shows the caffeine concentrations of some of the more popular energy drinks.
“Energy Shots“ Under Fire
Gaining in popularity are “energy shots,” pocket- and purse-size blasts of caffeine marketed to office workers trying to get through 10- and 12-hour workdays. Market leader, 5-hour Energy recently came under fire after the FDA received 13 reports of deaths possibly connected to the energy drink. The problem occurs when people, especially the young, “gang up” energy shots with coffee and other caffeinated sodas. As recently reported in a WebMD archive, Jim White, RD, a national spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics noted that combinations of coffee, 5-Hour Energy and green teas can add up to mega doses of caffeine during the day, which can cause nervousness, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, accelerated heartbeats, and elevated blood pressure.
Moderation is Key
Health experts uniformly advise consumers to limit their intake of energy drinks and shots. Don’t gulp them down and don’t combine them with other caffeinated or sugary drinks.