A few years ago I worked at a gym on top of my current job and I was also going to school full time. At this time, I also went once a month to Sam’s Club and bought a giant pack of Monster Energy Drinks. You know those blue ones, because they are low carb (because my weight was my biggest concern). My day generally looked something like this… wake up and be to school by 8 a.m., drive immediately to job number 1 after class, then after job number one, drive to job number two until 11p.m. when I would go home for the first time all day.
It was on my way from job number one, to job number two that I would pop open that Monster and depending on the time either sip or chug it. This was mainly because when I would get home at 11 p.m., I often had a few hours of homework to do. Then I would fall asleep around 3 in the morning and after sleeping for a whopping 4-5 hours, do it all over again.
Most people are aware that energy drinks are not good for you. Clearly I was one of the people who knew but blatantly ignored. Quite frankly, at that time I would have done anything to keep life happening considering the details. However I now look at the statement of “energy drinks are not good for you” with a bit of wonder and question.
Why are energy drinks bad for you?
I know plenty of people who drink coffee almost all day long?
Is that just as unhealthy?
How about the energy drinks that are sugar and caffeine free?
How about the ones that are all natural?
Amazingly all of those questions can be answered, so today I will do exactly that. If not for anyone else, at least for me!
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that energy drinks must contain something pretty hefty if they can make you get through a day that other wise would not happen without much more sleep. But what is it that is making the magic happen?
For the energy drinks that do contain caffeine, it’s radical doses of caffeine. A regular cup of coffee usually has about 100mg of caffeine in it. Some energy drinks have as much as 500mg of caffeine in them (source). That is a Sh*t load of caffeine! And as an individual who gets emotionally wrecked (if you don’t believe me as my fiance) when drinking anything more than 75mg of caffeine in it, well I don’t really understand how I managed any sort of life while downing those monsters.
If you don’t already know, caffeine in large doses has some pretty hefty side effects that include high heart rate, spiking of blood pressure, severe dehydration, anxiety, the preventing of sleep patterns and in extreme cases seizures. They should put that on the commercial, huh?
Then there are the energy drinks that do not contain caffeine. Instead they contain legal stimulants such as guarana and ginseng. These stimulants are natural however just like all other stimulants, there are side effects for these as well.
Guarana is a plant whose seeds contains 2x as much caffeine as the seeds coffee (source). This is the most common used stimulant in energy drinks labeled “caffeine free”. Another ingredient commonly used is ginseng, which is also a seed containing caffeine. Ginseng is a bit more dangerous as its side effects include headache, decreased appetite and bleeding (source).
The last of the symptoms listed above is the one that concerns me the most… bleeding. If you are continuously using an energy drink containing ginseng, you run the risk ultimately of suffering from stomach bleeding. This is because the acid combined with the ginseng can disturb your stomach and intestinal lining which can eventually lead to bleeding.
When the effects of energy drinks do ware off, you risk for poor health does not. Once the stimulants are free from your body, your risk of vomiting and respiratory depression sky rocket. In fact, in 2008 there were 16,000 E.R. visit that were documented as due to energy drink consumption (source). This confirms that although the side effects seem extreme and not likely, they are in fact taking place.
All in all, energy drinks are a big no-no. They confuse your brain by tricking it into sending out signals to your body that say you are awake, alert and highly functioning, and then cause you to crash when the stimulants ware off. The chemicals used in the drinks can reek havoc on your digestive system as well, as they suppress your appetite which means you are getting less of the nutrients your body needs even more now that your are pumping it with stimulants. And then there are the many organ system side effects that happen despite you not even realizing they are taking place.
By getting a few extra hours a sleep every week, improving your nutrition by 10 – 15% and drinking more water, you can have the same energy benefits of energy drinks without any of the awful side effects.