The Side Effects Of Energy Drinks
Energy drinks are all the rage these days. But are they worth the risk? Many people don't realize that energy drinks can have some unanticipated side effects. In this blog post, we will discuss the side effects of energy drinks and whether or not they are worth the risk.
As the popularity of energy drinks continues to grow, so do the number of side effects associated with their use. Energy drinks are not regulated the same way other beverages are, resulting in some side effects not being immediately apparent.
While side effects of energy drinks might be minimal for some people, others can experience more severe side effects. Regardless of where you lie on the spectrum, energy drinks negatively affect your health when used in excess. This article explores the side effects of energy drinks and how to limit the risks of their use.
If you're pregnant, nursing, or have a chronic medical condition, then you should consult your physician to discuss the ingredients before deciding to drink an energy drink.
How Do Energy Drinks Work?
Energy drinks typically contain high amounts of stimulants, such as caffeine. The amount of caffeine in these drinks is typically high, resulting in an increased amount of energy and attention. However, some individuals can experience side effects like irritability and anxiety. Most energy drinks also contain other ingredients that have not been thoroughly studied, resulting in an unknown impact on the user.
Caffeine And Other Stimulants
An important ingredient present in many energy drinks is caffeine. Caffeine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant and can result in side effects such as increased heart rate and blood pressure.
A CNS stimulant directly affects the brain. Caffeine blocks a receptor in the brain called the A1 receptor. When the A1 receptor is activated, it makes us feel sleepy. Thus, by blocking this receptor, caffeine helps us to feel alert. Caffeine also blocks the A2A receptor and increases dopamine levels. This contributes to an improvement in our mood. Thus, by impacting these two receptors, in small doses, caffeine can be beneficial, helping us to feel alert, focused, and energized. However, this feeling of alertness does not last forever. While caffeine can effectively block the adenosine receptors in the brain, the body does not stop producing adenosine. Thus, when the caffeine wears off, there is a build up of adenosine that floods your receptors in the brain. This leads to the energy crash that can come after caffeine consumption.
Consuming excessive amounts of caffeine can result in restlessness, which is also a common side effect of energy drinks. Energy-drink-related emergency room visits have also been associated with side effects like irregular heartbeat and seizures.
What Are The Side Effects Of Energy Drinks?
As the popularity of energy drinks continues to grow, so do the number of side effects associated with their use. Energy drinks are not regulated and many companies do not test their drinks, resulting in some side effects not being immediately evident.
The caffeine in energy drinks can increase heart rate. While a moderate amount of caffeine is usually fine for healthy individuals, excessive caffeine consumption can lead to frightening increases in heart rate. In addition, for people with heart conditions like atrial fibrillation, caffeine can trigger heart palpitations and arrhythmia.
Irritability And Anxiety
Several studies have linked energy drink consumption to side effects like heart palpitations, irritability, and anxiety. People who suffer from anxiety or irritability can experience an increase in both due to caffeine in energy drinks. Caffeine is a stimulant, making you feel more awake, but it also increases hormones associated with stress (like cortisol). If you have anxiety or irritability issues, talk to your doctor about ways to lessen the severity of the symptoms.
Dizziness And Nausea
People who suffer from dizziness or nausea when consuming caffeine are encouraged to limit their intake. Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant, and it can act as a diuretic and cause you to become dehydrated. By drinking energy drinks, you increase your risk of becoming dehydrated without realizing it.
Liver Impairment And Hepatitis
While the most well-known cause of liver damage is associated with excessive alcohol intake, energy drinks can also harm the liver. There are currently no regulations or standards for the amount of caffeine in energy drinks. This means that caffeine in an energy drink can vary significantly from one beverage to another. As a result, it isn't easy to know what is too much caffeine for you. Some people can drink small amounts of caffeine and not experience adverse side effects, while others can suffer severe side effects. It is important to read the label and to understand ahead of consuming a drink, how much caffeine and other ingredients are present before consuming them.
Regular energy drink consumers sometimes have an “energy high” after drinking an energy drink. This usually lasts a few hours and then is followed by an energy crash once the caffeine wears off and our receptors are flooded with fatigue-inducing adenosine.
People who consume too much caffeine can experience an increased feeling of energy that lasts longer than average. This can be not very pleasant if your goal is to wind down at the end of the day. It can also be dangerous if you are operating heavy machinery, driving a car, or doing any other task that requires a higher level of alertness than usual.
If you have a habit of drinking energy drinks but aren’t feeling normal energy levels, you might be consuming too much caffeine.
When you consume caffeine regularly, your body adapts to this stimulant so that the effects are no longer as strong. For instance, when we first start drinking coffee in the morning, we may feel extremely energized. However, after a few months of our morning coffee we may notice that it does not give us the same jolt of alertness that we previously experienced. This is called habituation. Our body adapts over time to be able to tolerate more caffeine. Unfortunately, this habituation causes people to reach for more and more energy drinks in order to feel awake. This means more chemicals, more calories, and more artificial ingredients. Instead of ramping up the dosage, try weaning yourself off caffeine by gradually reducing your intake. By giving yourself a break from caffeine, if/when you restart this habit your body will reset at the normal “beginner” level.
If you suddenly stop consuming caffeine, your body can suffer from withdrawal symptoms, including headaches, restlessness, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. When used in excess, caffeine can negatively affect your health.
Too much caffeine can lead to a condition called “caffeine dependence,” Your body has trouble producing neurotransmitters without caffeine. Excessive caffeine use can worsen migraines, increase blood pressure, and disturb sleep.
Consuming excessive amounts of caffeine can have adverse health effects on your brain function. Caffeine is a diuretic and causes your body to flush sodium and water through your kidneys, resulting in headaches and other side effects of dehydration.
Too much caffeine can leave you feeling foggy-headed and cause you to have difficulty concentrating. Some people are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than others, so it’s essential to be cautious and limit your consumption.
The strongest stimulant in energy drinks is usually caffeine, which can worsen seizures in individuals with epilepsy. Certain medications used to treat epilepsy can increase the risk of attacks when combined with caffeine.
As caffeine can worsen seizures, limiting consumption when taking medication to treat epilepsy is essential. If you have epilepsy and consume energy drinks, it is essential to avoid large caffeinated drinks. Large caffeinated drinks include energy drinks, lattes, and coffee-based drinks.
Caffeine may increase hunger as it interferes with leptin in your body. Leptin is a hormone that is associated with feelings of satiety. When we reduce leptin concentrations, we are less likely to feel full and, thus, more likely to be reaching for snacks or unhealthy foods throughout the day. When consuming too much caffeine, you may notice you crave items that contain fats and carbohydrates. These cravings may cause you to eat too much “comfort food” like burgers, fries, or pizza.
Craving for particular foods can be a negative side effect of caffeine for some who are trying to reduce cravings. This craving can make it challenging to consume nutrient-dense calories while losing weight.
Long-Term Side Effects Of Energy Drinks?
The long-term side effects of energy drink consumption are not well understood. More research is needed to understand the potential risks of regular energy drink consumption.
Some of the potential long-term side effects of energy drinks include:
- Caffeine dependence
- High blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Liver damage (if we exceed 400 mg of caffeine per day)
- Kidney damage
Long-term side effects of energy drinks can include changes in sleep patterns and anxiety, which can be caused by consuming too many caffeine drinks. These changes are typically reversible if excessive caffeine consumption is gradually stopped.
Also, be sure to drink plenty of water when consuming energy drinks, as water is the best way to reduce the risks of dehydration. Dehydration can result in headaches, fatigue, and irritability.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recommends that people with mental health conditions avoid energy drinks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends that pregnant and breastfeeding women avoid energy drinks.
How To Avoid Energy Drink Side Effects
If you want to avoid the potential side effects of energy drinks, it is best to consume them in moderation. When consumed in moderation, energy drinks are generally safe for healthy individuals.
- Try to consume plenty of water in a day and eat a nutrient-dense diet prioritizing protein with healthy fat, and fiber.
- Skip the sugar and high fructose corn syrup in beverages.
- Swap GOOD IDEA or sparkling water instead of energy drinks.
- Know the ingredients and nutritional value of the energy drink you are consuming.
- Be attentive to how much caffeine is in the energy drink.
- Learn how to limit the amount of caffeine you consume.
- Limit your intake if you experience any side effects while consuming energy drinks.
- Energy drinks are not regulated the same way as beverages like coffee.
Summing Up - Should You Stop Drinking Energy Drinks?
When choosing an energy drink, it is important to select ones that have clean ingredients and are tested. If you consume energy drinks in excess, it’s important to reduce consumption and consume water to see if over time you feel better and to stay hydrated.
If you consume energy drinks regularly, it’s important to discuss your caffeine intake with your doctor. You may be able to reduce your caffeine intake or stop consuming energy drinks altogether.
So are energy drinks worth the risk? That depends on the drink and is a decision that you'll have to make for yourself.
One way in which we can help to reduce these side effects and still have enough energy to power us through the day is by swapping our usual energy drink for a GOOD IDEA. GOOD IDEA does not have any caffeine. This means that we will not have the jitters or that flood of adenosine that typically leaves us feeling exhausted after an energy drink. Instead, GOOD IDEA works to stabilize our blood sugar and increase insulin sensitivity. This allows our body to work at its best and pull glucose from the bloodstream and into our cells to be used as fuel, naturally. Plus, with no caffeine, no sugar, and no artificial sweeteners, GOOD IDEA can be a refreshing way to allow your body to produce the energy it needs without the unwanted side effects.
Updated and Edited (2/21/2023) by Dr. Colleen Gulick