The bare minimum on energy drinks


Energy drinks have become increasingly popular in recent years, particularly among young adults and teenagers. According to the Mayo Clinic, global energy drink sales reached $57 billion in 2020, making energy drinks the second most popular dietary supplement among U.S. young adults and teens, right behind multivitamins. These drinks, which typically contain high levels of caffeine and other stimulants, are marketed as a quick and easy way to boost energy and improve focus. However, they also pose significant health risks, particularly when consumed in excess.


One of the main dangers of energy drinks is their high caffeine content. Many of these drinks contain up to 300 milligrams of caffeine per serving, which is roughly equivalent to the amount of caffeine in three cups of coffee. When consumed in large quantities, caffeine can cause a variety of health problems, including increased heart rate, high blood pressure and anxiety. In severe cases, it can even lead to seizures and cardiac arrest. Energy drink ingredients can also interact negatively with other medications and have adverse effects, mainly due to the high levels of caffeine. Healthcare professionals should be consulted to provide information on the potential health risks of consuming energy drinks.


The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 recommend limiting your sugar intake to 10% per day. For example, in a 2,000-calorie diet, no more than 200 calories should come from added sugars; this is about 12 teaspoons per day. A 16-ounce can of Monster Energy Juice Pacific Punch provides 210 calories and 47 grams of added sugar, which equals about 12 teaspoons or an entire day’s worth of added sugar.


Energy drinks can also lead to dehydration, which is especially dangerous for athletes and people who engage in vigorous physical activity. Caffeine has a diuretic effect, which means it increases the amount of salt and water your body releases in your urine. In extreme cases, because these drinks are often consumed during or after exercise, they can cause the body to lose fluids faster than it can replace them, leading to severe dehydration. This can lead to a range of symptoms, including dizziness, headaches and fatigue, as well as more serious complications such as heat stroke.


Another danger of energy drinks is their impact on sleep. Due to the high levels of caffeine and other stimulants, they interfere with the body’s natural sleep cycle, making it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. The consumption of energy drinks increases sleep latency and the effects of energy drinks can persist for up to 8 hours and can lead to drowsiness. This can lead to a variety of health problems, including fatigue, irritability and poor concentration, as well as an increased risk of an accident or injury.


In addition to these health risks, energy drinks can also be addictive. Many people who consume these drinks on a regular basis report feeling a strong sense of addiction and may experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit. This can include headaches, fatigue and irritability as well as more serious symptoms such as tremors and seizures.

Perhaps most concerning is the impact energy drinks can have on young people, especially teenagers. These drinks are often marketed as hip and trendy and made to look like a harmless way to boost energy and improve performance. However, the risk associated with these drinks is particularly high for young people, whose bodies may be more vulnerable to the effects of caffeine and other stimulants. Studies have linked energy drink consumption among young people to a range of negative outcomes, including poor academic performance, substance abuse and risky behaviors.

Bottom line

While energy drinks may seem like a quick and easy way to boost energy and improve performance, they pose significant health risks, especially when consumed in excess. These drinks can lead to a number of health problems, including high blood pressure, dehydration and sleep disturbances, and can even be addictive. To protect your health, it’s important to be aware of the dangers of energy drinks and consume them in moderation, if at all. Instead, try to focus on healthy habits like regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and adequate sleep, which can help boost energy and improve performance in a safe and sustainable way.

The Air Force has registered dietitians and dietitians who are food and nutrition experts, to help people improve their nutritional status. Nutrition classes and appointments are open to active duty members, retirees, and dependents.

To get personalized help to improve your eating lifestyle and reduce your caffeine intake, call your Wright-Patterson Nutritional Medicine Clinic for an appointment with a dietitian today, 937-257-8815.

Comprehensive information on the potential dangers of energy drinks is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

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