The energy drink industry is dominated by high-sugar, high-caffeine drinks that make big claims with scarce science to back them up. Whether or not they’re effective, are energy drinks even safe in the first place? In this article we’re going to cover the dark side of energy drinks and give you some tips for avoiding energy drink health risks and finding a safe, healthy, plant-based energizing alternative that naturally contributes to your energy, does not it away.
Do Energy Drinks Actually Work?
The research clearly shows that the main ingredient in energy drinks, caffeine, works. Even the International Society of Sports Nutrition stands behind its effectiveness: caffeine consumed an hour before exercise can improve mental focus, alertness, anaerobic performance, and endurance performance.
Makes sense why there was an outcry from Olympic athletes when high-dose caffeine was banned from the 1984-2004 Olympics by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Energy drinks contain plenty of other ingredients to make you feel like something’s happening, but often these ingredients are either unnecessary to supplement with or are included at such low doses that they don’t do much of anything.
One research study showed that water spiked with caffeine was just as effective as a 5-hour energy drink®, full of all kinds of unnecessary, extra ingredients. On the other hand, another study, with another drink, showed that taking the individual ingredients didn’t do much ー it took the complete combination of ingredients (caffeine, glucose, ginseng, and ginkgo biloba) to produce positive cognitive effects. Of course, one of those ingredients, glucose aka. sugar, does more to sap your energy than give you energy.
Taurine is one example. It plays a critical role in energy and muscle function, but your body makes plenty and doesn’t seem to benefit from supplementing at the levels found in most energy drinks. Even the doses seen in research studies, 500mg-3,000mg or more, doesn’t seem to do much for muscle damage, recovery, or performance in athletes. Interestingly, blood flow in people with diabetes may benefit from Taurine.
B vitamins are important for efficient metabolism (simplified, you need extra B1, thiamine, to burn glucose; and extra B2, riboflavin, to burn fat), but one B vitamin is added to energy drinks mostly for show.
The recommended daily intake of riboflavin is 1.1 mg/day for women, 1.2 mg/day for men. You may need extra amounts for high levels of physical activity, but the research isn’t clear on this.
The recommended daily intake of riboflavin is 1.3 milligrams daily for men and 1.1 mg for women, but those needs increase 60% if you’re doing 30 minutes of cardio 6 days per week. Weight loss also increases your needs for riboflavin up to 60%, so if you’re seeing issues with weight loss and aerobic exercise, try getting more!
Niacin (vitamin B3) is added to give you a flushed, tingly feeling. Daily needs are 14mg daily for women, 16 mg daily for men, and energy drinks usually add between 24 to 47 mg per can. This can help with vasodilation and improving blood flow, but there are much better ways to get your niacin and much better ways to boost blood flow without feeling like you’re having a hot flash. Click here for our article on the performance enhancing, vasodilating effects of nitric oxide.
Vitamin B12 makes your pee electric yellow, which always manages to make me feel like I’m doing amazing things, and it may even have positive effects on energy. High doses have been associated with better fine motor control as well as red blood cell and serotonin production.
B6, B12, and folic acid (B9) were used in one study of mice to increase the nitric oxide levels raised by L-arginine, but other research suggests that you must be getting one of these active versions of B12: cyanocobalamin, methylcobalamin, and adenosylcobalamin. Other types of B12 (oxocaobalamin, cobinamide) may have inhibitory effects on nitric oxide, meaning less blood flow and potentially poorer performance. Supplementation can be helpful in times of high physical demand, but you probably can’t actually feel it’s effects.
Other ingredients offer legitimate bioactive effects. The fatigue-relieving effect of ginger, the cognitive-enhancing effect of gingko, and the inflammation-fighting power of ginseng each have some amount of research to back them up as energy-boosting supplements.
What you also need to pay attention to in your energy drinks is the presence of nutrients that support your body in times of high energy output, especially if you are an athlete. It’s one thing to jolt you with caffeine, it’s another to support your body and every layer of connective tissue with the amino acids it needs to perform and recover its best.
What are the Side Effects of Energy Drinks?
So, are energy drinks effective? They can be, but most aren’t.
Well, are energy drinks safe? They can be, but most aren’t.
Norway, Denmark, and France have banned Red Bull® for a reason. Energy drinks can have some nasty downstream effects in the short- and long-term.
The most common side-effects are caused by excessive caffeine (more than 400mg, or four cups of coffee, per day), but poorly regulated additional ingredients may have their own set of adverse effects. Here’s our complete list of dangers of energy drinks reported in the research:
Short Term Side Effects of Energy Drinks
- Dehydration which can lead to dizziness, vertigo, and fainting
- Increase blood pressure and heart rate, tachycardia, heart palpitations
- Increase the risk for panic attacks, irritability, anxiety, and psychological distress
- Increase risk for seizures
- Upset stomach, gut pain, diarrhea
- Muscle twitching
- Killing your recovery with difficulty sleeping or not being able to rest
- Spike your blood sugar, followed by the inevitable sugar crash.
After you take into account all the negative effects that follow on the heels of that caffeine high, how long do energy drinks really last? Anything that puts your long-term health at risk doesn’t justify the meager 5 hour rush.
Long-term Side Effects of Energy Drinks:
- Unintentional weight gain and increased risk for heart disease and diabetes, due to the excessive sugar content
- Heart disease and stroke, due to the excessive caffeine
- Chronic dehydration, which can lead to kidney stones
- Cavities and tooth decay
- Caffeine dependence, and the consequent caffeine withdrawal
- Adrenal fatigue, when your body can’t keep up with the high demand for elevated stress hormones
- Excessive B-vitamins can cause blood problems and inflammation of the liver
- Gastrointestinal problems from excessive amounts of added ingredients
So if you’re thinking “why are energy drinks bad for you?”, a long list like this should be enough to never crack open a can of sugary caffeine again! Energy drinks are bad for your kidneys, your heart, your weight, and your gut, but even that doesn’t account for all the side-stream effects that often go unreported.
Who Should Not Have Energy Drinks?
Scientists, governments, and athletic institutions have all told us that the safety of energy drinks should be . Specific populations that should be more careful about high caffeine drinks include:
- Children and adolescents under 18 years old
- People who have never had caffeine or who are sensitive to caffeine
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women
- Taking other stimulants or other caffeine-heavy drinks
- Heart conditions, high blood pressure, and other chronic diseases
If you’re wondering what the best energy drink for a diabetic is, or what energy drinks are safe for your heart, there are a few ingredients to pay attention to, but you still have to read the energy drink nutrition facts and decide for yourself.
People concerned about the harmful effects of energy drinks should look for an alternative that has zero sugar, zero caffeine, zero fillers, and is quality certified. Beyond that, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider, but Resync RTD is the first sparkling heart-healthy, plant-based drink to hit the U.S. market, learn more here!
Other Negatives about Energy Drinks?
Lackluster regulation and missing quality certifications are major issues in the energy beverage industry. Contaminants and unidentified fillers can cause side effects you didn't even know you were supposed to be looking out for.
In fact, the National Poison Data System reported 4854 calls related to energy drinks in 2013.
3192 (65%) of those poison hotline calls were due to contaminated drinks.
We’ve talked about the importance of third-party quality certification for all the supplements you take; energy drinks are no different.
Are There Natural Alternatives To Energy Drinks?
Due to the risk for dependence and the nasty side effects, energy drink alternatives have been in high demand lately.
Simply getting your caffeine in moderate amounts from natural sources may be enough to minimize most of the negative effects of energy drinks.
Black coffee, plain tea, yerba mate, and other natural beverages are a great source of minerals, vitamins, and polyphenol antioxidants - so choosing these over the empty calories of an energy drink is a step in the right direction.
But you might be looking to get the negative effects of caffeine dependency out of your life for good. That cycle just isn’t sustainable for life! What is the energy drink that actually works with the least amount of caffeine? Which energy drink is the healthiest?
Resync RTD: A Revolutionary Refreshment With No Stimulants
Here’s where Resync Ready to Drink stands out, a clean, plant-based source of caffeine-free energy.
Resync works because we took a look at what your body needs to reach its potential. Instead of sapping your body’s nutrient levels with empty calories from sugar and high doses of caffeine, Resync RTD adds the nutrients your body needs on a daily basis.
Our plant-based blend of red spinach, aronia berry, and beetroot extracts proved to be the perfect blend for supporting the performance of professional athletes and the health of cardiac rehab patients alike. This is a keto- and diabetes-friendly plant-based drink that’s actually good for you anytime of the day. The carbonation & aronia citrus flavor make this RTD your best sparkling refreshment choice.
Then we added vitamin C, polyphenol antioxidants, heart-healthy potassium, two types of fiber (beta-glucan and inulin).
The big beverage industry has forced the world into a toxic routine of too much sugar and too many stimulants for more than a century, playing their part to fuel this pandemic’s burn path across the world.
Resync has been working on ways to disrupt this industry with your health at the core of our business strategy, so we created the newest plant-based healthy drink without precedent and without parallel.
Which are you going to reach for?
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Wishing you the best in your health,
The Resync Team
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