Vitamin energy drinks are widely used as quick pick-me-ups. They are popular among students, professionals, and athletes as a general all-purpose tonic. However, many experts are beginning to think these drinks are not only not healthy but may instead be actively harmful.
The key ingredient in most energy drinks is caffeine. A dose of caffeine does improve mental clarity and energy, but the effect is short-lived and is quickly followed by fatigue.
Most energy drink users simply reach for another one when that happens. However, energy drinks contain a lot of caffeine. A typical cup of coffee, which is sipped slowly, contains 100 mg of caffeine. A typical energy drink, which is chugged, contains 200 mg or even more caffeine.
The recommended maximum dose of caffeine per day is 400 mg. Two or three energy drinks will quickly surpass that limit. Overdoses of caffeine cause jitteriness, irritability, nervousness, and elevated blood pressure. Higher doses can cause hallucinations and violent behavior.
In addition to caffeine, most energy drinks contain herbal stimulants such as guarana and ginseng, and performance-boosting drugs. Combining taurine with caffeine has been shown to enhance caffeine’s ability to elevate blood pressure.
Individuals with heart conditions may require medical attention after consuming energy drinks due to dangerously elevated blood pressure and an altered heart rhythm. In fact, there have been reports of deaths after consumption of as few as two energy drinks.
In addition, there have been reports that the combination of guarana, taurine, and caffeine can cause seizures in susceptible people. There have also been several reports of people suffering kidney and liver damage after heavy use of energy drinks.
Lack of Sleep
Energy drinks are used to increase energy and offset fatigue. Ironically, the use of energy drinks may actually cause or increase fatigue by interfering with sleep. Caffeine consumption, particularly during the afternoon or evening, is well-known to cause insomnia.
Energy drink users may find themselves caught in a cycle of using the drinks to offset fatigue, only to have the drink cause more fatigue the next day.
What About the Vitamins
In addition to containing caffeine, energy drinks also contain vitamins, particularly B vitamins. However, while an essential part of a healthy diet, B vitamins have never been shown to increase energy.
When taken at recommended doses B vitamins support good health, but when taken in larger doses B vitamins can cause numbness and tingling of the hands and feet and insomnia.
The B vitamins in energy drinks may be contributing to their ability to disturb sleep and actually cause, not relieve, fatigue.
Do They Enhance Performance
Some studies have reported temporary improvements in cognition, alertness, and athletic performance after consumption of an energy drink. However, other studies have not been able to identify any benefit.
It is clear that any effect lasts at most for an hour, followed by an increase in fatigue. Therefore, it might be counter-productive to consume an energy drink before running a marathon or taking a 2-hour test.
The increased fatigue commonly experienced the day after consuming energy drinks may also impair test-taking by students who use them to “cram” the night before.
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