The Best & Worst Energy Drinks + How to Get Energized Without the Caffeine Fix

Here at Her Campus, we really do understand your stress. Writing papers while juggling midterms, extracurricular activities, and meetings can make any collegiette™ feel overwhelmed.  Sleepless nights of cramming can easily cause a quick crash. So what do you do? Find a caffeine fix. Coffee, Red Bull, Monster, 5-Hour Energy—all of these options seem like the best choices at the time; but in reality additive sugars and other elements of these drinks can be more harmful than helpful.
So what’s actually in energy drinks?
While coffee is known for its caffeine component, energy drinks often contain even more caffeine than one, two, or even three cups of coffee. According to an article on the Associated Content website, one 8 oz. serving of an energy drink, like Red Bull, contains between 80 to 100 milligrams of caffeine. This overload of caffeine causes the quick “boost” that you’re searching for at 4 a.m., but you may also end up crashing later.

There are serious health risks that come into play with caffeine-laden energy drinks. According to an article written by Dr. Edward R. Laskowski, a Mayo Clinic physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist, caffeine in energy drinks can greatly affect your blood pressure. The spikes in caffeine “can increase your blood pressure and make your heart beat faster. In some cases, this can trigger potentially dangerous changes in heart rhythm.” In addition, “The caffeine in energy drinks can make you irritable, restless and nervous.”
Furthermore, “[These drinks] have high [amounts of] sugar,” said Katie Clark, an assistant clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco. “People aren’t necessarily aware that there’s that much sugar in those products.” The Associated Content article states that an 8 oz. bottle might contain between 20 to 33 grams of sugars.
Caffeine and sugars, though, are not the only culprits responsible for energy drinks’ bad reputation; an often over-looked and dangerous component is taurine. “Taurine is an amino acid with high concentrations in the heart and brain,” said Ph.D. and Energy Health Specialist, Dr. Debra Greene, in an email. “The functioning of these two vital organs needs to be supported, not artificially over-stimulated.” This over-stimulation comes from the “fake energy” these drinks create “by forcing the body into an accelerated mode through a combination of caffeine, taurine and sugar,” Dr. Greene said.

Ngozi Ekeledo has four major loves in life: reading, writing, laughing and sports. She is a junior in the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, yet despite being in the Midwest, she’s still a Southern girl at heart. She’s majoring in Broadcast Journalism, minoring in Sociology and pursuing an Integrated Marketing Communications Certificate. She is currently the Marketing Director for the Northwestern News Network and serves as a reporter for Sports Night, her campus’s sports TV show. She is also a writer for North By Northwestern (her campus’s online publication) and is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and Alpha Kappa Psi. When she isn’t busy bouncing around in a bubble of journalism, she can be found dishing out sarcastic quips, longing for her mom’s homemade mac n’ cheese or playing impromptu Friday night basketball games with her crazy, yet entertaining friends. After college, she hopes to pursue a career in sports journalism and one day work her dream job at ESPN. Hopefully Erin Andrews , Linda Cohn and Rachel Nichols will be on board for her round table, The View-esque sports TV show idea.

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