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.