We’ve all been there: It’s the 2 p.m. slump the day after an all-nighter when you still have half the day to face but just can’t stomach another coffee. So you grab an energy drink (or two) to get you through the rest of your day until you can catch up on sleep. Or, you’re feeling a little weary before hitting the gym and decide to reach for an energy drink to get you in the zone. Whatever your reasons are for sipping on energy drinks, you should probably stop now.
According to Refinery 29 and Discovery News, more and more scientific evidence is coming together to illustrate the deadly effects of energy drinks on our bodies. The sugar, caffeine and additional energy stimulants that give you that extra boost comprise a deadly cocktail of ingredients that at best strains your heart function, and, at worst, can land you in the hospital.
A study conducted by the University of Bonn, Germany, found that energy drink consumption changes the way the heart functions. In this study, energy drink consumption caused significantly increased heart contraction rates in healthy adults aged 18-26, for up to an hour after having consumed the beverage. The increased heart contractions posed a risk for arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats.
One explanation for the startling side effects of energy drinks has to do with the way they’re labeled, according to U.S. News. Energy drinks that are marketed as dietary supplements are not regulated or evaluated for safety by the FDA. This means that they can forgo a nutrition facts label that discloses which stimulants (and how much) are in the drink. However, beverages that are FDA-approved can still choose not to disclose the volume of stimulants. Even worse, while some popular energy drinks may disclose all of this information, they may not take into account the caffeine content of other stimulants in the beverage, leading to inaccurate labeling information. With most energy drinks containing between 80 milligrams to over 350 milligrams of caffeine, plus sugar and energy supplements like taurine and guarana, it can be hard to know exactly what you’re getting in that can.
If you’re using energy drinks as a mixer or to fuel your workout, take caution. A study found that bar patrons who had consumed alcohol mixed with energy drinks were “three times more likely to leave a bar highly intoxicated and four times more likely to intend to drive while intoxicated than those who did not consume alcohol mixed with energy drinks.” A possible explanation for this is that the stimulating effects of energy drinks mask the depressive effects of alcohol, making you think you’re not as drunk as you really are.
It’s the same stimulating effects that make working out while drinking an energy drink dangerous as well. Another study found that athletes who had consumed an energy drink prior to working out reported insomnia and increased anxiety, compared to those who didn’t. The combination of an increased heart rate from the exertion of working out, compounded by increased heart contractions and anxiety reported in the studies above makes a strong case for keeping energy drinks out of your workout routine, and the rest of your life!
So if you need an afternoon pick-me-up, try to get a 20-minute power nap in, or even a short workout—Both will leave you feeling refreshed after. If you absolutely must have a sip of something to boost your energy levels, reach for coconut water or a plain coffee. Your heart will thank you!