For Better Living: Energy Drinks… Are They Safe?

Sandra Cain Bladen County Cooperative Extension

October 7, 2013

Energy drinks are beverages that contain large doses of caffeine and other legal stimulants like ephedrine, guarana and ginseng. This term was created by companies in the beverage industry and is not recognized by the Food and Drug Administration or the United States Department of Agriculture. Energy drinks are marketed to people under 30 and especially to college students.

Do they increase energy?

There is some evidence that consumption of energy drinks can improve physical and mental performance. Also, they can improve driving ability when tired and decrease mental fatigue during long periods of concentration. Unfortunately the research is limited and it is not known whether this is due to the caffeine, the other ingredients or a combination of the two.

Are there dangers?

The caffeine content of a single drink can range from 80 to 150 mg. Many bottles or cans may contain 2-3 servings which raises the caffeine as high as 300 mg per bottle. Individual responses to caffeine may vary. The stimulating property of energy drinks can increase the heart rate and the blood pressure. It may also dehydrate the body and sometimes, prevent sleep. Groups who are considered at risk, such as women of child bearing age and children, should limit their daily intake of caffeine to less than 300 mg. In adolescents, intakes of greater than 100 mg per day has been associated with elevated blood pressure. Based on these findings, consumption of energy drinks by pregnant or nursing women, adolescents and children is not recommended.

What about exercise?

Unlike sports drinks that replenish minerals and water lost during exercise, energy drinks with caffeine can cause dehydration. The combination of fluid loss from sweating and the diuretic quality of caffeine in combination with exercise can be dangerous. Following negative reports about their effects, many countries are warning people not to consume energy drinks after a heavy workout. Some countries ban the sale of energy drinks. Because caffeine is known to increase endurance, its use is banned by the International Olympics Committee.

Is it safe to mix energy drinks and alcohol?

Energy drinks should not be used as mixers with alcohol for several reasons: -Energy drinks are stimulants and alcohol is a depressant. The combination may be dangerous. They may counteract each other and prevent you from realizing how much alcohol you have consumed. You may feel more alert even though you are intoxicated. -Energy drinks and alcohol can both have a diuretic effect, thus increasing the chance of dehydration and adverse cardiovascular effects.

Sources: California Cooperative Extension and Brown University Health Services

Spanish Rice

1 can (14 ½ ounces) vegetable broth

1 can (14 ½ ounces) stewed tomatoes

1 cup uncooked long grain rice

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. Yield: 6 servings