Energy drinks are big business. According to a May 2022 article in Forbes, the energy drink market is predicted to reach all-time highs of nearly $100 billion by 2027. The fascination with energy drinks has been picking up steam for a while, and they won’t be going away anytime soon. Innovation persists in this category through new takes on energy drinks like nitro-infused sodas, energy shots, or even adaptogenic energy drinks which continue to show up on grocery store shelves.
Energy drinks’ main claims to fame include the “promise” of energy for everything from athletic performance, to everyday pick-me-ups, increased mental focus, and a boost in alertness. Energy drinks are often synonymous with high sugar, excess caffeine (including guarana), and added B-vitamins. Often, vitamin B-12 is used in energy drinks because this vitamin is connected to energy metabolism in the human body, so the hope is extra B-12 equals more energy. Unfortunately, extra vitamin B-12, whether through diet or supplement, has not been demonstrated to provide more energy unless there is a true nutritional insufficiency or deficiency.
Now may be the time to give up energy drinks. Read on for five surprising effects if you do, and for more on how to eat healthy, don’t miss The #1 Best Juice to Drink Every Day, Says Science.
Caffeine is a known stimulant, and most 16-ounce cans of energy drinks contain around 150 milligrams of caffeine. However, there are a few energy drink brands with a staggering 300 milligrams per 16-ounce container! That much caffeine can really disrupt sleep. It is recommended to keep total caffeine intake under 400 milligrams per day, however, under 300 milligrams is even more beneficial and the number drops to under 200 milligrams per day if you are pregnant. A 2013 study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine concluded that having caffeine within six hours of bedtime has notable disruptive effects on sleep and that caffeine is associated with insomnia. It is reasonable to suspect that reducing caffeine intake could improve the duration of sleep.
Although the headaches could come on stronger the first few days due to withdrawal symptoms, the elimination or reduction of caffeine intake from beverages like energy drinks will serve you well in the long run, including likely less headaches. The American Migraine Foundation recommends that people with episodic migraines and daily headaches limit or completely avoid caffeine and that daily caffeine intake can lead to medication overuse (or “rebound”) headaches. A 2020 study in Nutrients further explored the caffeine-headache connection, pointing out that higher doses of caffeine induce headaches and that greater baseline caffeine intake increases the likelihood of withdrawal headaches. Consider gradually reducing your current caffeine intake from beverages like energy drinks and being consistent with the amount you drink each day to lessen the chance of these problems.
The American Psychological Association defines anxiety as an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure. Approximately 31.1% of U.S. adults experience any anxiety disorder at some time in their lives. Energy drinks, and specifically the caffeine contained in them, has been associated with anxiety. A 2014 study in Depression and Anxiety found a significant correlation between energy drink consumption and anxiety in young adult males.
Some evidence points towards higher abnormal heartbeats with excess caffeine consumption. Caffeinated coffee consumption was associated with a 54% increase in premature ventricular contractions (a type of abnormal heartbeat) in an analysis from the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2021. Furthermore, the Journal of the American Heart Association published a 2019 study that concluded that acute consumption of a caffeinated energy drink significantly prolongs the “QTc interval” when compared to a placebo. Longer QTc intervals are associated with arrhythmias and may be to blame for the sudden cardiac arrests related to energy drink consumption.
Energy drinks and the caffeine contained therein may relax or weaken the lower esophageal sphincter of the digestive tract, which could then trigger acid reflux and heartburn. Keeping a lid on your energy drink intake could result in better control of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) as it lessens the likelihood of acid regurgitation into the throat or mouth. Some sufferers of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may also benefit from doing away with energy drinks as both the sugar (usually around 60 grams of added sugar per 16-ounce can) and caffeine in energy drinks could alter gut transit time, leading to cramping or diarrhea.
Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD