The name is what usually grabs you first: Red Bull. Monster Ultra. Bang. Rockstar. Wild Tiger. No, these aren’t names of rock bands. Rather, they’re names of energy drinks, popular beverages that have blasted their way into the beverage market.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) defines energy drinks as beverages that “typically contain large amounts of caffeine, added sugars, other additives, and legal stimulants such as guarana, taurine, and L-carnitine.” The legal stimulants in energy drinks “can increase alertness, attention, energy, as well as increase blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing.”
Some energy drinks also contain B vitamins. B vitamins help the body use energy from food (although B vitamins do not give you an energy boost). They may also contain other herbs, such as ginseng. Energy drinks are in the category of dietary supplements, which means that don’t undergo a FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approval process.
Both energy drinks and sports drinks have added ingredients that are intended to do something, such as make you feel more alert and energized, as in the case of energy drinks. Sports drinks contain ingredients that are intended to increase or enhance athletic performance; for example, sports drinks typically contain carbohydrate and electrolytes, including potassium and sodium. They might also contain vitamins.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health states that “men between the ages of 18 and 34 years consume the most energy drinks, and almost one-third of teens between 12 and 17 years drink them regularly.”
Energy drinks are one of the fastest growing products in the beverage market. Monster Beverage Corporation, Red Bull, Coca-Cola, Rockstar Inc., and PepsiCo are a few of the many companies with a high market share in the energy drinks segment, and these companies promote their beverages through advertising, and sports players and celebrity endorsement. These drinks are marketed towards teens and young adults and are often promoted in conjunction with sporting events, such as extreme skiing, motorsports, and skateboarding. It’s not surprising, then, that adolescents and young adults are drawn to energy drinks. The CDC notes that many school districts sell these beverages in vending machines, school stores, and snack bars.
Adults, too, are often drawn towards energy drinks as they serve as an alternate way to get caffeine and that “pick me up” without needing to drink coffee, tea, or soda.
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Grabbing a can of Red Bull or Burn can seem like a good idea when you’re trying to stay awake after a sleepless night or are feeling the need for a mid-afternoon energy burst. But while energy drinks may increase alertness, they have a dark side, too:
Emergency room visits have increased in adults age 40 and older as a result of seizures, dehydration, and high blood pressure due to the caffeine in energy drinks.
Caffeine stimulates the nervous system, making you feel more awake and alert. It’s also a diuretic and can increase blood pressure and the release of acid in the stomach. Some people should limit or avoid caffeine, including those with:
Pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised to limit caffeine, as well.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends no more than 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per day — roughly 4-5 cups of coffee. However, some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others and may need to consume less than that.
Here’s an approximation of how much caffeine is in common beverages, such as coffee, tea and cola:
Here’s how much caffeine is in certain energy drinks:
Energy drinks can contain upwards of almost 300 calories per serving. Note that 16-ounce cans may list a serving size as 8 ounces (2 servings per container).
You might be wondering if there are any sugar-free or lo- carb energy drinks. The answer is yes — here are some examples:
Let’s look at a couple of examples.
Energy drinks aren’t for everyone, especially for people who are sensitive to caffeine. And, of course, “regular,” or full-sugar energy drinks are definitely something to shy away from if you have diabetes. Here are a few pointers:
Want to learn more about beverages and diabetes? See “Staying Hydrated,” “Best Beverages for Staying Hydrated,” “Water Facts: Getting to Know H20,” and “What’s to Drink?”
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