The Scary Truth About Energy Drinks

“Aside from the jet packs and the monkey overlords, one of the things that science fiction promised us in the new millennium was food in convenient pill form. But reality cheated our imaginations on every level. Instead of jet packs, we got Segway scooters. Instead of monkeys, we got the Bush administration. And instead of food pills, we got energy drinks.”
– Jeff Penalty, Swindle Magazine

A boost to beat “that 2:30 feeling.”

A remedy for a poor diet.

Athletic prowess like never before.

Such are the promises of energy drinks. This trend seems to be a natural evolution of our love for (and, in some cases, dependence on) caffeine, starting with coffee and progressing to cola and super-charged sodas such as Mountain Dew. You can even purchase caffeinated soap to get your buzz before your coffee is done brewing!

Let’s face it — we love being wired. But do energy drinks go too far?

What the hell is this?

I first saw an energy drink during a half-marathon a couple years ago, when someone ahead of me chucked an empty Red Bull can over his shoulder, hitting me in the head. In rage, I picked it up to throw it back at him, but the small size of the can piqued my curiosity: What the hell is this?

I thought I had discovered a runner’s secret. I’ve never been much of pop drinker, so I had missed the displays of Red Bull and Monster in the convenience store coolers. It sounded like a miracle tonic: “Red Bull gives you wings.” Wings? Awesome.

My tenure as an energy-drink consumer lasted one day. If by “wings,” Red Bull meant anxiety, shaky hands, nausea, and an eerie resemblance to Philip the Hyper-Hypo after a candy bar, then yes, I had wings.

I stared at the can again, wondering: What the hell is this? Since then, I’ve been trying to figure out the answer, even studying the drinks as part of my dissertation for my doctoral program. As I sifted through the research, I found that under the heavy data and big words, there was one common theme:

Energy drinks promise a lot, sure — but there’s a lot more they aren’t telling us.

It can’t be worse than coffee…right?

Energy drinks are more complex than simple ground coffee beans or carbonated water and sugar. These drinks claim to go beyond the effects of the simple caffeine buzz by adding more stimulants derived from vitamins, herbs, and amino acids to create a more intense energy effect.

Many energy drinks studied have double or even triple the amount of most other caffeine-containing beverages, such as soda or iced teas, even though the serving size of an energy drink is often two-thirds (or less) of a typical soda on the market.

Let’s think about that for a second — you’re packing a powerful punch of caffeine into a tiny, tiny package.

And you’re probably not sipping it throughout the morning, like a cup of coffee. Many energy drinks can be finished in three gulps (some, like 5-Hour Energy, can be downed like a shot glass). That’s a powerful caffeine bomb.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) limits the caffeine content in soda to 65 mg per 12 ounces, but energy drinks are not regulated under any FDA standards. Additionally, many of the herbs, vitamins, and minerals frequently used in energy drinks have no set recommended value by any reputable agency in America. Some of these common ingredients in energy drinks can include guarana, taurine, ginseng, L-carnitine, inositol, choline, and sugars. Some drinks may also add creatine, gingko biloba, milk thistle, and vitamins, especially the B vitamins.

Apart from sugars and vitamins, none of these ingredients have daily recommended values, and many of these ingredients have not been deemed truly safe for public consumption. Because these are not regulated by the FDA, energy drink manufacturers are able to make claims of the efficacy of various ingredients in increasing the energy of a person who consumes their product. Even if you wanted to investigate the validity of a manufacturer’s claim, there is very little unbiased, scholarly research to help you.

You’re putting what into your body?

Caffeine, a major ingredient in the energy drink domain, has long been touted for its ability to increase physical energy. However, at high doses, such as those found in energy drinks, dangerous physical effects such as heart palpitations, rapid heart rate, nausea, vomiting, and chest pains occur.

Creatine, another ingredient found in some energy drinks, is used in some muscle-building programs. However, in excessive dosages or combined with other energry-drink ingredients, Creatine has been associated with muscle cramps, gastrointestinal distress, electrolyte imbalance, and dehydration.

The physical benefits of taurine, touted by energy drink manufacturers, have been deemed “scientifically doubtful” by researchers.

B-vitamins, especially Vitamins B6 and B12, are also common energy drink ingredients. But here’s the thing about B vitamins in energy drinks: They don’t actually work. As the chairwoman of chairwoman of Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutritionists for the American Dietetic Association said in an interview with  LA Times Newspaper:

“It’s brilliant marketing, but it doesn’t have any basis.”

Vitamins and minerals are an essential part of any diet, and as vegetarians and vegans, many of us try to get extra doses of some (like B12). But doctors warn that too much of a good thing will have consequences. Vitamins B6 and B12, in large doses, have been found to contribute to a variety of unpleasant effects: numbness and tingling in the hands and feet; insomnia; hyperthyroid; and the degeneration of vital organs, such as the liver, kidneys, and nervous system.

Perhaps even more frightening is the lack of reputable information on other ingredients of energy drinks. A search for scholarly, unbiased material on the effects of such ingredients as choline, rhodiola, rosea, crenulata, and astragalus turns up no true evidence of the effectiveness, safety, or hazards of these materials at the doses present in energy drinks.

What’s the worst that could happen?

Though no conclusive proof is available directly linking the energy drinks to serious injury and death, some researchers have recently provided insight into the matter:

  • Heart damage has been shown to result from cases of major caffeine overdose, which could contribute to death or serious injury.
  • Researchers from the University of Wisconsin examined the combination of caffeine and taurine, discovering the  two together contributed to a marked increase in blood pressure and bradycardia (a potentially dangerous decrease in heart rate).
  • Doctors in Phoenix, Arizona observed four patients experience and survive new-onset seizures after consuming energy drinks with caffeine, taurine, and guarana. Once the patients stopped all energy drink consumption, the seizures ceased as well.

I don’t know about you, but I’d place that in the “Damning Evidence” file.

At best, it’s borrowed energy

Brendan Brazier, in his nutrition guide and cookbook Thrive Foods, says it best:

“Obtaining energy by way of stimulation is like shopping with a credit card. You get something you desire now, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have to pay eventually. That bill will come.”

A 2003 study examining the link between caffeine and sleep patterns discovered those who consume high amounts of caffeine, regardless of time of day they consume it, experience smaller amounts of sleep at night. A person who downs a Red Bull before a long run may find they can’t get to sleep that night. When we disturb our body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, we’re more at risk for drastic consequences, including extreme fatigue, difficulty regulating moods and emotions, difficulty thinking, and accidents leading to injuries.

But will it make you faster?

Findings on whether energy drinks are effective in improving physical performance have been conflicting. Some studies have found no measurable change in performance between athletes who consumed a commercially-available energy drink and a group of peers who consumed a placebo drink.

Others found the stimulative benefit of energy drinks to last for approximately 60 minutes, followed by what’s popularly referred to as a “crash.” You’ve probably experienced it at some point: sudden drop in energy, marked fatigue, and the desire to drop everything and go back to bed.

The bottom line? If you think a can of Monster or Rockstar is going to suddenly turn you into Ryan Hall, think again.

Better ways to increase your energy

If you’re using energy drinks just to get enough energy for work/training/studying, you need more than a Red Bull. Step back, look at what you’re doing, and figure out why you’re so sluggish. If you need to, talk to a doctor about your diet and sleep habits to figure out why your energy is lacking. Using these drinks to mask a lack of energy won’t fix the problem — and it may even make it worse.

If you’re still looking for a boost to your workouts:

  • For natural energy sources, check out some of the recipes for natural energy gels and bars that can fuel your workout in natural ways.
  • Try a singular, moderate source of caffeine, such as coffee, green tea, or yerba mate, instead of high levels or combinations of multiple energy-inducing ingredients (which is where many of the problems seem to arise).
  • Remember that the more you use caffeine before and during workouts, the less effective it becomes.

I wish I could say I found that magic tonic that gives you wings, but it simply doesn’t exist. If you want your running to feel easier, run more. If you want to feel less tired and more energetic, sleep more and eat better. But guzzling down an energy drink is a temporary fix — and, given the possible consequences, may not be worth it.

Oh, and the guy who threw the Red Bull over his shoulder at that half-marathon?

He bonked eventually. I beat him.

Wings are overrated, anyway.

Contrary to what her daily wardrobe may indicate, Susan Lacke is not a spokesperson for In addition to serving as No Meat Athlete’s Resident Triathlete, she has a monthly column in Competitor Magazine and weekly blog on Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke.



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  1. Ugh…red bull. I drank 4 of those in one night once. It was my first of 2 weeks of overnights for a retailer (we were remodeling the store while it was open) and it left me exactly as you described…very shaky and touchy.

    We also tried some sort of chinese energy drinks that the guy running the cafe next door sold us. My coworker and I drank about 1/3 of a can before we both had rapid heartbeats almost immediately. That was the end of the scary unknown energy drink experiment.

    After all that red bull consumption I can’t go near the stuff again.

    • Is it not interesting that 93 % of suppliments largely consist of synthetics… OF which I have known for 50 plus years, destroy ones immune system,and or… Have little or no natural potency or efficacy… These facts are rarely mentioned as they are also manufactured by the Drug Companies. Take Care.

  2. Susan, what’s your take on chocolate covered espresso beans? I’ve never tried them, but I read where Dean Karnazes uses them frequently while running.

  3. You need to watch this video. Since watching it, I can’t so much as look at energy drinks without bursting into laughter.

  4. I hate hate hate energy drinks. Contradictory to this, I’ve tried many of them… but I guess that’s how I learned.

    Your point where you say, “It can’t be worse than coffee, right?” totally hit home with me. I nearly overdosed on caffeine in college because of the No-Doz I decided to take said that each pill was like 2 cups of coffee. I had the naive idea that because I drink 4+ cups of coffee per day that I could ignore the warning on the bottle that said, “Do not consume more than 2 doses per 24 hour period”. I consumed those two doses in less than 2 hours… and ended up calling the Poison Control Center Hotline at 2am.

    You’d think I’d have learned after that, but when I started a new job that required me to wake up at 5am, I started drinking 5 Hour Energy shots. Once I had one after I finished my morning coffee, and I was so jittery and nauseous that I had to go home early from work that day.

    That was my last 5 Hour Energy and my last energy drink or pill… about 3 years ago.

    I’ll just stick to coffee!

    • tim Gladman says:

      i when i was waiting at synedy air port i couldn’t find energy drinks so i bout a pack of no doz and had the hole pack and it keeped me awake all night and when you are over in thailand energy drinks come in a little brown bottle and the energy drinks are double concentrated and non carbonated so i wonder thai energy drinks in some countries could be band

  5. The trouble with caffeine is, it’s only a stimulant when you first start using it. After that, you need to consume your usual amounts of it just to function normally. That’s because it works by blocking receptors for adenosine (an inhibitory neurotransmitter), but your cells respond by making even more adenosine receptors. At that point, you need to keep increasing the caffeine dose to keep getting a buzz. Failing that, if you don’t consume enough caffeine, you’ll have to deal with all that extra adenosine receptor activity – the drowsiness, headaches, etc. that caffeine addicts who haven’t gotten their fix know all too well.

    That said, moderate caffeine intake seems to be healthful, and it shouldn’t lead to any problems, but this gram+ daily intake that many people have going on ain’t moderate.

  6. I drink VEGA sport performance optimizer. Even though this is an excellent healthy mix,it has Ginseng. You should not consume this herb everyday.

  7. I’ve seen energy drink companies handing out free drinks before races. Seems risky to me, especially if you’ve never downed an energy drink before running. Inevitably the start line is littered with empty cans but personally I would never touch the stuff.

  8. I cut out energy drinks a really long time ago, as soon as I realized what they put in there, I am surprised it’s legal. So many people are blind to understand what they are drinking, that stuff is pure poison.

  9. Thanks for this post Susan.
    I don’t drink energy drinks and I’ve been leery of them, but I have never taken the time to research them, so when I tell friends they aren’t good for them, I have nothing to back up my thoughts … now I have you and this post!
    Thanks … I will be sharing this.

  10. I think the bottom line is that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is…. I’ve never been too tempted by energy drinks; I might have had one once, but it obviously didn’t appeal to me because I never continued. (For the record, I also don’t do soda, although a cup of coffee or two and dark chocolate are definitely on the menu.)

    For a run, if I want caffeine, I turn to a cup of coffee beforehand and perhaps an espresso gel product during, although I would like to wean myself off the latter as well.

    I agree with the credit card analogy. If something comes that easily upfront, you’ll probably end up paying for it later. I don’t understand why people find it so necessary to get a quick fix. Working towards something slowly and truly earning it is so much more rewarding.

  11. Until yesterday I had no desire to ever try an energy drink…the whole concept turned me off.

    But yesterday was a first. I drove 700 miles from Toledo, OH, back home to New London, CT. I knew I could do it one day but also knew that I was tired because I hadn’t sleep well while away. I checked out a variety of energy drinks at a grocery store the day before I left and found one called Steaz ( It seemed like the best choice. I got up early and got on the road (no coffee). About an hour later, I had some breakfast (turkey and swiss on whole wheat…I made it before I left) and drank the Steaz. I felt alert and awake and energized but not shaky or jittery. It’s not something I’d have on a regular basis but I’d definitely have it again under similar circumstances!

  12. I love this post! I am currently a college student and I see so many of these energy drinks around campus it sickens me. The worst is when energy drinks are combined with alcohol so you can stay awake to drink more! Now that is scary! All the terrible effects of energy drinks plus the downing effects of alcohol.

    On a somewhat disturbing but also comical note, my boyfriend and I were hiking in NH last month and were almost all the way through the descent when we ran into a family already huffing and puffing on their way up, and the teenage kid was trying to chug down a Monster presumably so he could make it to the top… we think they probably didn’t make it to the top.

  13. Great post, Susan! And since Matt is always making me feel bad about my coffee fetish, I’ll take this as a chance to gloat about something worse that I don’t do 🙂

  14. Energy drinks have always scared me, obviously for good reason. Coconut water all the way for this girl!

  15. I have also heard from cardiologists about the heart impacts from 5 Hour Energy Drink.
    I get hives from powerade/gatorade, so I avoid those.
    Doesn’t it makes sense to have something all natural, chemical free, artificial color/sugar free?
    I’m surprised this article doesn’t mention chia. I add chia to drinks, and I have friends who love, and I have friends who swear coconut water is the THING if you want to avoid headaches after a long run.

  16. I drink the 8.5 oz sugar free Red Bull 5-6 times per week. It takes me over an hour to drink it, so I don’t get a rush or crash. I just LOVE IT! I use to drink a 20 oz diet coke 5-6 times per week. I have given up soda all together but still seem to have a need to hang on to that tiny can. I figured this swap is a step in the right direction. I’m happy to say after reading this article I think I’m OK with that. I don’t use the Red Bull in any of the ways talked about here.

  17. I don’t like reading about people who overdo energy drinks – not responsible behavior. I sip energy drinks. I don’t gulp them. I don’t throw cans over my shoulder. I probably drink less than 2 a month. Usually I eat very healthy and get enough sleep but there are times when life gets in the way and an energy drink helps me get through it. What I also don’t like is people who see me drinking an energy drink and start talking down to me. Most people have to make trade-offs in life. This is a pretty harmless one. And, yes, I have had an energy drink before a run. It didn’t help me run faster and I didn’t crash. It did wake me up so I didn’t start the race half asleep. Coffee, stretching, pre-race walks just were not working. I’ll continue to drink them responsibly.

  18. You never answered the most important questions: Did you actually throw that can back at him? And how did he react? LOL

    Thanks for this article. I tried Red Bull once – took one sip and just didn’t get the attraction to it. I’ve never had it since. Combining the lack of flavor with the number of those stupid little cans I see littering up the side of the roads and the penchant people have for wanting to be wide awake drunk via Red Bull mixers, I’m actually a little repulsed by it now.

    A former coffee junkie, I now have a set amount of coffee that I drink each day for enjoyment, and only before noon. After that it’s water. I guess I’ve gone coffee-moderate in my wiser age. Pre-race, I can have about 2 sips of coffee along with a power bar and that’s it – otherwise I have too many stops to make on the route.

  19. Thanks for this post and all the research that went into it.

    I have never wanted to try them… cause I get shaky with 1 cup of coffee. I knew they were bad, but to have all the data to back it up it is easier to get others to stop.

    Great website. Thanks!

  20. Mark Lane says:

    I am not a professional athlete. Having said that this article has not mentioned any energy drinks. Nothing says they are not allowed to call themselves energy drinks but that doesn’t make it so. No law says I can’t say I can run a four minute mile. When I was young and fast I could run 7:30 mile. These days when I am fast I bust out 8:30. Even Gatorade barely ranks as an energy drink for endurance purposes. First try comparing GNC, Cytomax, and Hammer Gel Products. Athletes will tell you go with works. Short, distance, endurance, cyclists, runners, tri athletes all have different nutritional needs. As for caffeine it is not beneficial as long term energy, but some gels include it to give you an energy boost until the gel enrgy kicks in. A little caffeine accompanying real energy drink or food can be a good thing. You will see Professional cyclists drink coke or pepsi while riding. Figuring out hydration and fuel is as much an art as science.Don’t just read studies. Write down how you fuel and hydrate before during and after your workout and what type of workout you did. If you felt dehydrated and lacking in energy do it differently next time. Also find something that tastes good. If you don’t like the taste you might decide not drink or eat enough. Professionals on the same team have similar foods but their stuff is flavored different. It is not hard to find something that tastes good, there are many flavors these days.

  21. I read this when you posted it and thought it strange, because I’ve never encountered runners who use energy drinks during races. (Or otherwise.)
    And then today, I participated in a 5k in my neighborhood, and they were handing out free Five Hour Energy shots at both the start and finish. Really? I mean, really?!
    Then, I just moved to Georgia, and Georgia’s a little weird.

    • Mark Lane says:

      Well a 5k not a super long race in terms of needing to fuel along the way. But the longer the race the more hydrating is neccesary. During longer races which I define as a 10k and above in terms of really needing to worry about hydration becomes much more important. I must emphasize no disrespect to those like 5k’s. I am slow so rather than running fast. I try to run marathons at a steady pace. Race directors try to set up hydration stations about every two to three miles.

      In college my running coach taught me a way to figure out the quantity you need to refuel. Repeat this in different types of weather. Without hydrating before a workout weigh yourself then workout for 1 hour. During this workout do not hydrate. Then bofore rehydrating weigh yourself again replace the amount per hour that you lose.

      It is important to replace calories though people have actually died from consuming too much water. Too keep cool I pour water on my head and soak my hat. I know a guy who puts a wet sponge and ice in his hat to keep cool. Feel free to try these. If these methods don’t work for you feel free to not use them. A matter of personal preference, I like them they work for me.

  22. The fact that you used ‘pop’ instead of soda makes me smile; I’m from Northwest PA and everyone always rags on me about calling it pop hahahah.

  23. Definitely love Branden Brazier and all his products — great quote from him.

  24. The garbage marketing extends to all drinks (including juice and water). Yesterday my son’s school had a ‘walkathon’ to raise funds followed by fun activities in the school yard. There were a few vendors/sponsors there one being ‘WAT-AH’ selling “fortified” water for kids. My 6 yr old picked up a free sample and was reading the label at home, when he said to me “Daddy can I take a break from spinach?” I said “what? Why do you want a break from spinach?”, he said “I can drink this wat-ah … it says ‘it has magicum (magnesium) so I can take a break from spinach’ ”
    I couldn’t believe that any half responsible adult would market something like that to kids, and this is a kid who reads labels of foods/candy to check if they have “chemicals”, colors, etc. and asks for ice-cream by saying “Daddy you can buy me this ice-cream it’s organic and doesn’t have any chemicals!”

  25. Thanks so much for this post. I recently squeezed in a second job into my super busy and super commute life. A friend recommended the 5 hour energy drinks, but I’ve been afraid to try them. The one time I drank a redbull it made my heart race so I haven’t had one since. This article has convinced me that I’m better off with another cup of coffee in the afternoon or a cup of yerba mate to make it through my long days. Thanks!

  26. Make your own safe energy drink at home!
    I have this easy recipe-video up for Chia Fresca:

  27. I was addicted to energy drinks for about 5 years. It was fun in the beginning but got terrible pretty fast. Took about a million tries but I finally quit a few months ago.

    “Energy Drinks” isn’t even a good name for them. It should be “Stimulant drinks”. They definitely DON’T give you energy, they just stimulate you and once it all wears off you feel worse.

  28. Rarely consume energy drinks and, after reading this post, it’s highly unlikely I ever will again. I remember when my sister drank a Rockstar to help her perform better on a run. She said it felt like her face was melting off! I’ll stick with coffee to get my caffeine boost, thank you very much!

  29. I’m with you! The only “energy drink” I’ve ever consumed was a Red Bull. One time was all it took for me. It made me anxious, jittery and sick to my stomach. I’ve never touched an “energy drink” since.

  30. great article. This is info that needs to be learned… and understood! What a crazy day and age we live in eh?!

  31. Great post and a great reminder. I don’t do energy drinks but like caffeine (coffee, green tea as you said). I also like Vega’s Performance Enhancer which has good ingredients but I do find I get a little boost.

  32. I use plain old chia seeds for making my own energy drink with some water, lime juice and mix it up with some cherries.. Oh YUM! I also drink a little tea on occasion when I really have had a long night and a longer day ahead. I’d love to hear what you think about the new Tropical Shakeology that is coming out in January ( that is 100% Vegan. Sprouted Brown Rice protein base and sweetened by coconut nectar.

  33. Thanks for posting this. I agree with you 100 percent. I find energy drinks to be a little scary and I would never drink one. Bleck!

  34. Energy drinks came on the market initially to allow alcoholics to drink even more booze than usual and to prevent puking? Anyway that’s what I recall. These drinks are all packaging and next to zero benefit. I cringe when I see some uneducated victim gulping one of the in first thing inthe morning. Try something natural like Power Fuel from Nutritional Frontiers.

  35. Energy drinks really are pretty scary stuff, and rather than a burst of energy, it’s more like a burst of the jitters!

    For a energy boost, I’d go a green smoothie any day 🙂

  36. Not to mention their effect on enamel and tooth damage. A dental hygienist I know tells me that she cannot differentiate between (some) energy drink enthusiasts and meth users.

  37. Tina Chappy says:

    I was at a convention for two or three days and I had redbull one after one after one. I didn’t eat very much at all those few days and it left me in a very bad position. I was very shaky, I couldn’t really walk that well, I couldn’t concentrate. I learnt my lesson that weekend.

  38. Hi people. Try to drink 8 and more cans of energy drinks for 6 months and work 10 to 16 hours a day 7 days a week. What you are going to experience will be marvelous. Change of mood, personality, long term hypertensia problems and so on. Oh by the way, I am drinking energy drinks only time to time now, but my heart is still f….. up.

  39. Being Vegan or Vegetarian, you have to watch out for products containing Taurine. Red Bull has a vegetarian (synthetic) form of Taurine, but a lot of brands will use Taurine from naturals sources–animal gall. It can also be extracted from the tissue of animals, mainly cattle. Google is my professor.

  40. I am an ICU RN. I work nights and many of my colleagues drink this crap. A few are notoriously crabby, edgy and by 4am completely crapped out. They give me a hard time for sipping green tea and eating throughout the shift to maintain my energy. They just don’t get it! Perhaps I’ll print this and post it at work.

  41. Although I agree with you that energy drinks are unhealthy and dangerous, caffeine by itself has been scientifically proven as an ergogenic in two ways: 1) it dampens the sense of pain via slightly interfering with the PNS/CNS pathways and 2) it spares glycogen through the promotion of fatty acid mobilization. Thus taking herba root, Verve or other more natural forms of stimulants in mild to moderate doses increases performance. However, there is no getting around “borrowing energy” from the adrenals…

  42. For you too tell people they are bad because. “i felt shaky and anxious” is ridiculous. well obviously, you don’t drink pop, your tolerance to caffeine is slim, so YA, it was too much for you too handle. I drink these things on a daily basis(not for the caffeine, but the taste) and i can have 4 and not feel a difference at all. And i know i will get messages on how they will be killing me, but i am 17 years old, i have been drinking these for almost 2 years, and i have seen NOT A SINGLE negative side effect.

  43. When ever I take energy drinks it knocks me out instantly,it make me sleep like never before same happens to me when I take coffee too , I always drink want to stay awake to read at night but the reverse is always the case I sleep off and when I wake up I feel very week is this normal please I need advice on what to do please .

  44. Hi, I’m. A heavy energy drink drinker I actually just drank 32 oz in the last 30 minutes. I know research has shown that that’s really bad on your heart but I tested my pulse before I drank it and after but I had no effect it stayed at 83 beats a minute. It also made me feel tired. Why do you think that is? I don’t have any disorders or anything. If someone has an answer that would be great if I could get one today cause I’m shipping off to basic training tomorrow. Thank you.

    • Because you don’t over consume, these guys are junkies of any craze to hit the scene. One can is enough to boost your energy for a few hours. If you rely on energy drinks for energy on a daily basis then you need to rethink things. A healthy balanced diet with the right nutrients should provide you with the right amount of energy throughout the day. If you plan on hitting the gym and need a quick boost half an hour prior to your session then that would be the right time to consume 1 can…

  45. People need to chill out. Like anything else, energy drinks won’t kill until you start abusing them. If you have a couple a week, you’ll be fine. If you start having 2 every day and do nothing but sit on your ass, then you need to take it down a notch. Everything in moderation.

    And to the people who tried ONE Monster Energy and then felt “jittery and touchy…” really? Wow.

  46. Brittany n Sandlin says:

    Thank you for writing this. Unfortunately I’m about as hooked on these as an alcoholic is on his liquor. The drinks help me deal with the stress of working and waking up and well doing anything. Actually it’s more like i can’t do it without them. THESE THINGS ARE ADDICTIVE!!! It started with cokes then my friend got me to try coffee for the first time. Ever since then I’ve been chasing the good feeling until I’ve adapted it as part of my diet. It totally sucks because I felt good before I started drinking them. I want that pour feeling back, but it seems damn near impossible to discipline myself and do everything I need to do in one day. Even if all I tell myself all I got to do is drag myself to work. When I wasn’t working at all I was doing ok. Every so often I would have one but it wasn’t like I was dieing for one. I start working and right back on the crazy train. The thing about the energy drinks for me is that they have no effect on me except the uplift. No nausea, no nervousness, (this pills do sometimes), no high strung ness like the first video up there witch was hilarious lol. 😉 the drinks simply replaced my normal. Those of you who are researching to start drinking them, please reconsider. This habit costs just as much if not more than smoking cigarettes. Think about it you start smoking and a pack might last you a week and that’s 5 bucks. Your more than likely going to drink one energy drink a day or every other day if your like me. That’s 5 bucks and your not even through the week. Soon to keep yourself in the good feeling your going to be drinking them like coke. One on each brake on the ride to and from work and hell right before or during your outing with friends. If you don’t think about the ways it will hurt your body please consider the things you could do or have if your money didn’t go to them. If you buy in bulk you can save money but it costs me about $574 a year and I mean that’s planning out about one energy drink a day.
    One more thing I would like to bring up is it is my personal belief that caffeine( and the such) is as much of a gateway drug as weed. I do them both. The weed chills me out at night. But back to my story. When I was younger I was good without anything. Then as soon as I tried the coffee I was on every energy drink and pill they had. When one didn’t work anymore I changed. Or simply because I didn’t like the taste. I didn’t try weed for the first time because I was dissatisfied with the effects of the drinks I tried it because I was curious. If one thing feels good I thought another thing would too. Turns out it wasn’t a mistake. Then later on my life turned for the worse and I looked to what made me feel good to lift me up. When the caffeine, liquor, and weed didn’t work anymore I went to bigger things. Crack! Witch is where I drew the line. (the combination of all of it lead me to a hormonal imbalance) . But it wasn’t until I lost everything that it dawned on me that I was following everyone else’s footsteps to becoming the next big junkie. This wasn’t even a year ago. I have sworn off the crack for life but it took the fact that my friends came from another state to get me to help me leave. Honestly I don’t know how to get out of this cycle, so if your looking to start save yourself the trouble. When I figure it out I’ll try to remember how to get back here and post. Thank ya’ll for listening.

  47. kieranberry says:

    Hey I’m 19, just like to say when I was in the last year at school aged 16, the corner shop near where I caught the bus sold small cans for 35 pence each, well fortunate for me my mum gave me money for whatever I wanted for snack whilst at school. So I used to buy 6 – 7 of them every day, I got terribly hooked, well after about a month of my crazy addiction I notice I become unwell when I didn’t drink them, so instead of buying so many small cans, I upped myself to the bigger brother, and began drinking more and more of them until I reached about 8 of them a day. It was only when I had a migraine in the right side of my head,bleeding nose from my right nostril, terrible shake and couldn’t focus on any particular thing did I become rather worried, so I thought I’d look up the symptoms and this is what scared me into stopping.. according to the NHS I was having symptoms of a brain tumour.. I haven’t touch one since and been fine.. they’re bad, really bad!

  48. Genelyn Fattamag says:

    I am doing my half marathon in two weeks and im an energy drink addict.. my only challenge for this race is to not gulp energy drink, to convince myself that i dont depend on it.. Reading your article was like a big confirmation.. thank you..

  49. Any dramatic change in your diet will make you sick.

    If you drink these all the time, then you will have no bad effects. The same as if you went from eating Maccas everyday to healthy food would also make you sick.

    Facts devoid of context are just scare mongering. The health industry and junk food industry both do it. Fear is the best driver for sales.

    I’m sick of misinformation. Without context information such as this this is malpractice.

  50. After spending a ridiculous amount of time being addicted to energy drinks and being consistently ill after my daily consumption of them I googled “energy drinks make me sick” and came upon your article. I just threw out my last unopened energy drink that I had planned on having tomorrow morning. I get shaky, my anxiety is exacerbated and I get diarrhea, nausea and horrible headaches every day without fail after I finish off my energy drinks. I’m going to go cold turkey on them for good this time. I can’t keep doing this to myself–I’d rather be impossibly tired than feel like I’m dying.

  51. Excellent post. Energy drinks are pretty much the worst thing you could ingest on a habitual/daily basis. Glad I quit…

  52. This article and most of those articles out there that speak of energy drink in a slanderous way are just stupid. TOO MUCH OF ANYTHING ISNT GOOD FOR YOU! Energy drink are not supposed to be consumed by the crate, that’s called over consuming – nobody drinks a gallon on water when their thirst requires 1 glass do they? C’mon guys, let’s think about thing before we act like sheep please.

  53. Thanks for the great article..I couldn’t see a published date anywhere on it, but from the comment dates, it’s been up a few years. Unfortunately, there STILL isn’t much more info out there about these products. Does anyone know if that 5-Hour Energy Drink is vegan? I’ve seen it stated that it’s vegetarian, but that isn’t necessarily vegan & if it was, why wouldn’t they just state that? Hope someone out there is listening on this post still..

  54. Paul de Souza says:

    The only drink Id ever use is RedBull and a little water, prior to some excersize. If Im hitting the roads training the very best product is a real mixed fruit juice, a bannana some time prior, and maybe, just maybe a can of red bull. Ive tried them all… your just rushing on the sugar, nothing much else…. most of the other ingredients in them tend to have latent effects. What I find good about red Bull is that its electrolytic content is beneficial. Other energy drinks are usefull id they are consumed correctly IN ADVANCE because some contain Sodium, which helps reduce the possibility of cramp in prolonged activity sessions.

    All the other stuff, complaints and what have you relate to overuse of Caffeine or taking in too much sugar or combination of both. Often these issues precipitate in people already predisposed to such sensitivities. The issue is way overblown. Read the label and get familiar with the amounts of the ingredients you are taking. You drink 5 cups of Coffee, your going to get jittery and nauseous, you take on too much sugar and if you dont excersize immediately, youre going to crash out tired before you get around to starting, or if you take too little you’re going to hit a wall when the energy that seems to come freely (quicker recovery rate on bursts) runs out and you deplete your glycogen stores. End of Story. READ THE LABEL!. Red Bull is useful in moderation… but a thick Jam sandwhich and a strong cup of cup of tea or Coffee will actually give you a similar result. The secret is to mix your sugar types between simple and complex for a prolonged as well as immediate availability of energy (on the cheap), if you need to perform at high prolonged intensity. Also be warned too much or too little water actually reduces your performance significantly. Anything else either way claimed by anyone or company is rubbish.

  55. I think one of the main issues we face is the constant bombardment of headlines about what foods are good for us / bad for us, what causes cancer / what cures it etc… One week wine and chocolate are good for your heart, the next week it’s slowly killing us. I think many people have become disolusioned by contradictory health statements that are slapped on front pages of newspapers, and for many, we simply ignore them now and go about our business.

  56. Britt Fioriti says:

    I have become accustomed to having an energy shot AND a higher than average caffeinated soda each weekday morning. Now I have numbness and tingling in my hands. I just figured out the correlation. I’m done starting now.

  57. bharat patel says:

    5hours energy shot is it vegetarian

  58. Victoria says:

    This is bullshit. If you had one sip of Red Bull once and found yourself jittery and shaking, you have a phenomenally low tolerance to caffeine. To everyone else claiming they’re the devil after habitually drinking SEVEN A DAY – energy drinks aren’t your problem, it’s your lack of impulse control. Me, I’ve been on one a day, in the morning (I find it much more refreshing than coffee) for about three years. Some days I skip it. Occasionally I have two. I’m fit as a fiddle and I sleep like a log at night. Don’t blame energy drinks for your own abuse of them!

  59. This is disappointing, as it is misleading on a number of fronts.

    One, you can’t lump all these energy drinks together as if they are the same. They are not. You say there are questionable ingredients (“choline, rhodiola, rosea, crenulata, and astragalus”) but none of these are present in Red Bull (caffeine, taurine, B-group vitamins, sugar if it is not a sugar-free version, flavor). All energy drinks are not the same, and their ingredients do, in fact, differ wildly.

    Two, energy drinks also vary wildly in responsibility. Some drink like Monster appear to be marketed to high school kids, for example, Some companies (like Red Bull, specifically) have an advertising policy that explicitly forbids targeting the under 18 crowd in any manner.

    Three, there isn’t that much caffeine in every energy drink–another reason you can’t lump them all together and treat them alike. A regular 8.4 oz can of Red Bull has 77-80mg of caffeine (depends on the flavor). That’s less than a similar sized serving of coffee (which has 80 to 200)–the exact substitute you recommend to your readers. You could have easily fact-checked this, but chose not to do so for some reason.

    Four, you fail to mention that different people metabolize caffeine in different ways. Specifically, there is at least one gene that affects caffeine metabolism. (NYT ran a piece on this some time ago, fascinating actual science.) For some people, a single cup of coffee will have them wired all day. Me, I could drink a triple espresso and then go take a nap–and have literally done so.

    Five, regardless, the responsible energy drink companies all note clearly on the packaging that the product contains caffeine and–like every other caffeine-containing product–isn’t recommended for those who are sensitive to caffeine, or for children, etc.

    Six, finally, no responsible adult relies solely on caffeine for energy. No responsible adult would endorse drinking energy drinks all day–though it’s acceptable to endorse drinking coffee all day. In reality, a wee boost from a can of Red Bull prior to a workout may even provide some benefits (see, e.g. the research on caffeine and performance). Too much of anything is a bad thing. You can literally kill yourself by drinking too much water.

    I’m disappointed. Usually you rely on facts and science. This is all gross generalizations. It sounds like you were just pissed at the rude guy who threw the Red Bull can (which could have been any brand, by the way, it’s not like Red Bull drinkers are inherently rude). You can do better.


  1. […] The Scary Truth About Energy Drinks | … – I hate hate hate energy drinks. Contradictory to this, I’ve tried many of them… but I guess that’s how I learned. Your point where you say, “It can … […]

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