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Are Energy Drinks Bad for You? Find Out the Surprising Truth!

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By: Erin Coleman, B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.,

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

are energy drinks bad for you

The question has probably crossed your mind: are energy drinks bad for you? The answer is fairly simple and it depends on the type of energy drink you choose.

But use caution when considering energy drinks because they can cause more harm than good in some cases.

There are many ways to safely increase your energy levels — and not all of them involve consuming calories.

Try the tips below to make informed decisions about your health!

Can’t start your day without a caffeine fix? How much caffeine is too much? Find out here!

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What Are Energy Drinks?

Energy drinks are, as the name implies, beverages designed to give you more energy.

You might consume them to give you a quick pick-me-up when you feel tired.

Energy drinks commonly contain the following ingredients:

  • Caffeine
  • Taurine
  • Glucuronolactone
  • B vitamins
  • Guarana
  • Ginseng
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • Other herbs
  • L-carnitine
  • L-tartrate
  • Guarana seed extract
  • Sugar or syrup
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Antioxidants
  • Trace minerals

While some beverages can energize you and prevent you from “hitting the wall” during prolonged exercise, energy drinks aren't always the best option.

Knowing which drinks to choose and which energy drinks to avoid is important for you and your family's health.

What Are the Benefits of Energy Drinks?

Energy drinks can give you a quick boost of energy during prolonged physical activity, including sports competitions.

Caffeine found in many sports drinks may even improve athletic performance.

Furthermore, studies show that caffeine can help reduce body weight, body mass index (BMI), and fat mass.

Exercise guidelines recommend consuming a source of carbohydrates if you engage in physical activity lasting more than one hour to maintain enough fuel to maximize physical performance.

Researchers suggest athletes consume 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour for workouts lasting longer than one hour, which is certainly possible to do when drinking sports drinks during workouts.

Many such drinks also contain electrolytes, which help replace low stores during endurance exercise.

It's usually best to consume carbohydrates from natural sugar (rather than added sugar) to fuel your body before, during, and after exercise.

Examples of healthy sources of natural sugar include fresh fruit, dried fruit, and 100% fruit juice.

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Are Energy Drinks Bad for You?

Many types of energy drinks aren't a good choice for your health, even if your workouts exceed an hour in length.

In some cases, it's because of the following:

Added Sugar

Added sugar is the main ingredient in many types of energy drinks, some of which contain 40 grams (or more) of added sugar in each drink!

Even if you're trying to prevent low blood sugar associated with prolonged exercise, choosing added sugar to fuel your body isn't the best choice.

The natural sugar found in fruit, fruit juice, yogurt drinks, and even fiber-rich starches is a much better option.

Try a protein shake after workouts to stimulate muscle recovery.

Learn how to reduce sugar addiction and recognize sugar addiction symptoms!


High Amounts of Caffeine

Caffeine, in moderation, may offer you benefits related to healthy weight management, body composition, and physical performance.

However, too much caffeine can cause negative side effects and problems for your health.

Symptoms of excessive caffeine intake include:

  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness
  • Frequent urination
  • Inability to control urination
  • Muscle tremors
  • A fast heartbeat
  • Feeling jittery
Consuming caffeine late in the day or right before bed makes it difficult to get a good night's sleep.

Furthermore, caffeine can negatively interact with some herbal supplements and medications.

According to Mayo Clinic, it's safe for most healthy adults to consume up to 400 milligrams of caffeine daily, which equates to drinking four cups of brewed coffee or two energy shot drinks.

Women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, and those who are breastfeeding, should follow their doctor's instructions pertaining to caffeine use.

Consuming up to 200 milligrams per day might be OK, depending on what their doctor recommends.

With energy drinks, the actual caffeine content varies quite a bit. Check the supplement facts label on energy drinks to know how much caffeine you're getting.

If you experience negative effects from caffeine, cut back on your intake.

Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners can make energy drinks taste sweet, but they aren't the best option for your health.

While artificial sweeteners like sucralose (Splenda), aspartame (Equal or NutraSweet), and saccharin (Sweet N Low), are calorie-free, they can still cause insulin levels in your body to fluctuate.

Studies show that artificial sweeteners are linked to metabolic syndrome, obesity, decreased satiety, higher calorie consumption, and weight gain, as well as altering your gut microbiome (levels of good vs. bad bacteria in your digestive tract).

Avoid artificial sweeteners when possible in favor of a small amount Stevia, erythritol, or monk fruit sweetener.

Medication Interactions

Certain herbs or other ingredients found in some energy drinks may negatively interact with medications.

If you take medications or dietary supplements, check in with your doctor before trying energy drinks containing herbs or large amounts of caffeine.

High Costs

Energy drinks are often expensive – many times much more expensive than a regular cup of home-brewed coffee.

If caffeine is what you're after, choose coffee or tea instead of high-sugar energy drinks whenever you can.

Healthier Alternatives that Boost Energy

Rather than reaching for energy drinks containing excessive caffeine, added sugar, artificial sweeteners, or other additives, consider these healthier alternatives to keep energy levels high without wreaking havoc on your health.

Water

Water is one of the best beverages for your body, as it keeps you hydrated and flushes out body toxins.

Getting too little fluids leads and dehydration and can drain your energy.

If you find it difficult to drink as much water as your body needs daily, which is 12 cups for women and 16 cups per day for men, try drinking your water ice cold or adding fruit chunks (or a small amount of 100% fruit juice) to the water to enhance its flavor.

A Good Night's Sleep

There's no substitute for getting a good night's sleep to maintain optimal energy levels.

If you struggle to sleep well at night, try the following strategies:

  • Work out most days of the week (but not late at night)
  • Allow yourself at least 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night
  • Don't go to bed hungry or too full
  • Avoid caffeine, energy drinks, smoking, and alcohol before bed
  • Sleep in a cool, dark room
  • Use a white noise machine
  • Try stress reduction techniques (guided sleep meditation, yoga, massage, etc.)

Set a regular bedtime and stick with it as much as you can.

If you're unable to get 7 hours of sleep each night because of a hectic schedule or being up at night with little ones, try to sneak in a nap during the day.

If you suspect you have sleep apnea because of snoring at night or waking up feeling tired, check in with your doctor about sleep apnea testing and treatment as needed.

They might recommend you wear an oral device when you sleep or try other treatments that keep your airway open.

Find out why sleep is important and how getting enough quality sleep can help you lose weight.


Brewed Coffee

Drinking coffee is one of the best ways to get a boost of energy, especially in the morning to begin each day.

One cup of brewed coffee contains nearly 100 milligrams of caffeine.

Avoid adding sugar to your coffee!

Instead, try a little bit of cream, milk, plant milk, or a tiny bit of Stevia, erythritol, or monk fruit to flavor it.

You can also drink coffee over ice and combine it with plant milk plus protein powder if you'd like!

Unsweetened Tea

Drinking green or black tea is another excellent way to boost your body's energy levels naturally.

A cup of brewed black tea contains almost 50 milligrams of caffeine, while a cup of brewed green tea provides nearly 30 milligrams of caffeine.

Flavor tea with a small amount of natural sweetener if you'd like (avoid sugar and artificial sweeteners) or drink it over ice.

Consider trying a matcha vanilla protein smoothie recipe!

100% Fruit Juice or Fruit

If you're working out for more than one hour and you need some quick energy, consider eating a piece of fruit, drinking 100% fruit juice (or water mixed with 100% fruit juice), or consuming an energy bar or sports gel.

You might also try applesauce squeeze pouches or dried fruit for a quick pick-me-up.

Here are the 6 healthiest beverages you should be drinking!


Regular Exercise

Exercising regularly or most days of the week is an excellent way to increase strength and endurance, as well as maintain healthy body weight to keep your energy levels high.

Combine cardiovascular exercise with weight lifting or another type of resistance training.

Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity, plus at least 45 minutes of activities of daily living, every day to stay fit.

Try Fit Mother Project workouts, which have helped hundreds of thousands of busy moms get in shape and stay healthy for life.

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate contains a small amount of energy-boosting caffeine, and it's loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants and minerals.

Additional benefits of dark chocolate include a lower risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, heart disease, and age-related cognitive decline.

The sugar content of dark chocolate is much lower than milk chocolate.

Try blending dark chocolate pieces into protein-rich smoothies or adding it to energizing trail mix.

Better Hormone Balance

Hormone imbalance can diminish your energy levels, making it difficult to turn down energy drinks and other caffeinated beverages.

Women are more likely than men to experience low thyroid hormone levels, or hypothyroidism, which can reduce your metabolism and energy.

With increasing age, women are also at risk of low estrogen, which can drain energy too.

If you're tired all the time but you're getting enough sleep, have a doctor check your thyroid and other hormone levels using a simple blood test.

Taking synthetic thyroid hormone (a pill you take each morning) for hypothyroidism or trying hormone replacement therapy for low estrogen is a common treatment for many women.

Weight Loss

Becoming overweight or obese can make you feel much more tired than usual.

If you weigh more than you'd like to, try the Fit Mother Project 30X (FM30X) weight loss program designed specifically for busy moms.

The program offers accountability, meal plans, fat-burning workouts, and social support, along with expertise from medical experts.

It has helped many women with hectic schedules find time for themselves, reach their goal weight, and maintain it for life.

Try the free Fit Mom Jumpstart to begin a journey toward better health today.

Choose the best weight loss diet plan for women and start succeeding today!


Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are common causes of fatigue, especially deficiencies in iron, iodine, vitamin D, and B vitamins in women.

Eating a well-balanced diet and taking a multivitamin supplement daily can boost your energy if you're deficient in certain nutrients.

Vitamin water, as long as it's not loaded with added sugar, can help too.

Your doctor might recommend you take additional vitamin D, calcium, or iron supplements if you're not getting enough of these essential nutrients.

Spend more time outdoors to boost levels of vitamin D in your body, your energy, and your mood!

All-Natural Energy Drinks

Natural energy drinks are those that may contain a small amount of caffeine, herbs, fruit, fruit juice, vitamins, or minerals.

These drinks do NOT contain excessive amounts of caffeine, added sugar, fillers, or other artificial ingredients.

To know if an energy drink is healthy, simply check its nutrition facts label – especially the added sugar content and the ingredient list.

Choose beverages that contain less than 5 grams of added sugar per serving.

Note the total sugar vs. added sugar content.

Learn how to read nutrition information on another level!


The Bottom Line on Energy Drinks

Now that you know the answer to the question: “are energy drinks bad for you,” you can find ways to keep your energy levels high without compromising your health and wellness.

Do what you can to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Take charge of your and your family's lives by avoiding energy drinks that do more harm than good.

Choose natural foods and energizing drinks that don't contain added sugar, excessive amounts of caffeine, artificial sweeteners, or other additives.

Are energy drinks bad for you? Do your best to avoid unhealthy energy drinks in favor of healthier energy-boosting alternatives!

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Erin Coleman

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian with over 15 years of freelance writing experience.

She graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in nutritional science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and completed her dietetic internship at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Prior to beginning her career in medical content writing, Erin worked as Health Educator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Internal Medicine.

Her published work appears on hundreds of health and fitness websites, and she’s currently working on publishing her first book! Erin is a wife, and a Mom to two beautiful children.

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*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on answering the question, “are energy drinks bad for you?”

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