Until more is known about the effects of energy drinks on the body, they are not recommended for:
Health Canada does not recommend mixing or consuming energy drinks with alcohol. Note that some breweries are now marketing beer with added caffeine. Those products should be consumed with caution. No one, especially young adults, should drink and drive.
The newest way to package and sell caffeine is in the form of energy drinks. They are sweet and cold, similar to a soft drink but with extra ingredients. While ingredients in every energy drink differ slightly, they all contain sugar and caffeine. Most also contain B vitamins and herbs such as guarana and ginseng, while some have extra ingredients like inositol, taurine (an amino acid), and glucuronolactone (a carbohydrate). Ingredient amounts can vary greatly from one product to the next. There is no standard definition or ingredient list, so read labels carefully to find out exactly what you are getting.
An energy drink may be marketed in Canada as a natural health product instead of a food. Contents and claims made about this type of product must follow a special set of rules. The only energy drink that Health Canada has currently licensed for sale as a natural health product is Red Bullª. Licensed natural health products have a Natural Product Number on the label (NPN followed by a number). Health Canada is currently reviewing other brands.
Energy drinks often contain the following ingredients, which affect your body in certain ways:
Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, chocolate, caffeinated soft drinks and energy drinks. It is also in some dietary or sports supplements, and some prescription and non-prescription drugs. Many people use caffeine to feel more awake. Caffeine can boost memory, reasoning powers, motor skills, reaction times and exercise performance. Most energy drinks contain 80 to 100 milligrams of caffeine per 250 mL can. An energy drink contains caffeine if the ingredient list contains the words caffeine, guarana or mate.
Energy drinks are not a substitute for sports drinks like Gatoradeª, which actually help the body recover during and after exercise. Sports drinks provide a small amount of sugar allowing the body to readily absorb fluid. They also contain essential electrolytes to replace what is lost in sweat. Energy drinks are very different. Most have much more sugar and caffeine than sports drinks. Their combined high sugar and caffeine content can produce a rush of energy followed by an equally forceful crash.
Remember, energy drinks are very different from sports drinks. Since they contain a lot of caffeine and sugar, energy drinks should not be used to replace fluid immediately before, during, or after exercise.
Everyone reacts differently to caffeine. It lasts in your system anywhere from two to ten hours. Your weight, stress level, age, and previous caffeine use all affect how caffeine works in your body. For unknown reasons, some people are particularly sensitive. Smokers break down caffeine faster than non-smokers. Women who are pregnant or taking birth control pills break down caffeine more slowly than other women.
Should you be concerned about your caffeine intake? Possibly. Your body and your mind can become dependent on caffeine if you consume it regularly. You then must consume more of it to get the same effect. The more you have, the higher your risk of experiencing side effects.
Side effects of caffeine may include:
Caffeine can keep you up at night or prevent you from sleeping deeply. It is mildly addictive, so regular users may experience withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop having it. If you want to cut back, do so gradually to avoid headache and fatigue.
In spite of much controversy, the International Food Information Council does not link caffeine to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, or fibrocystic breast changes. As long as you consume three to four servings of calcium-rich foods each day, caffeine does not increase the risk of osteoporosis (fragile bones).
Caffeine can react with a large number of over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about caffeine's effect on any medication you are taking.
The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends no more than 450 mg of caffeine per day for healthy adults. Women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding should limit their caffeine intake to no more than 300 mg per day. Children are even more sensitive to caffeine due to their smaller body weight. Children four to six years should consume no more than 45 mg of caffeine per day, children seven to nine years no more than 62 mg, and children 10 to 12 years no more than 85 mg per day.
Guarana is a concentrated source of caffeine. This caffeine may have longer lasting effects in the body due to other compounds in the guarana plant. Guarana is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Like caffeine, guarana can cause irritability and insomnia.
Sugar, and lots of it, is in most energy drinks. For instance, a 250 mL can of Red Bullª contains seven teaspoons of sugar. Soft drinks have about the same amount. This can add a lot of unwanted calories with little nutritional value. Some energy drinks now come in sugar-free versions.
Taurine is naturally present in the body. We get taurine from foods such as red meat and fish. Health Canada has reviewed the safety and effectiveness of taurine in licensed energy drinks such as Red Bullª. If you follow the recommended daily amount listed on the label (maximum of 500 mL per day), your taurine intake will be within a safe level for healthy adults.
Glucuronolactone is naturally found in the body, and in some foods and beverages including wine. Health Canada has reviewed the safety and effectiveness of the glucuronolactone in licensed energy drinks such as Red Bullª. If you keep your intake of Red Bullª to the recommended 'dose' of 500 mL per day, your intake of glucuronolactone will stay within a safe level for healthy adults.
Inositol is produced by the body and found in foods such as cereal grains and legumes. Currently, there is not much reliable information on how inositol affects energy levels. Consuming inositol has not been linked to any major side effects.Since there is little information on how inositol affects pregnant and breastfeeding women, they are best to avoid it.
Panax (Asian) ginseng does not appear to improve physical performance or boost energy levels, although reports are mixed. However, it has been linked to improving brain functions such as memory and mental arithmetic. Panax ginseng is not recommended for children or pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Siberian ginseng has received mixed reports on its ability to boost energy levels. Siberian ginseng has much milder effects than panax ginseng and few reported side effects. It is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women, people with high blood pressure, or those who have had a heart attack.
B vitamins, such as thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), folate, pyridoxine (B6) and cobalamin (B12) help the body produce energy from what you eat. These vitamins are found naturally in a wide variety of foods such as grain products, vegetables, fruit, milk, meat and meat alternatives.If you are getting enough of these vitamins from the foods you eat, the amount found in energy drinks will not boost your energy levels further.
Should you be concerned about your teen consuming energy drinks?
Yes! Drinking large amounts of caffeine and sugar with no nutrients can affect mood and cause sleep disturbances and dependence. Your teen may get a high rush of energy, quickly followed by a crashing low. Your teen already has enough hormonal ups and downs without adding the effects of caffeine.
If you choose to consume energy drinks, remember the following.
Energy drinks get most of their effect from caffeine. The effect might be enhanced slightly by the other ingredients, including sugar. While moderate amounts of caffeine are safe for most healthy adults, be cautious about your intake.
Licensed energy drinks have a recommended daily dose on their label to keep your intake of taurine, glucuronolactone and other ingredients within safe levels. Healthy adults are advised to read the label and not consume more than the recommended amount.
Keep your intake of all caffeine-rich drinks, including energy drinks, coffee, tea and caffeinated soft drinks, to moderate levels. Instead, choose more nutritious beverages such as water, milk and 100 per cent fruit or vegetable juice.
If you are always tired and without energy, seriously consider why this is so. Getting more sleep, increasing your level of physical activity, eating nutritious foods, and going to the doctor for a check up are the best ways to improve health and boost energy levels. These are benefits that no amount of caffeine or energy drink can replace.