When you feel like you’re dragging and perhaps lacking in sleep, reaching for an energy drink may be a tempting option for a boost or just a tasty beverage with a little extra kick.
Although this may be your “quick fix” on occasion, using energy drinks habitually or throughout the day instead of eating a nutritious diet and getting adequate sleep is not a healthy habit.
Here is some guidance to assist you in consuming energy drinks safely:
Be aware of caffeine content
- Consuming multiple energy drinks throughout the day is not the best choice for promoting optimal performance and may result in excessive caffeine consumption.
- Too much caffeine may result in symptoms such as nervousness, shakiness, rapid heart rate and trouble sleeping.
- Across the many brands of energy drinks, caffeine can range from 20 mg. per 8 oz. serving to 316 mg. per 8 oz. serving.
- Read the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) Frequently Asked Questions about caffeine to learn more about how to use caffeine effectively:
Pay attention to serving sizes
- The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that Americans focus attention to the serving size and the corresponding servings per container on the Nutrition Facts (or Supplement Facts) label. This will help you to make the best choices for your overall health, performance and wellness goals.
- Some energy drink cans provide two servings, which can mean double the amount of calories, sugar and caffeine.
Limit calories from added sugar
- The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that we limit the calories in our diets from added sugar to no more than 10%. This is equivalent to roughly 50 grams or less of added sugar for someone on a daily diet of 2,000 calories.
- Some energy drinks may have as much as 13 tsp. of table sugar (sucrose) per can. This is approximately 52 grams of table sugar!
- Water is best for quenching your thirst, because it has no added sugars or calories.
Check energy drink labels
- Be sure to evaluate the list of ingredients on the energy drink label. For example, caffeine is found in other ingredients such as guarana, green coffee bean, green tea and yerba maté.
- These labels provide the total caffeine content from all sources, but may list it “per oz.,” “per serving,” or “per can,” so you may have to do some math in your head.
- While the Nutrition Facts label doesn’t currently provide the actual grams of added sugar, it’s important to note that added sugar is known by many names.
- In fact, there are more than 56 names for added sugar! For example, “cane,” “syrup,” “malts” and ingredients with “-ose” at the end of their names (fructose, sucrose and dextrose) are all sugars.
More is not better
- If you drink these beverages, more is not better! When using energy drinks, be aware of how much caffeine you’re consuming and remember that they are not sports drinks and will not hydrate you.
- Hydrating yourself with water, getting adequate sleep and eating a nutritious diet are the best tools for ensuring you have energy and perform at your optimal level.
Avoid use close to bedtime
- To assist with getting adequate sleep, don’t consume an energy drink six hours before bedtime.
Heed warnings regarding use by children
- Parents of children under 18 should read the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which warn against the use of energy drinks by children and adolescents, and other guidelines submitted by professional organizations.
For more information about Operation Supplement Safety, please visit OPSS.org. For more information about healthy living from Your Commissary, please visit the Healthy Living section of our official website.
About our guest authors: Patricia Deuster is professor and director at CHAMP, the Consortium for Health and Military Performance; Andrea Lindsey is a senior nutrition scientist at CHAMP and director of operation supplement safety; Caitlin Wong is a nutrition education specialist at CHAMP.