Are ‘energy’ drinks all they’re cracked up to be?
Caffeinated ‘energy drinks’ (‘Red Bull’; ‘Mother’; ‘V’ etc.) have become a popular part of the soft drink market, and are also sometimes used as a way of losing weight. But are they all they’re cracked up to be? Do they provide energy? And are there any particular downsides?
The answers are simple – but complicated. In the first place, such products tend to be loaded with both caffeine and sugar. The caffeine (often the equivalent of 2–3 good strong cups of coffee in a serving), is likely to provide an energy ‘hit’ to the around 50% of the population who are caffeine sensitive. For these people, such ‘energy’ drinks are likely to cause jitteriness and inability to sleep, and possibly increase the adverse effects of stress. (It’s no coincidence that manufacturers have specifically targeted the youth market who tend to ‘binge’ on such drinks to keep themselves ‘up’ while drinking alcohol until late which otherwise might bring them ‘down’). For this reason, it’s also possible that such drinks might have a weight loss effect in some people (by reducing hunger levels).
The sugar in these drinks provides the biological ‘energy’, or calories, which makes them truly able to be called ‘energy’ drinks. This is likely to offset any weight loss benefits by increasing calorie intake (unless the caffeine is very effective in reducing other food intake). The energy it provides to carry out activity could be brief and intermittent.
A potentially more serious downside is death. A January 2009 article in the Medical Journal of Australia details the case of an 18 year old otherwise healthy young man in Port Macquarie NSW, who died after a day of moto-cross racing and drinking ‘energy’ drinks. Surgeons claim the excessive ingestion of caffeine and taurine in the drinks, combined with strenuous physical activity, can produce a heart attack by inducing coronary vasospasm.
Dr Garry Egger aka Prof Trim
For more information on weight loss for men, check out Professor Trim.