Its 3pm and you’re sitting at your desk with your eyes half shut. You think to yourself, you know what’ll do the trick? Energy in a can!! Hmmm… these cough-syrup tasting drinks can temporarily spike our energy levels and some promise to give us ‘wings’ but what exactly is in these chemical concoctions?
With the global energy drinks market standing at $55 billion in 2017 it’s obvious that many of us turn to these flashy cans when we need a ‘pick-me-up’. But is it really a good idea to be putting random ingredients in our bodies when we hardly know what effect they’ll have?
Some of the common ingredients found in the most popular energy drinks include: caffeine, added sugars (lots of it), B vitamins, artificial flavourings, artificial sweeteners (especially in the diet or light versions), artificial preservatives and other nasties like glucuronolactone, taurine and L-carnitine. Now, let’s break these bad boys down!!
Caffeine: Sometimes the only reason we are able to smile, wave at strangers and especially to be functional at work or study. The Mayo Clinic advises not to drink more than 400 mg of caffeine a day. But some energy drinks contain as much as five times the amount of caffeine contained in a cup of coffee – up to 200mg!!
This puts the liver under pressure, spikes the level of the stress hormone cortisol in your bloodstream and can severely alter your natural sleep patterns!
Taurine: An organic amino acid found in animal tissue, first discovered in Ox bile in the 1820’s. Although thought to be vital for growth and development, there is no clinical evidence that it provides energy.
Glucuronolactone: A naturally occurring chemical produced by the body and found in plant gums. Found in many energy drinks, its actual energy impact remains unknown.
L-carnitine: A naturally occurring amino acid, produced by the liver and kidneys.
Whilst L-carnitine does influence energy, the amount used in energy drinks is too low to have tangible effect.
Artificial flavourings: Synthetic ingredients used to provide flavour and aroma to foods and beverages.
Artificial sweeteners: Calorie-free chemical substances that are far sweeter than sugar. Examples include: Aspartame, Sucralose, Saccharin and Acesulfame K.
Preservatives: Acidic chemicals, added to perishables to prevent the growth of organisms which prevent spoilage by moulds, yeast and bacteria. Examples found in energy drinks include: Sorbates, Sorbic Acid, Benzoic Acid and Benzoates.
Added Sugar: It’s no shock you get a sugar high after slurping something that has up to 15 teaspoons of added sugar. This spikes your blood sugar levels making you feel like a breakdancing grandma but soon enough you’ll come crashing down. The excess amounts of sugar you’re uncontrollably consuming have been linked to diabetes, tooth decay, premature ageing, obesity and heart disease.
Now you know what’s really in your energy drink maybe its best that you avoid these chemical sugar bombs!
By Rahaf Mohamed
Nutrition and Food Science Graduate who studied at the University of Surrey.
I enjoy travelling, helping others whenever I have the chance and most importantly making people smile! You can contact Rahaf on LinkedIn.