Energy drinks are huge demand nowadays. With our busy lifestyles, energy drinks can offer a quick-fix energy boost.

But what effects do these drinks have on our health?

Recent research published by The Medical Journal of Australia reveals the risks of over-consumption of energy drinks based on data collected over a 7 year period.

Manufacturers of energy drinks are required to list warnings on their packaging, highlighting the effects of drinking more than the recommended serving. Although in moderation, these drinks do not have any long term side effects. Drinking more than the recommended amount can have the following side effects (from most to least common):

  1. Palpitations / tachycardia
  2. Tremor / shaking
  3. Agitation / restlessness
  4. Gastrointestinal upset
  5. Chest pain / ischaemia
  6. Dizziness / syncope
  7. Paraesthesia (tingling or numbing of the skin)
  8. Insomnia
  9. Respiratory distress
  10. Headache

What causes these side effects?

While the full extent of long term over-consumption is still unclear, the effects of individual ingredients can offer some kind of explanation as to why these energy drinks work, and why they can cause the above effects.

Caffeine, obviously, is a major ingredient in any energy drink. Caffeine is part of a group of naturally occurring substances called methylxanthines. When ingested, caffeine molecules bond to receptor cells in the brain, blocking Adenosine molecules which normally bond to the cells and calm the nervous system, making us feel tired. As a result, we feel more awake and energised.

While caffeine tolerances vary depending on the individual, a dose of over 200-300mg can cause symptoms such as insomnia, restlessness and raised heartbeat. Higher dosages or prolonged consumption can cause more severe reactions including palpitations, increase blood pressure, dizziness, nausea, and shaking.

Most energy drinks are high in sugar which can cause tooth decay, weight gain and increase the risk of type-2 diabetes, if over-consumed. It’s the sugar in these drinks that also causes the energy slump later on as blood-sugar levels quickly drop.

While B-Vitamins are important for cell metabolism, too much of these vitamins can cause flushing of the skin, sensory nerve problems, or in extreme cases, liver toxicity.

Not all ingredients in energy drinks are harmful. If you stick to the recommended daily allowance then you should not see any long term side effects. It is important to remember that people react differently to ingredients such as caffeine. Those sensitive to such ingredients should avoid energy drinks altogether.

If you often find that you hit an energy slump in the afternoon then it could be worth changing your diet and trying some energy boosting foods as part of your lunch. Keeping yourself hydrated is also extremely important, particularly if you will be attending Martial Arts training. Drinking plenty of water can help to boost energy levels too.

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