Energy drinks: Can you have them in moderation — or are they never really a good idea? Experts weigh in on the debate. (Photo: Riou/SoFood/Corbis)
The website personalise.co.uk has visually broken down exactly what happens to your body within the first hour after you have an energy drink, as well as the effects that can occur days later.
Here’s what you can expect after drinking an energy drink:
After 10 minutes: The caffeine first enters your bloodstream. Your heart rate and blood pressure start to rise.
In 15 to 45 minutes: The caffeine level peaks in your bloodstream. The stimulant starts to affect you, improving not only concentration, but also how alert you are.
In 30 to 50 minutes: All of the caffeine is fully absorbed by your body. Your liver also responds by absorbing more sugar.
In one hour: Your body starts to experience a sugar crash and the effects of the caffeine begin to die down. You’ll start to feel tired and low-energy.
In five to six hours: This is the half-life of the caffeine. In other words, it takes this much time for your body to reduce the content of caffeine in your bloodstream by 50 percent. Women on birth control pills require double the length for their body to reduce it.
In 12 hours: The time that it takes most people to fully remove caffeine from their bloodstream, depending on their age and activity level.
In 12 to 24 hours: Withdrawal symptoms kick in, including headaches, irritability, and constipation.
Seven to 12 days: Studies have shown this to be the time frame for your body to become tolerant to regular caffeine intake, making you feel the effects less.
“Energy drinks are fine in moderation and as part of a balanced diet,” the infographic concludes.
But registered dietitian-nutritionist Karen Ansel, co-author of The Calendar Diet: A Month by Month Guide to Losing Weight While Living Your Life, tells Yahoo Health that final statement is “way off target.” “My concern about energy drinks is people don’t drink them in the same way that they would drink a cup of coffee or tea,” she says.
Here’s why: Coffee and tea are both naturally bitter, so a person is more likely to sip (rather than chug) them as they might with an energy drink. That natural bitterness also tells your body when you’ve have enough, so you’re unlikely to end up in the emergency room from drinking too much coffee as compared with energy drinks.
“That doesn’t even include concerns about all the sugar and calories in energy drinks,” Ansel says. A 12-ounce can of Red Bull contains 110 calories and 27 grams of sugar, while a 16-ounce can of Monster Energy has 200 calories and 50 grams of sugar.
Kylene Bogden, a registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic, also tells Yahoo Health that it’s tough to make sweeping statements about caffeine because it affects everyone differently. “For some people, it can be digested in two to six hours; for some patients, it can be eight to 12 hours,” she says. “Some people can still feel it the very next day.”
She also points out that most people who have energy drinks don’t drink them just once in a while and can easily become addicted to them. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 34 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds regularly drink energy drinks.
Of course, when you look at the label, you may see that an energy drink has less than 100 milligrams of caffeine (much less than the recommended limit of 400 milligrams a day), but Bogden says other stimulants like green tea extract often found in the drinks can also affect your body.
Both experts say it’s best to avoid energy drinks altogether, especially since they have no nutritional value. Says Bogden: “Some might have a little vitamin C or E, but that’s really not the way to get it.”
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