Does Red Bull really give you wings?

Posted on Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Written by Laura Harvey

With midterm season in full swing, students are realizing there are not enough hours in the day to study and that maybe they should have attended that 8:30am lecture more often.  As stress levels increase and sleeping takes a back seat to studying, many students may turn to a risky alternative to keep them awake - energy drinks. 

Energy drinks, such as Red Bull, Monster, and Rockstar have all become increasingly popular over the last decade with a variety of flavours and sizes now available.  While these drinks are packed with caffeine, they also contain other stimulating ingredients such as guarana and ginseng.  And let's not forget that these drinks are packed with sugar! A 16oz can of Red Bull contains 52 grams of sugar - that's as much as 11 oreo cookies!

So what exactly are the risks of these heavily sweetened, caffeine loaded drinks?  

  1. They increase your heart rate and blood pressure to the point where you can have palpitations, and nobody wants their heart to start beating out of control.  
  2. Caffeine is a diuretic (promotes the production of urine), it can make you dehydrated.  If you're pounding back the energy drinks before a midterm, you're most likely going to be dehydrated.  Dehydration causes you to feel fatigued and sluggish.  Those energy drinks are starting to seem counterproductive, eh?
  3. Energy drinks can also cause severe headaches and migraines once you stop drinking them.  With all the caffeine loaded into them, once you calm down from your midterms being over, you can start experiencing withdrawal symptoms.  Do you really want to be congratulated for surviving midterms with a migraine? I didn't think so.
  4. You probably have a friend that never drinks coffee and then has one cup and is all jittery and is bouncing off the walls.  That's all thanks to the caffeine in the drink.  The same affect can happen with energy drinks.  Drink too many of them and your body becomes jittery.  I'm going to go ahead and guess you're not going to study too well if you're all fidgety and restless.
  5. Citric acid is one of many ingredients in energy drinks.  Citric acid does a fantastic job of stripping the enamel from your teeth and once that enamel is gone, there's no getting it back.  As the enamel wears away, you become more prone to cavities and your teeth are more likely to decay. Who wants decaying teeth at the age of 20? Not me, and probably not you as well.
  6. Energy drinks are high in Vitamin B3, also known as Niacin. When you exceed 50mg of this vitamin (which many energy drinks contain), you can experience a “Niacin flush”. This will cause blood flow to increase near the skin, turning your face red, accompanied by a prickly feeling on the skin. This side effect is harmless and usually passes after about 20 minutes, but can be really scary and uncomfortable if you don’t know what’s going on!

But don't worry folks!  There is a solution to all these problems! There are many healthy alternatives to energy drinks that will give you the energy you need without all the negative side effects.

  1. What may be the most surprising alternative of all is also the simplest, water! Dehydration is actually one of the main reasons why we start to feel tired to begin with!  Drinking plenty of water throughout the day will help you to feel awake and energized.  If you find water a bit on the boring side, try adding lemon, lime, or orange slices.
  2. Green tea is an excellent way to get a boost in caffeine without all the negative side effects of energy drinks.  It won't cause you to "crash" as energy drinks will, plus it contains antioxidants which may help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer! 
  3. Get ready to rock an awesome milk moustache because a tall glass of chocolate milk is a great alternative to energy drinks!  It contains both carbohydrates and protein that will provide not only a quick energy boost, but a lasting one too!  Has being healthy ever tasted so delicious?
  4. Green juices and smoothies are packed with B vitamins, which help in energy production.  Dark green vegetables such as spinach, parsley, and kale all help to increase your metabolic rate.  The faster your metabolism is running, the more energy your body can produce.
  5. Lastly, a balanced snack will definitely help you get through the day (or night) without having to reach for an energy drink. A snack that contains both carbohydrates and protein, such as peanut butter and banana on toast or yogurt and berries with granola, will give you a steady rise in energy.

All in all, you want to choose an alternative that is not going to have your energy levels quickly peak and then decline very quickly (aka an energy drink). Products high in sugar will give you that sudden burst of energy, but trust me, it won't last long, and within a few hours, you'll crash and want another to get your energy back up.  The above solutions will slowly increase your energy levels but they'll keep it there, providing a stable amount of energy that'll keep you going for hours.  So next time you think you need a high dose of caffeine to keep you awake, remember these healthy alternatives instead! 

Good luck on midterms Gryphons! 

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