How to Enjoy Your Coffee, Tea, or Energy Drink Without the Caffeine Side-Effects
Have you ever had those days where your caffeine didn’t work? Or wondered about the difference between coffee and energy drinks? Ever worry about caffeine side-effects like jitters, anxiety, or withdrawal headaches? If so, you’ve come to the right place!
Before we can talk about caffeine side-effects, we have to talk about how we got where we are today. Energy drinks have shaped the marketplace so that even “coffee snobs” are affected. With the energy drink boom, coffee companies and even tea companies have come out with ready-to-drink versions of their products in order to keep up with the trends.
This has lead to a fascinating evolution in the world of caffeinated beverages, as well as some myths and misconceptions.
Are you drinking caffeine wrong? Myths, Misconceptions, and Tips to Drinking Caffeine Like a Scientist
In this episode, you’ll learn:
The “evolution of the energy drink”
Surprising trends in the world of caffeinated beverages
Common misconceptions about caffeine and energy drinks
5 secrets to enjoying your coffee, tea, or energy drink without the caffeine side-effects
Finding your “sweet spot” for caffeine and alertness
Cortisol Awakening Response
Surprising caffeine contents
Using the 5 Levels of Fatigue to beat caffeine addiction and caffeine withdrawal
Do you work long, unusual, or unpredictable hours? Is sleep is the first casualty in your battle to juggle multiple roles and responsibilities? Do you constantly feel overwhelmed, overworked, or over-caffeinated?
In this three-part series, we’ll talk about whether energy drink bans are good or bad, what has been tried in the US, and the bans or restrictions in other countries.
PART ONE – Are Energy Drink Bans Good or Bad? Are They Effective?
In PART ONE of this three-part series, we’ll talk about energy drinks bans in general. Why do people want to ban energy drinks? How does an energy drink ban work? What drinks does it include and why? Read more →
I’m at a party and I see a veggie platter, bags of chips, and a plate of raw hamburger meat. I’m confused, are people supposed to make burger patties themselves and barbecue them outside? This seems like an odd thing to do at someone else’s house. Other people at the party assure me this raw meat is actually steak tartare, perfectly fine to eat as-is, but I can’t bring myself to try it. This is a challenge for the heart, the body, and the brain. In my heart, there is too much fear this meat would make my body violently ill. In my brain, I don’t have enough information to accept this food is safe for me to eat.
Danielle Robertson Rath offers the fourth in a series of collaborations with Don’t Eat the Pseudoscience. Danielle is the go-to authority on caffeine and energy drinks so what better person to help us look at the safety of chemicals in our food?
Food poisoning is an awful experience, but what’s worse is when your food is making you sick and you can’t tell. Some people worry about chemicals in food making us sick. We have a right to be worried or, at least, to be skeptical.
In 1856, William Henry Perkin discovered the first synthetic organic dye. That discovery launched the practice of using dyes to color food. Nearly 100 years later, several children became ill from eating Halloween candy which was colored with FD&C Orange No.1, a dye that was, until that point, considered safe. As technology advances, we may discover some ingredients are less safe than we previously thought. We can reevaluate, just like the FDA did in 1950 –the year those children got sick from the orange dye, U.S. House Representative James Delaney began holding hearings on the safety of food additives. This prompted the US FDA to reevaluate all the listed color additives and remove the ones that caused serious adverse effects.
Science has come a long way since 1950. As technology advances, we have microscopes that are more powerful than ever. The difference is like admiring the leaves of a maple tree from the roof of a 10-story building versus being right there under that tree, holding its leaves in your hands. With this new sight, this new power, we face a dilemma. How do we know what to look for? How do we know what matters most? How do we reconcile the heart, body, and brain?
Consider the ingredients in an energy drink. Red Bull is the world’s number one top-selling brand, so let’s use that. Red Bull’s full list of ingredients includes caffeine, B-vitamins, taurine, citric acid, sodium bicarbonate, magnesium carbonate, and sweeteners glucose and sucrose (or artificial sweeteners Aspartame and Acesulfame Potassium in Red Bull Sugarfree). Red Bull is undoubtedly a processed food, but its ingredients list may have less “chemical-sounding” ingredients than one would expect. Nonetheless, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has a few of these Red Bull ingredients on their Chemical Cuisine List in the “AVOID” section. And yet, the worst chemical in Red Bull is…
There are plenty of people on board with the “if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it” campaign, and you can find concerned citizens blogging about every one of the items on Panera’s “No No List”. These “clean label” initiatives certainly speak to the heart, but let’s give the brain more data to analyze the situation. Caffeine has killed people. Several people. Compared to caffeine, chemicals like acesulfame potassium look like a lazy college roommate who never stops playing video games.
While some people metabolize caffeine quickly and feel none of its effects, everyone else can feel it affecting their body and mind. Caffeine’s positive effects include alertness, endurance, and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Caffeine’s negative effects include insomnia, jitters, addiction, headaches, anxiety, chest pain, acid reflux, gastrointestinal upset, and agitation. And these are just the effects we know about for sure.
There are over 100 different experimental studies on the effect of caffeine on heart rate, and still, we have no decisive answer. Most of those studies suggest caffeine has no effect, but other studies can’t agree on what the effect is. We can’t tell if caffeine makes the heart rate go up or down. It would be a win/win if we could say, “Either caffeine does nothing or it helps protect the heart,” but the research conflicts itself here.
Another aspect that makes caffeine more dangerous than other chemicals in our food is how caffeine affects different people. People with hypertension (high blood pressure) and people at risk for hypertension are advised against consuming caffeine because the blood pressure increases these people experience are stronger and longer than the increases experienced by everyone else.
Heavy or binge drinking is associated with increased risk of liver cirrhosis, hypertension, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer, impaired immune function and increases the incidence of chronic inflammatory diseases like osteoporosis, sarcopenia, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Chronic alcohol abuse leads to increased susceptibility to bacterial and viral infections.
Your brain might be saying, “Of course caffeine and alcohol are dangerous, but that’s only when you have too much.” There’s the rub. Caffeine and alcohol are some of the worst chemicals in our diet. We know the risks, but we drink it anyway because we know there is an amount that is safe to consume. To paraphrase Paracelsus, the difference between a poison and a cure is the dosage. This lesson is ingrained in our brains for alcohol and caffeine. And yet, we forget this lesson when we become afraid of other food chemicals. We don’t stop and ask the same questions we would if it were alcohol or caffeine: “How much can I have and still be okay?”
If you want to consume a diet free of artificial sweeteners and colors, free of ingredients with long names you don’t recognize, that is your right. However, don’t forget to give your brain some time to weigh in – is your heart being manipulated before your brain has a chance to process the data? As technology advances, we will have more power than we can imagine. We might be able to detect arsenic in juice at microscopic levels that weren’t remotely possible 10 years ago. We might be able to discover or synthesize new ingredients that change the food industry just like William Henry Perkin’s discovery of food dyes. And just like the FDA did in 1950, we will need to reevaluate the safety of the old, the current, and the new. We would benefit from treating our discoveries like caffeine and alcohol, remembering that the quantity and context make all the difference.
A study presented at the November 2018 American Heart Association conference claimed, “Just one energy drink may hurt blood vessel function.” It’s been a few months since the last “energy drinks are killing people” freak out, so I suppose we were due. Instead of pointing out all the limitations in the study (because this Healthline article beat me to it and did a great job) I’m going to skip the science for today and just talk about the 10 energy drinks that will not hurt your blood vessels.
Updated 3/26/2020 by Danielle Robertson Rath (the “GreenEyedGuide”)
When Energy Drinks Look Like Coffee Drinks
Monster Energy hit US markets in 2002 and helped establish the energy drink stereotype. Over 10 years later, there are still plenty of energy drinks that still fit this stereotype, but is Caffe Monster one of them?
Monster Energy is undeniably an energy drink company. In fact, they’re one of the Big Three responsible for the “Energy Drink Boom”. In this post, we’ll discuss whether Monster Energy’s wannabe-coffee warrants the same level of concern as their standard energy drinks.
Hi there, I research energy drinks.
I declared myself a biochemistry major in 2003 – right at the beginning of the Energy Drink Boom. I’ve always been fascinated by caffeinated drinks and all the fears surrounding their use. That’s why I’ve put my education toward understanding the science behind energy drinks and their ingredients.