In October 2017 a news story surfaced that a man suffered a severe brain injury because of excessive consumption of energy drinks. Biochemist and Energy Drink Guide author GreenEyedGuide explains what consumers should take away from this news story.
Energy Drinks to Avoid
This month I thought I’d switch it up and talk about the products I DON’T recommend. What they are and what they stand for bothers me. Some of the following products may be outdated, their formulas revamped or phased out entirely. Yet, my concern over these products is still valid as their wannabe’s still live among us.
4 Products That Put the “NO” in November
The Alcoholic Energy Drink
When you drink too much alcohol, your body has an automatic safety feature: you fall asleep. This is your body’s way of saying “Stop drinking, Doofus!” When you have caffeine with your alcohol, that safety feature doesn’t work anymore, and you can literally stay up and drink yourself to death. To make matters worse, when you do get rushed to the ER, people write stories about the Dangers of Energy Drinks (see “Energy Drinks and the ER”), and you ruin energy drinks for the rest of us. Don’t do that.
The Green-Eyed Guide Solution — Have caffeine first
Look, I’m not an old lady yet but I’m usually ready for bed around 10 pm (and ready to wake up, without an alarm clock, by 7 am). If I’m going to enjoy the night with friends, I’m going to need some form of caffeine. If I’ll be drinking any alcohol at all, the caffeine needs to come first. Sticking to a 100 mg caffeine limit and consuming zero caffeine with or after the alcohol makes it easier to enjoy the buzz. Combining caffeine and alcohol either mutes the tingly feeling that you’re buzzed, or makes you go from zero to plastered without warning. Also, this combo poses a greater risk to everyone because it makes people wrongly assume that their reflexes are not impaired.
For a longer, more detailed and more colorful
rant discussion on alcoholic energy drinks, check out the Energy Drink Guide.
The Caffeine-Loaded Pre-Workout Supplement
Caffeine may actually help someone get a more efficient workout, or muster up the energy to NOT skip the gym. However, too much caffeine before a strenuous workout may push the body too far, too fast. Think of how many times a super-set or a cardio-combo has left you winded. Caffeine can definitely make that worse. Caffeinated workout supplements are the THIRD Most Dangerous Caffeinated Product, according to Caffeine Informer.
The Green-Eyed Guide Solution — Know how much you’re lifting and consuming
You wouldn’t walk over to the weight rack and pick up any weight without checking the number on the side, would you? Probably not. So why would you do that with your workout supplement? Many caffeinated products nowadays list the amount of caffeine per serving. Even if they don’t, you can check the amount of caffeine in Caffeine Informer’s caffeinated workout supplement database – here. Just like with bicep curls, the answer to “How much is enough?” will vary from person to person. Keep in mind that a healthy, non-pregnant/nursing adult can have up to 400 mg caffeine per day. Try not to max out all in one shot.
The Dehydration-Hydration Combo, aka Caffeinated Coconut Water
I can’t stand the taste of coconut water — it reminds me of the first time I stood up on a surfboard and subsequently got a mouthful of ocean water. If you do like coconut water, don’t let me change that, just let me say that I don’t understand combining something that is known to be a (mild) diuretic, with something that’s supposed to enhance hydration.
The Green-Eyed Guide Solution — Pick one: coconuts or caffeine
If you’re someone that sweats profusely when you workout, coconut water can be a good substitute to the sugary sports nutrition drinks. However, many companies have taken advantage of the fad — beware of products containing a wee-bit of coconut water and just as much sugar as the more popular sports drinks. Also keep in mind that if you ARE dehydrated, (Fatigue Level 1), try hydrating yourself BEFORE you have any caffeine (save the caffeine for Fatigue Level 2 and above).
The Caffeine Toxicity Challenge
If you’re you’re not pregnant, nursing, sensitive to caffeine, under 18, or Canadian (see #5 here), you can have up to 400mg caffeine per day. This number isn’t arbitrary, it comes from a carefully designed scientific study [See “Effects of Caffeine on Human Health“]. It’s up to the consumer to know their own limits and keep track of how much caffeine they’ve had in one day. That’s personal responsibility. HOWEVER, it irks me to no end when a company decides to provide a day’s worth of caffeine in one container. At this point, personal responsibility shifts from the person consuming that product to the person who said it was okay to put that much caffeine in one handy little bottle. “But we have clear instructions that say you should only consume half.”
The Green-Eyed Guide Solution — Learn how to find the caffeine on the label
Due to the political controversy involving energy drinks many companies are now including caffeine content on the label. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to learn how to find the caffeine on the label. If you want to learn how to read a label like a pro, check out this video, or use the “How To” section in your copy of the Energy Drink Guide. If all else fails, Caffeine Informer’s database lists the caffeine and sugar amounts of thousands of food, beverage and supplement products.
This info-graphic from Compound Interest helps put things in perspective. Disclaimer, this article is about the amounts consumed all at once. Nonetheless, it’s a great resource.
Know your limits, know how to read a label, learn to love (and use) the 5 Levels of Fatigue, and you’ll be a living, breathing example that it’s possible to consume caffeine safely.