Energy drinks have a bad reputation

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Energy drinks are a source of fuel students in a state of exhaustion are turning to.

According to a 2008 a study of undergraduates at a large public university, at least 39 percent of college students had consumed at least one energy drink in the past month.

Chance Truman, a junior exercise science major from Enterprise, said energy drinks get a bad reputation.

“People think you drink a Red Bull and you’re going to die,” Truman said. “If you’re not smart about it and drink a ton of Red Bull, then sure, but I think (if you consume) all things in moderation you’ll be fine.”

There are 80 milligrams of caffeine in an 8-ounce can of Red Bull, while filtered coffee has 79 milligrams. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, it is considered safe for adults to consume up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, but adolescents should limit themselves to 100 milligrams.

While caffeine is mildly addictive, it has not been shown to have a direct link with any serious health risks, said Shauna Zundel, a registered nurse at the Health and Wellness Center.

According to a study done by American College of Medical Toxicology, energy drinks in high consumption may cause dental decay, energy highs and crashes, headaches, heart palpitations, dehydration, exercise­-related injuries, and an increased risk of injury. It is also becoming more popular to mix energy drinks with alcohol, which can mask the depressant effects of alcohol.

According to the study, it is important to remember some bodies are more sensitive to caffeine than others.

“When used occasionally, energy drinks are not necessarily bad for you, but they shouldn’t be seen as ‘natural alternatives’ either,” Zundel said. “Some of the claims they make like ‘improved performance and concentration’ can be misleading.”

Truman said he feels the opposite when drinking energy drinks, although he has been drinking energy drinks since he was 14 years old. He drinks an energy drink at least once a day to help him have energy and focus. He said he does see some drawbacks in drinking energy drinks frequently such as the cost and the amount of sugar in most drinks.

“I probably drink 12 to 16 ounces a day,” Truman said. “I’ll have one before I start work or before I have to take a test in the testing center, and it helps me feel more alert.”

It is important to be well informed and know how much caffeine you are consuming to avoid being jittery and shaky, Truman said.  

Students need to remember caffeine is addictive. If you feel like you can’t get going in the morning, feel overtired during the day from not having caffeine, or get headaches when you try to stop taking caffeine regularly, these are signs of dependence, Zundel said.

Zundel shared some tips for students who might want to quit drinking caffeine or want to cut down his or her consumption:

  • Switch to decaffeinated beverages, or to a mixture of decaffeinated and regular coffee.
  • Reduce the number of caffeinated drinks you have every day. If you have coffee in the morning and a Coke in the afternoon, try skipping the Coke and replace it with water or juice.
  • Watch out for soft drinks and energy drinks like Red Bull which can contain added caffeine. This will be listed on the label.
  • If you are trying to quit and feel yourself getting a headache, you can try having a small amount of caffeine to alleviate the headache. For some people, this helps keep up the momentum to quit.
  • Know what’s in over-the-counter medications. These can contain large doses of caffeine, too.
  • Drink water or non-caffeinated drinks when you’re thirsty. Remember, caffeinated beverages will only add to your body’s dehydration.

Energy drinks, though a source of energy, may not be the best option for late night study sessions.