This is my article that ran in the September 22nd edition of The Advocate:
Many people believe that energy drinks such as Red Bull, Monster and
the 5 Hour Energy shot are special concoctions that “have a lot of
energy in them.” To most people this usually amounts to thinking about
how much caffeine it has, while not really understanding what it means
for a drink to have energy.
In addition to that, more and more people are looking for ways to
maintain their energy level to keep up with their busy schedules and at
the same time keep their calories low for fear of putting on weight.
Lucky for them, it just so happens that many of these brands’
products are sugar/calorie-free or produce a version that is
sugar/calorie-free. But does this really do anything for them? Many
people argue “yes” simply based off of feeling more energized after
drinking one, but this becomes problematic when you actually look at
what calories are.
Simply put, calories are the energy that is found in food. If you
don’t have calories, there is no sense whatsoever in calling it an
energy drink. This is true for zero-to-low calorie energy drinks, but
even energy drinks with a normal amount of calories don’t provide much
more than you would find in an equivalent amount of your average soft
At this point you may be thinking to yourself, “There’s other stuff
in there besides the caloric content, doesn’t that do anything?” So
let’s take a look at the more commonly found ingredients in these
First off there’s the vitamin content. On the face of it, this may
seem beneficial for a drink to be loaded with vitamins, but the reality
is that these don’t actually do anything for the amount of energy you
have, and unless you have a pre-existing vitamin deficiency, it’s
probably just going to make you go to the bathroom more.
Taurine is another ingredient often touted by energy drink companies
as having some sort of impact on “energy and performance.” This doesn’t
actually amount to much for most people because if you consume meat,
taurine is already plentiful in your diet. Even with that fact in hand,
there is no evidence that taurine provides anything as far as energy
goes, though it does play an important role as far as nutrition is
This brings us to the kicker: caffeine. Caffeine certainly does have a
number of physiological effects, but it’s still widely debated as to
whether or not it actually does anything to increase awareness and
cognitive function. Even if awareness was increased by caffeine, it’s
something entirely separate from energy, so it’s still not relevant to
the whole “energy drink” issue.
Essentially, what you’re doing if you buy a zero-to-low calorie
energy drink is paying for a canned placebo, and regular energy drinks
don’t have anything over most soft drinks that deem them worthy of the
special “energy” title.
Maybe what we should do instead of forking over cash to a company
willing to sell you a placebo every time we feel tired is just to
pretend we’re having one or, better yet, have some food with a
sufficient number of calories that is actually healthy.
There’s an idea.
Follow me on Twitter here! I tweet frequently.