Everyone has their own special way to keep themselves awake. Some people use coffee or soda, some grab a handful of candy to eat during class, and a few incredible individuals find the time to actually get a proper amount of sleep. However, one of the most controversial ways many college students use to keep themselves awake is energy drinks.  

Energy drinks seem to be one of those things people love to hate. Most articles that you see online have this holier than thou attitude regarding them, that energy drinks being "bad" for you is somehow as obvious as cigarettes being bad for you. Now I don’t want to make it seem like I’m saying that these articles are wrong and I’m right, but there are two major flaws in the majority of the arguments against energy drinks that should be addressed.

The (Not So) Scary Ingredients: 

coffee, tea
Katie Walsh

Energy drinks have a lot of ingredients that may come off as scary, especially if you read some of the articles written about them. To boil it down most energy drinks contain caffeine, sugar, B-vitamins, taurine, guarana, and ginseng. While there are some health benefits to some of these ingredients, this article is arguing that energy drinks aren't bad as they seem, not that they're good for you. That being said the main argument against energy drinks is that each of these ingredients is bad for you in one way or another, and by combining them together you have this sinister concoction. The arguments against taurine, guarana, ginseng, and B-vitamins are anecdotal and most of the articles that bashed energy drinks ranged from conceding that these ingredients are beneficial to stating that the effects of these are negligible. Really the biggest causes for alarm are caffeine and sugar.

Caffeine is first and foremost a drug. It's a stimulant, which means it's in the same category as cocaine, and you can technically get addicted to it. It increases your heart rate and blood pressure. You also can get too much caffeine; 400 mg is the recommended daily intake for adults, and 100 mg is the recommended intake for adolescents. Where the arguments fall apart is the double standard for coffee. A tall (12 oz) Iced Coffee at Starbucks has 120 mg of caffeine in it. Not only is that about the same as a 12 oz red bull (114 mg); it also wouldn't be that hard to grab a Venti (24 oz) Iced Coffee in the morning and an another one mid-day bringing you over the recommended daily limit.

This is usually when arguments turn to attack sugar. 'Yeah, coffee has a lot of caffeine, but energy drinks have sugar'. Of course excess sugar is bad for you. It could cause weight gain, increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, and increases the risk of heart disease. However, is this any different than soda? Let's compare a can of coke and a can of red bull. A 12 oz can of Coke has 39 g of sugar, which is the same as a 12 oz can of Red Bull. Despite this, sodas don't have the same negative connotation energy drinks do. Furthermore, a tall Cinnamon Dolce Frappuccino has 41 g of sugar and 65 mg of caffeine, and it has the lowest sugar content of any frappuccino on the menu! Caffeine and sugar are the two biggest cited issues with energy drinks, but Starbucks can make drinks like that without any outcry. If I walked around with a Venti Iced Cafe Mocha, which contains 43 g of sugar and 265 mg of Caffeine, no one would bat an eye. Yet if I walk around with a red bull people will, and have, come up to me and tell me they are worried about my health. 

The Outliers 

beer, ice, coffee, milk, water, tea
Alexa Rojek

Which brings me to my next point. Yes, sugar and Caffeine can be bad for you, but only in excess. If you drink one red bull your body will produce insulin to regulate the spike in blood sugar, and in 6 hours half of caffeine is gone. Drinking one red bull is not going to hurt you. However, that's where some energy drink users mess up, and where most of these articles like to focus. A lot of these articles like to include stories of healthy people being sent to the hospital after going into cardiac arrest, and the only thing different between them and a healthy person is that they drank energy drinks. What they like to gloss over is that these individuals are habitually drinking an insane number of energy drinks a day. In a CNN article the case of a “young 28-year-old who [drank] eight cans of an energy drink actually went into cardiac arrest, and they found his arteries of his heart were completely locked up.” was used as an example. If you have a habit of drinking 8 energy drinks a day there is a severe problem there, which is not related to whether or not energy drinks are bad. Looking at the sugar and Caffeine contents of a lot of coffee drinks available at Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, or Mcdonalds, they are comparable to most energy drinks. Consistently drinking 8 Iced Mochas a day would likely send you to the hospital too. The real problem here isn’t that energy drinks are inherently bad for you, it's that somebody's mom didn’t teach them “everything in moderation”. 


Vivek Kuruvilla

Yes energy drinks have alot of sugar, yes you can argue that energy drink could: cause cavities, increase the risk of heart diseases, and diabetes, and yes both sugar and caffeine can be "addictive". However, those same things can be said about the sugar and caffeine in soda, juices, Starbucks drinks, or even a cup of black coffee. So no, energy drinks are really not as bad as many people want to say they are. They are, however, about as bad as most of the other stuff people put in their bodies. So If you need a couple cups of coffee to stay awake that is not that far off from needing a red bull to stay awake. There is nothing special about the negative aspects of Energy Drinks compared to Coffee or Soda. Just remember to use common sense, everything in moderation. And if you're really desperate, there's nothing like a nice nap to pick you back up.