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The Big Bad Buzz

Updated: Jan 24, 2022

College students are all too familiar with late night study sessions and the struggle to reach seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Hence, it doesn’t pose as a shock that commercial energy drinks are a quick fix that most of the general populations of adults and adolescents turn to. With claims of “super creatine,”[1] and “delivers a big bad buzz,”[2] plastered on the bottles, the appeal of these beverages comes with big promises. Alas, many of which are fulfilled and many of which are questionable.

People aren’t typically aware of everything they’re putting into their bodies. When it comes to energy drinks, this generalization is even more true. Ingredients may consist of caffeine, taurine, sugars, vitamins, herbal extracts, glucuronolactone, etc. [7]. Notably, most ingredients are unregulated in the United States, so energy drinks are not under the jurisdiction of the FDA [8]. This fact raises eyebrows and for good reason. The most “dangerous” ingredients, to much surprise, are caffeine and sugar! The recommended maximum caffeine intake is 400 milligrams, a close amount to two small Starbucks coffees, depending on the drink. The approximate amount of caffeine in popular energy drinks like Monster and Bang are 160 milligrams and 300 milligrams in a 16-ounce can, respectively [9]. All things considered, if one knows their limits of daily caffeine intake and demonstrates restraint, energy drinks, in terms of caffeine, shouldn’t be harmful, excluding the side effects of anxiety, insomnia, and restlessness. Sugars, on the other, may be more concerning. Compared to 12-ounce cans of soda which have 39 grams of sugar, energy drinks have 41 grams [10]. The American Heart Association recommends less than 24 grams of sugars per day. So, one 12-ounce can of an energy drink equates to almost two daily intakes, not considering the sugars in normal meals. Why this is concerning is because high amounts of sugar consumption can lead to high weight gain and an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, gout, and heart disease [10]. All these numbers may put the severity of over-consumption into a higher perspective.

One of consumers’ major concerns is cardiovascular health. A study compared the effects of three energy drinks, Monster, Red Bull, and 5-hour Energy Drink, on cardiovascular response at rest and exercise. Results showed that at rest, systolic blood pressures of the three brands over an hour were higher than over half an hour, while diastolic pressure was more-or-less unaffected [3]. This was attributed to caffeine and taurine, the former proven to increase heart rate and respiration [4], and the latter acting to suppress excitatory neurotransmitters in the brain similar to GABA [5], or rather, it works to calm and relax an individual. Ironically, two of the most concerning ingredients, caffeine and taurine, are found in coffee, chocolate, tea, and scallops, chicken, and beef, respectively, which are all foods most people consume on a regular basis. Notably, however, they all contain varying amounts of each. It still leads people to wonder: what makes the consumption of energy drinks more controversial than the before-mentioned subsistences?

The public’s perspective on energy drinks are conflicted; some believe its consumption is overall harmless and others believe the opposite. For example, in California’s Superior Court, the jury in the case of Bledsoe vs. Monster unanimously ruled Monster as not a cause of cardiac arrhythmias or cardiac arrest [6]. On the other hand, a general consensus in the United States is that excess consumption of energy drinks is a public health concern, mostly for adults and adolescents [11]. The perception of energy drinks seem to vary on a case-by-case basis, a decision influenced by each affected individual’s circumstances and situation.

So when you’re in need of fast energy, should you drink it? Being mindful of what and how much you’re ingesting and knowing your limitations are the best ways to say “yes”!


  1. Bangenergy.

  2. Monster.

  3. Peveler, W. W., Sanders, G. J., Marczinski, C. A., & Holmer, B. (n.d.). Effects of Energy Drinks on Economy and Cardiovascular Measures. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 31(4), 882–887.

  4. Caffeine: Overview, uses, side effects, precautions, interactions, dosing and reviews. WebMD.

  5. Proper Wild. (2020, November 10). Why is taurine in Energy Drinks, and why we don't use it. Proper Wild.

  6. (2018, December 7). Jury in California Superior Court Unanimously Found Monster Energy Drinks Do Not Cause Cardiac Arrhythmias or Cardiac Arrest. Contify Retail News.

  7. Peacock, A., Martin, F. H., & Carr, A. (2013). Energy drink ingredients. Contribution of caffeine and taurine to performance outcomes. Appetite, 64, 1–4.

  8. Generali JA. Energy drinks: food, dietary supplement, or drug?. Hosp Pharm. 2013;48(1):5-9. doi:10.1310/hpj4801-5.test

  9. (2021, June 21). Caffeine chart. Center for Science in the Public Interest.

  10. (2020, July 30). Energy drinks. The Nutrition Source.

  11. World Health Organization. (2014, October 14). Energy drinks cause concern for health of young people. World Health Organization.

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