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The rush on energy drinks
Behind the buzz
Not the workout boost you want

Alcohol alert
Alcohol alert

Mixing alcohol with energy drinks is a new club trend that should make you think twice. Many people think energy drinks—with their stimulating abilities—counter the depressive effects of alcohol, so they’ll feel less drunk and more alert. But that belief poses some problems:

  • Fatigue and intoxication are two ways the body tells you you’ve had enough to drink. Suppress those feelings, and you could end up engaging in some dangerous behaviors, like driving impaired. Whether you mix alcohol with an energy drink or club soda, your blood alcohol level will be the same.
  • Alcohol and energy drinks are dehydrating. Combine the two and you’ve set the groundwork for a major loss of fluids. Dehydration makes it harder to metabolize alcohol, which means you’ll have a wicked hangover the next day.

Remember the days when a quick pick-me-up meant you reached for a cup of coffee or a candy bar? Sure, those are still options. But now you’ll find a dizzying array of so-called energy drinks claiming to increase stamina, improve concentration and perk up your performance. But do they work? And are they safe?

Behind the buzz

Unlike sports drinks, which usually contain carbohydrates and electrolytes to aid exercise endurance, energy drinks boost stamina temporarily by relying on megadoses of sugar and caffeine—in some cases more than twice the caffeine of an espresso. That’s precisely what may be their downside as well. Excessive caffeine can make you jittery and irritable, raise your blood pressure and trigger heart palpitations, dehydration and insomnia. And the ill effects of sugar—tooth decay and obesity, to name a few—are well documented.

Some drinks contain vitamins, amino acids and herbs like ginseng. Avoid drinks with ma huang or ephedra, an amphetamine-like stimulant that’s been banned as a dietary supplement. You should avoid energy drinks if you are pregnant or have:

  • heart disease
  • diabetes
  • sleeping problems
  • seizure disorders
  • anxiety or psychiatric disorders

Not the workout boost you want

It stands to reason that if energy drinks rev you up, they should help you run a little longer, walk a little faster and step a little higher. And they very well may—but at a high price. When you combine the fluid loss from exercise with the diuretic effects of a highly caffeinated drink, you’re setting yourself up for serious dehydration. A better preworkout energy boost: Sip some water and nosh on an apple or some peanut butter.

The bottom line: If you’re healthy, an occasional energy drink is probably safe for you, but proper sleep, healthy foods and regular exercise will give you better and healthier long-term results.