Energy drinks and weight loss?
I was just wondering — can drinking sugar-free energy drinks promote weight loss? I remember hearing somewhere a while ago that it is possible for those drinks to cause those sorts of results. I am a busy college student and would love to think that it would be possible to keep my energy level up while shedding a few pounds at the same time!
There’s no magic recipe in a can for increased energy and weight loss. Energy drinks contain high amounts of caffeine and claim to improve alertness, knock out feelings of fatigue, and reduce boredom. Since energy drinks aren’t regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there’s little transparency about what’s in these beverages or support for their assertions (more on this in a bit). However, what’s known is that consuming excess caffeine poses both short- and long-term health risks, especially for children or when mixed with alcohol and other substances, including certain medications. While a quick fix for shedding pounds may appeal to some, there’s no evidence to support that energy drinks can lead to weight loss. You may find that investing in long-term goals rather than quick fixes helps you to make the changes you're looking for, such as energy and weight maintenance. Perhaps focusing on eating nutritious foods, getting adequate sleep, and being physically active, will help you feel energized and maintain a weight that meets your body’s needs.
Energy drinks are one of the most popular dietary supplements among teens and young adults. The buzz about energy drinks offering quick mental and physical fixes may be especially appealing to busy college students, such as yourself. The reality is that since these substances aren’t regulated in the US, it’s difficult to know exactly what’s in them. The main ingredients listed in energy drinks are typically caffeine and vitamins. Consuming up to 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per day is considered low-risk for most healthy adults, though not children or people with heart conditions. The caffeine content in energy drinks could be anywhere between 6 to 242 mg per serving, so depending on the number of servings that are consumed, it could exceed the daily limit. In some cases, the caffeine may not be disclosed on energy drink labels or it could be higher or lower than what’s advertised.
What's more, the caffeine and stimulants in energy drinks (such as taurine, guarana, ginseng, gingko, synephrine or bitter orange, and carnitine) can cause a person’s blood pressure and heart rate to increase by as much as ten percent. For individuals who already have high blood pressure, excess caffeine may lead to increased risk of heart disease or stroke. For all people, the health effects of high levels of caffeine may involve unpleasant physical and psychological symptoms, including:
- Caffeine dependency
- Nervousness and anxiety
- Trouble sleeping
- Muscle twitching
- Increased heart rate
- Ulcers and gastroesophageal reflux disease
To answer your question about energy drinks and weight loss, guzzling energy drinks (or caffeine) for the purposes of increasing metabolism isn’t recommended. The level of caffeine in energy drinks only slightly increases metabolism (burning less than 100 extra calories per day) and these increases stop when caffeine intake stops. It’s also worth noting that since caffeine is a diuretic, any initial weight loss is most likely due to lower levels of water in the body. Depending on the type of energy drink, some brands may contain as much as 62 grams of added sugar, which both exceeds daily recommendations and could potentially lead to weight gain over time. For those who prefer the sugar-free options, research on how artificial sweeteners impact weight and health overall is mixed. For more information, you might want to check out the Food Safety section of the Go Ask Alice! Nutrition & Physical Activity archives.
Although this myth-busting answer may be disappointing, have no fear. There are many ways that people (even busy college students) can increase their energy and maintain a weight that supports your body’s functioning w without relying on energy drinks. If the stressors of college make it feel as though there’s no time for yourself, a health promotion specialist may be able to offer more information on time management, as well as tips for increasing your energy and living a balanced lifestyle. Here’s to you letting your cup of energy and good health runneth over!
Originally published Jan 21, 2011
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