Family Health The Surprising Side Effects of Energy Drinks By Primary Care, September 7, 2017 Need a little boost in the middle of the day? If you’re like many people, you may reach for an energy drink for much-needed stamina. RELATED: 4 Ways to Get an Energy Boost Without Caffeine Energy drinks that contain a mixture of caffeine and other stimulants are formulated to quickly enhance alertness. For many, they’re an alternative to coffee for an afternoon pick-me-up. Studies have shown, however, that these drinks can pose an overall health risk. For more information, or to find a primary care doctor, visit www.UPMC.com/primarycare or call 1-855-676-UPMCPCP (8762-727). What’s in That Energy Drink? Energy drinks contain large amounts of caffeine, added sugars, and vitamins. Some contain legal stimulants, such as guarana, taurine, and L-carnitine, often in much higher quantities than are found naturally in food. Guarana is a bean from South America that has nearly twice the caffeine as coffee beans. Taurine is an amino acid found in meat and fish. Your body uses taurine to regulate energy levels. L-carnitine is an amino acid that helps your body turn fat into energy. Side Effects of Energy Drinks You may experience the negative effects of energy drinks after your first sip. You may notice your heart rate increase and stress levels rise. Consuming excessive amounts of caffeine can cause anxiety, restlessness, and trouble sleeping. Energy drinks also may cause stomach irritation and muscle twitches. In extreme circumstances, the ingredients in energy drinks can prevent your arteries from dilating properly. In some cases, an otherwise healthy person can go into cardiac arrest after consuming an excessive number of energy drinks. Should You Give Up Energy Drinks? “When it comes to energy drinks, my advice is to please use caution,” says Philip Iozzi, DO, Absolute Primary Care-UPMC. “If you need a pick-me-up in the morning, a cup of black coffee would be a better choice. Better yet, wake up 30 minutes earlier and do aerobic exercise,” suggests Dr. Iozzi. “If you develop a morning exercise routine, you will likely have more energy, stamina, and focus throughout the day. Taking a short brisk walk at lunch is another a great way to boost your energy.”. If you aren’t drinking energy drinks now, don’t start! If you have them occasionally, try other options. If you can’t live without them, limit the number you consume. Most importantly, pay attention to the way they affect your body and talk to your primary care doctor if you have concerns. For more information, or to find a primary care doctors, visit www.UPMC.com/primarycare or call 1-855-676-UPMCPCP (8762-727).