Have energy drinks become the elixir of life?

March 25, 2009

by Amy Olita

Dealing with classes, massive amounts of homework and real work, all while trying to have a social life causes most college students to lose sleep, and this lack of sleep makes energy a very hot commodity for getting through the day.
Energy drinks have become the new coffee as students use energy drinks to get an extra boost before 8 a.m. classes. But just like coffee, the vast amounts of caffeine in these sugary drinks can have extreme side effects.
Alice Hunt, professor of nutrition and dietetics, said energy drinks, such as Red Bull and Monster, provide people with a false sense of energy because the caffeine causes you to be more alert, but it does not give you much real energy.
“[After drinking energy drinks] people will feel more alert-the same as with coffee, [even though] the carbohydrates in the drink do provide some real source of energy,” Hunt said.
She said caffeine is the only thing in the drinks that is really bad for you.
“The sugar [in the drinks] is not the problem,” Hunt said. “The massive dose of caffeine in the drinks can cause you to have a caffeine overdose, which will increase your blood pressure and heart rate and can prevent you from sleeping. You can also develop a dependency on caffeine and get withdrawal headaches.”
Teressa Wilson, a freshman kinesiology major, said she drinks a low carbohydrate Monster every day after she wakes up from her nap and before she goes to powerlifting practice, even though she does not think it really wakes her up.
“Originally I started drinking them because I thought it would give me energy, but they really don’t,” Wilson said. “Now I just drink it because I like the way it tastes.”
She said she is not worried about the drinks being bad for her because she never drinks more than one or two at a time.
“I don’t drink them in excess, and if I don’t get my caffeine from those, I will get it from Cokes.”
Matthew Foster, a freshman chemical engineering major, said he drinks four or five Monsters a week to stay awake during the day.
“When I drink one in the morning I’m awake for the rest of the day,” Foster said. “I don’t crash like with other energy drinks, and it keeps me focused.”
Chelsea Lackey, a freshman biomedical engineering major, said she used to drink every type of energy drink she could find, but now she cannot drink them without getting sick.
“I had at least one every night my first quarter,” Lackey said. “Once during finals I consumed eight drinks in one night. After about two and a half months of drinking them every day, they had no effect on me.”
She said she was so tired she could never wake up for classes, even when her friends threw water on her.
“I was so sleep-deprived I would fall asleep right after drinking [an energy drink],” Lackey said. “I feel better now that I’ve stopped drinking them, because I go to bed early and can wake up for class.”
Lackey said she does not advise students to drink energy drinks, especially not one every a day.
“You don’t need them to survive college,” Lackey said. “So much sugar and caffeine should not be put in your body at one time.”