Consume with caution: Energy drinks pose health risks

Patrick Bascom recalls the time he stayed awake for 52 consecutive hours, thanks to NOS energy drinks.

Bascom, a student at Youngstown State University, said he enjoys consuming energy drinks — like NOS, Red Bull and Monster — on occasion. But NOS, which he said tastes like orange soda, is his favorite.

Plus, just one 16-ounce can of NOS contains 260 milligrams of caffeine and 54 grams of sugar.

Chelsea Fiest, a junior at YSU, said she recently began consuming energy drinks on a regular basis. Her favorite? XS, which is marketed as a “healthful” alternative to energy drinks loaded with caffeine and sugar.

Although XS claims to be free of sugar, it still contains many artificial preservatives and additives, such as potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, caramel color and sucralose.

Sarah Heimlich, a senior at YSU and a member of the women’s golf team, said she stays away from all energy drinks.

“As athletes, many brands are banned through the NCAA due to the contents of them,” she said. “I personally do not drink them, but know some that do.”

Heimlich described another athlete who felt too amped up and jittery after consuming an energy drink. The athlete subsequently found it difficult to calm down and focus on competing.

Heimlich said she feared the same effects and vowed to stick to sports drinks.Chrystyna Zellers, YSU’s nutritionist/dietitian, cautioned students to be “very careful with stimulants.”

“It’s very easy to have too much caffeine in your system,” she said. “[With energy drinks,] you get a false sense of being in control, and your actual performance and response time may not be as good.”

Nicole Mullins, an associate professor in the department of human performance and exercise science at YSU, said students can obtain energy from milk, pure fruit juices and water.

“I don’t really think that they are drinks out there that really, extremely help with energy and performance,” she said. “Some of them have whopping amounts of caffeine. Sometimes they can be helpful, while other times they are very detrimental.”

Zellers said a lack of energy is just “your body’s way of telling you something.” In order to remedy this tiredness, Zellers recommended solutions that are likely more beneficial than consuming energy drinks.

“Get adequate sleep, have a healthy nutritious diet and get adequate hydration,” she said. “Exercise is also important, as it can be very energizing and relieve a lot of tension and anxiety.”  

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