It’s been a little over 20 years since I tasted my first energy drink. I was the manager of the retail side of a local pharmacy back home and Red Bull had just started to hit serious popularity in Canada. This was before Monster, Rockstar and 5-hour energy started seriously hitting the market, although they wouldn’t be far behind. On its face, there isn’t much inherently wrong with consuming an energy drink. The average 473 mL can usually contains about 100 to 140 milligrams of caffeine, realistically making it no worse than two medium cups of coffee from your favourite coffee chain. And I know people who consume far more than that.
The idea behind something like energy drinks is moderation. The average, healthy adult can safely consume about 400 milligrams of caffeine in a day, meaning between four to five average cups of coffee. Like anything else in life, the words “average” and “safely” get thrown around because it depends on the specific person, their physiology, age, weight, pre-existing health conditions and so on. It’s a little like alcohol; I know people who will start to feel tipsy after one drink. Others may not feel anything after several drinks on an empty stomach.
So why am I bringing this up? Well, ever since that first pull of sugar-free Red Bull, I’ve been in favour of energy drinks on a daily basis. I don’t go overboard and suck back several cans a day but I have made a point that my day starts with one. I usually prefer the flavour and the fact it’s cold over the taste of coffee and waiting for coffee to cool down. It’s allowed me to start getting caffeine into my system right away and without burning my tongue. plus, I’ve usually managed to rationalize that buying a full flat of drinks from my local bulk store comes out cheaper than buying a medium coffee at a drive thru on my way to work, so it’s more financially economical, as well.
But recently I start taking some health supplements that I’ve been hoping would help with fitness, weight loss and make me feel a bit more energized overall. The big problem with caffeine is that it actually tricks your brain into thinking you’re less tired; it doesn’t actually help with the fatigue itself. So, these energy drinks often contain massive amounts of B-vitamins and minerals that, while useful to the body, can often constitute five times the daily recommended amount. Not something I want to necessarily keep mixing with an untried fitness supplement, as they can often include some of these things. So reluctantly, I stopped having energy drinks almost two weeks ago. And here is the story of the carnage that ensued…
In all seriousness, I feel like shit. The sudden loss of all those B-vitamins and all the other “energy-providing” additives have had me floating through my day like a well-dressed zombie. I’ve experienced headaches and body aches, irritability and difficulty in keeping my eyes clear. A wise man probably would have tapered off over time rather than quit cold turkey but I’ve never been one for trying anything only half way. With that logic in mind, I consumed the last can I had in the house and then stopped. Many of the symptoms I’m describing here have now started to pass and are no longer a constant, although most mornings I wake up jonesing for a can instead of the cup of black steam that everyone else seems to partake of.
But, since I believe in balance, I need to point out the positive aspects, as well. I had a colleague who often used to tell me that I always seemed different, mood-wise, when I drank energy drinks. The big issue with this is that one usually won’t recognize their own change in mood. So I can’t say that I ever genuinely noticed. But one thing I have noticed is that I get to sleep easier and my rest appears to be deeper than it usually is. Maybe that’s just a coincidence since I never made a habit of consuming energy drinks beyond mid-afternoon anyway, but it’s definitely been noticeable. Prior to this, I’d usually be up three to four times a night at minimum and that wouldn’t include blood sugar issues or simple need of a bathroom. So it’s been kind of nice getting full nights sleep.
So maybe all of this is simply coincidence. Or maybe this is just something that my new health supplement is helping with, overall. Either way, once I got through the initial issues with cutting out energy drinks, and I’ve been avoiding using the word “withdrawal” but it is what it is, there have been some noticeable changes. And maybe for the better. Perhaps it would have been worth the listen, when my colleague told me I was better off without energy drinks. And maybe I am. Does it mean I’ll never have another can again? Probably not. But it makes for some interesting conversations. ☯️