What are the main ingredients in energy drinks?
Energy drinks are soft drinks that contain high amounts of caffeine, or any other stimulant, and sugar. The amount of sugar that these drinks contain is often above the recommended daily intake.
When combined with some medications – e.g. psychiatric medications, the list is quite long – caffeine might cause unwanted side effects.
Energy drinks also contain taurine, pyridoxine, riboflavin, and other derivatives. Taurine has a positive effect on mental functioning while riboflavin is a coenzyme for cellular respiration.
Energy drinks help in stimulating both physically and mentally. They are also known to increase the alertness of and attention, which makes it possible to work long hours without sleep.
It’s also good to keep in mind that some energy drinks contain an alcohol content of about 6% hence impairing the cognitive ability.
How much caffeine do energy drinks contain?
Most of the energy drinks labels do not disclose the actual caffeine levels that they contain. Most energy drinks contain 300-400 milligrams of caffeine, which is pretty close to the FDA maximum daily recommended level (400mg/day). With two energy drinks a day, you are almost surely consuming more caffeine than you should.
Here are the caffeine content of some popular energy drinks:
- Bang: 300mg / 16 oz
- Monster Energy: 160mg / 16 oz
- Red Bull: 80mg / 8.4 oz
How much sugar do energy drinks contain?
According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the daily recommended intake of sugar is around 50 grams (roughly 12 teaspoons).
Compare this with the sugar content of some popular energy drinks:
- Bang: sugar-free
- Monster Energy: 54g (14 teaspoon) / 16 oz
- Red Bull: 27.5g (7 teaspoon) / 8.4 oz
Energy drinks might contain a lot of sugar or artificial sweeteners, which might be just as bad as sugar.
Can energy drinks cause chest pain?
Yes, energy drinks have many ingredients that are known to trigger chest pain. Sugar, carbon dioxide, caffeine, and alcohol can all cause chest pain.
People with the following health problems are more likely to experience chest discomfort after drinking energy drinks:
- heart issues
- acid reflux, heartburn
Left chest pain after energy drink
Pancreatitis and heart problems are the most common causes of left side chest pain after eating or drinking.
- The high sugar content of energy drinks might increase the risk of heart disease.
- While caffeine doesn’t seem to negatively affect the heart, too much of it can cause palpitations and racing hearts.
Besides left side chest pain, heart issues tend to cause pain in the left arm, shoulder, neck, or jaw. Shortness of breath, dizziness, sweating are also typical symptoms.
Sugar makes the pancreas work hard. Those who have an inflamed pancreas are more at risk of having symptoms after drinking sugary beverages, like energy drinks.
The Pancreas Center at Columbia Surgery recommends avoiding foods high in fat or sugar.
Pain in the left side after drinking energy drinks might be a symptom of pancreatitis. Most often the pain is experienced in the upper left part of the stomach, under the rib cage. However, the pain often radiates to the left side of the chest, left arm, and shoulder.
Heart pain after energy drinks?
Sharp pain around the center or left side of the chest is often identified as heart pain. Although in some cases it might be heartburn, energy drinks do put a lot of pressure on the heart.
Energy drinks are known for their stimulation purposes. However, they are negatively associated with heart-related problems.
This is how energy drinks can make your heart hurt:
The caffeine in energy drinks might raise the blood pressure and the heart rate of people suffering from any heart-related diseases. Heart palpitations and skipped beats are the most common symptoms.
Some energy drinks contain alcohol, others are often mixed with alcohol.
Too much alcohol can have negative side effects such as raising blood pressure and heart rate. It also increases the possibility of dehydration in some people, because it has a diuretic effect.
Caffeine & alcohol
The main problem with mixing caffeine and alcohol is that it is easy to end up drinking too much alcohol:
When alcohol is mixed with caffeine, the caffeine can mask the depressant effects of alcohol, making drinkers feel more alert than they would otherwise. As a result, they may drink more alcohol and become more impaired than they realize, increasing the risk of alcohol-attributable harms.(source)
There are studies about the increased risk of injury and drinking too much.
Since both caffeine and alcohol increase blood pressure and heart rate, combining them might not be the best idea.
Can energy drinks cause a heart attack?
Energy drinks can increase blood pressure, heart rate, which are known risk factors of a heart attack.
Both the American College of Cardiology and the Cleveland HeartLab says that energy drinks have an immediate and adverse effect on the heart.
Those who have high blood pressure or other existing heart conditions are more at risk.
Can energy drinks cause angina?
Yes, according to this study, energy drinks can cause angina and heart rhythm disorders.
The risk is higher when drinking energy drinks after physical exercise.
Angina and heart attack have similar symptoms, check out this article on WebMD to learn more about the differences.
Heartburn after energy drinks
People often experience non-cardiac chest pain after drinking energy drinks. In most cases, the cause is heartburn and acid reflux.
There is a muscle between the stomach and the food pipe called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). When this muscle is relaxed, stomach acid can back up into the food pipe, irritating the lining of the esophagus and causing a burning sensation around the middle of the chest, called heartburn.
Eating or drinking too much, or drinking cold, carbonated drinks, like energy drinks, can put extra pressure on the LES, and it might open, allowing the stomach contents to seep into the esophagus.
On top of that, caffeine is known for having a relaxing effect on the LES, which makes the acid flow-back more likely. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine and can have chest pain after a cup of coffee.
Sometimes the pain is so excruciating, that people might think they have a heart attack. Sharp chest pain after eating or drinking is never a good sign, when you are not sure what causes the pain, always call for medical help!
Left arm pain after energy drinks
Those who are prone to acid reflux, have heart issues or pancreatitis, might experience left arm pain after energy drinks.
Your other symptoms might help identify the exact cause, however in case of severe pain, or if the pain doesn’t go away, you should always contact your doctor!
- Heart issues: chest tightness, shortness of breath, sweating.
- Pancreatitis: fever, nausea, vomiting, and left side pain
- Acid reflux: burning sensation around the middle of the chest, sour taste in the mouth. Can cause pain in both left and right arms, albeit arm pain is not a typical reflux symptom.
Stomach hurts after drinking energy drinks
Energy drinks when consumed in high amounts are likely to cause adverse health effects such as abdominal pain or stomach cramps.
In most cases, it’s either the high acidity or the high sugar content that triggers symptoms.
Possible reasons behind stomach pain after taking energy drinks:
- gallbladder problems
- kidney problems
- stomach ulcers
The excess acid produced after drinking energy drinks might irritate the gut and the lining of the stomach which leads to stomach pain.
The high amounts of caffeine overwork the digestive tract. Therefore, too much intake of energy drinks can result in vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea.
The effects of caffeine such as inability to sleep well and an increase in anxiety worsen gastrointestinal conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.
Energy drinks that are sweetened using artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose lead to bloating and diarrhea for some people.
As you can see, several reasons might cause stomach pain after drinking energy drinks. If you don’t know what is causing you symptoms, it’s best to go to a doctor and get a proper diagnosis.
Can energy drinks cause sore throat?
Sometimes energy drinks can cause a sore throat. Typical other symptoms for this condition are:
- feeling like there is a lump in your throat
- you are coughing after drinking
- you have phlegm in your throat
- bitter taste in the mouth
These are the common symptoms of a condition called silent reflux.
Silent reflux is like acid reflux, but in this case, stomach acids can flow all the way back up to the throat, causing symptoms there. Most silent reflux sufferers don’t experience heartburn, the typical symptom of acid reflux.
Another possible cause of an itchy, swollen, or scratchy throat after energy drinks is a food allergy. If you are allergic to a component of the drink (e.g. caffeine), you might experience typical allergic reactions like itchy skin, hives, swelling around the mouth, lips, tongue.
If you think you have a food allergy, it is important to get yourself tested, as food allergies might have very severe symptoms.
How to stop chest pain from energy drinks?
Preventing chest pain by simply steering clear of energy drinks is a lot easier than relieving the pain.
However, if you already had too many energy drinks and now you are having symptoms, you might want to try these tips:
- Drink water: both caffeine and alcohol have a diuretic effect. Some extra water can protect you from dehydration. However, if you have heartburn, only drink a few small sips, otherwise, you’ll make symptoms worse.
- Light physical exercises: a short walk or some easy yoga poses might help, however, be easy on this one, too much physical activity after energy drinks won’t make your heart happy!
- Breathing exercises: watch your breathing, if it is fast or shallow, slow down, take a few deep breaths.
- Replenish electrolytes: some people experience diarrhea after energy drinks. In such cases, you not only need to drink some extra water but also replace the lost electrolytes.
While the above tips might help to relieve the pain, there is no magic trick to make the pain go away. If too much caffeine is causing the symptoms, you might simply need to wait it out.
Energy drinks might be good when there is a need to boost energy. However, they should be consumed with precautionary care and moderation.
Excessive consumption has been negatively associated with heart problems, chest pains, and stomach pains.
People who are sensitive to caffeine should avoid consuming energy drinks since they contain a high amount of caffeine.
Frequently asked questions
Yes, according to Michigan Medicine, energy drinks can trigger both IBS and IBD.
The high sugar and caffeine content of these drinks can easily cause gastric problems for some people.
Gallbladder issues are usually triggered by fatty food.
Some studies have examined the effect of caffeine on the gallbladder, and they mostly conclude that caffeine might protect against the formation of gallstones.
Looks like caffeine triggers the contraction of the gallbladder, which might protect against the formation of gallstones, however, it might trigger symptoms for those who already have gallstones.
Yes, according to BUPA, energy drinks might cause not only diarrhea but also nausea and vomiting.