For teenagers and adults, energy drinks have soared in popularity in recent years (1). In 2013, more than 5.8 billion liters of energy drink were consumed globally in 160 countries. The majority of consumers were 13-35 years old, and boys make up two-thirds of all consumers (2). Reasons for consuming energy drinks are primarily for the sugar and caffeine energy surge. From exhausted teenagers to sleep-deprived parents, it is certainly a tempting idea. The problem is that energy drinks are not healthy for you. They contain no nutrients, no health benefits, and the sugar and caffeine are not healthy for your body. In this article, we’re also going to tackle some of the myths associated with energy drinks. Is sugar free Red Bull bad for you? It lacks sugar (using aspartame and acesulfame K as a substitute), but it isn’t a healthy addition to your diet for several other reasons.
Common Energy Drink Myths
Myth 1: Energy drinks increase physical endurance
Energy drinks are all about caffeine, and one of the reasons why they are popular is because of the myth that they will increase your physical endurance or strength. But, studies have repeatedly shown this is not true. A recent study looked at post-exercise oxygen, perceived exhaustion (reported by participants), and several other factors after consuming either an energy drink or lemon-lime soda placebo. No difference was noted in any measure between the placebo and energy drink groups in terms of exhaustion and physical abilities (3). Another study using the same experimental setup showed no difference in the upper body strength of resistance-trained male athletes consuming either energy drinks or a placebo drink before exercise (4).
Myth 2: Taurine boosts physical abilities
Taurine is synthetically made and added to energy drinks and is thought to affect increasing athletic performance (though this has never been shown in a human scientific study). Taurine is thought to be healthy because, in animal studies, it prevents high blood pressure, stroke, and coronary heart disease (5). Taurine is also said to be good for your kidneys, but this remains controversial (6).
Myth 3: Energy drinks don’t damage teeth
Like all soft drinks, juices, and beverages in general (other than water), energy drinks do have erosive properties. Because they have carbonation and acids (which gives energy drinks their distinctive tartness), energy drinks contribute to tooth decay (7). The acid in energy drinks also wears away the enamel of your teeth, which never regrows (8). This can not only make cavities and other problems arise but also makes your teeth very sensitive. While sugar free Red Bull does not have this issue, sugar-sweetened energy drinks also contribute to tooth loss, supported in a recent American study (9).
Myth 4: The caffeine content of energy drinks isn’t harmful to your body
There is some denial surrounding the caffeine in energy drinks. One can of sugar free Red Bull contains the same amount of caffeine as a medium-sized cup of coffee. For adults, a cup of coffee a day is hardly unusual. For teenagers, consuming several cans of energy drinks each day concerns healthcare professionals for potential health consequences (10). The amount of caffeine in energy drinks varies, and because they are cold, concentrated, and the cans are small, they are consumed quickly and often in high quantities. High consumption of energy drinks was associated with risky behavior (including violence and substance abuse) among teenagers and led to lack of sleep and associated growth and development (11, 12).
Myth 5: Sugar free Red Bull helps you stay up later and study efficiently
Many students use energy drinks to stay awake and study. After all, grades matter. Lack of sleep is particularly concerning among teenagers because their brains and bodies are still developing, and sufficient sleep is essential for this development. Energy drink consumption can disrupt mood, reduce sleep, damage cognitive function, and make mood swings worse (even contributing to the development of depression) (12). It’s healthiest for your body to sleep 8-10 hours as a developing teenager and structure healthy daytime study habits, rather than relying on energy drinks and studying at night.
Other Evidence against energy drinks
From 2007-2011, emergency room visits because of energy-drink related problems doubled. In many of these cases, energy drinks are mixed with alcohol (a scary new trend among youth). CDC found that college-age students who mixed alcohol with energy drinks were more likely to binge on alcohol, which leads to risky behavior and health consequences. High doses of caffeine can cause heart rhythm problems and nervous system problems, in addition to digestive disturbances (like stomach ulcers from caffeine and high acidity of energy drinks) (13). This suggests that energy drinks are not a great addition to your diet. Because of these concerns, should advertising energy drinks to teenagers and young adults be limited? Some believe they should, but the issue remains controversial (2, 14, 15).
In conclusion, is sugar free Red Bull bad for you?
This evidence suggests that energy drinks are indeed bad for you. One now and then won’t hurt, but treat it like combining a soft drink with a cup of coffee. High in artificial colors and flavors, high in caffeine, and low in beneficial nutrients, this drink (sugar-free or not) doesn’t improve your cognitive or physical abilities, nor is it healthy for growing and developing teenagers. Help yourself to a glass of water and a protein shake instead of an energy drink next time you want an energy boost and watch your mental and physical state improve.