The thing about energy drinks

News reports tell us that young people in the UK consume more high-caffeine ‘energy’ drinks than children in the EU or the USA and the debate is raging about how significant these things are in harming their health and education.

From the outset – I am going to make really clear that my children have never been allowed the drink energy drinks.   Thankfully, they don’t like the taste but I am more concerned with the medical and physical side effects that can be established and build up as a result of taking energy drinks – especially in teenagers.     I hate seeing my students in school with an energy drink in their hand.  The reason why they want these drinks is the get that ‘kick’ that wakes them up – and it is this kick that is the issue as it is usually caused by the combination of both caffeine and sugar.

I always feel a bit like a hypocrite when I say things like this because I love coffee. I have loved coffee for a long time. I probably drink about 3 to 4 cups a day. Usually from the Nespresso machine in my office or kitchen at home. Though I also really love a nice cup of Established El Rubi prepared in my French press when I have the time. But, I have long acknowledged the effect that coffee has on me. I don’t drink coffee after 9pm as I switch to tea (so that the caffeine does not impact my sleep). But, the difference between tea, coffee and energy drinks is that the caffeine in coffee is natural and occurs as part of the actual plant and processes involved in preparing the coffee beans for the market. Energy drinks have the caffeine added intentionally so that the drinks have a kick. Plus, generally because the coffee is taken hot and slowly, the impact is not as concentrated as a cold energy drink.

The amount of caffeine and sugar in these drinks can be staggering. I noticed the following poster up in out school HE rooms. Here, the children learn about healthy eating and a balanced diet. But how many of them realise the damage that is being done due to these drinks?


So what impact will drinks like this have on us. The whole reason people take them is for the kick. The problem is that the caffeine and the sugar does work and people will get a bit of concentration and. Energy from the drink. The issue is what happens after. Accounts differ about how quickly the effects from the drink wears off. Some students tell me that it might be 20 to 30 mins after taking a drink that they feel themselves starting to flag and their eyes get tired and they want a nap. The brain then naturally wants another hit to pep it up again. If it does not get this , then concentration continues to drop and students feel tired and the impact on concentration can be catastrophic.


If students are not well rested- they will struggle for concentration. They often use this energy boost or jolt (no wonder where the names come from) to wake me up in the morning. But, surely this is just covering over the cracks of another issue – the fact that many of our young people today are not getting enough sleep. They spend too many hours gaming or watching online streamlining services like Netflix and therefore cannot get into a regular sleep pattern. (I can feel another post coming on). If students are getting into the habit of relying on energy drinks to provide energy and stimulation for concentration then they are in trouble. This is not something that can be sustained and is something that can cause actual damage to the child in the longer term. In an article called “Energy drinks and young people”, The association of British dieticians noted that:

  • The mounting body of evidence demonstrates that the consumption of energy drinks is detrimental to both the physical and mental wellbeing of young people, as well as encouraging other risky behaviours such as alcohol use

  • Physical effects from over-consumption of energy drinks are mostly related to caffeine. Increased caffeine consumption in children and adolescents results in increased blood pressure, sleep disturbances, headaches and stomach aches. Self reported injury due to hyperactivity has also been reported.

  • Adolescence is also the time of maximum bone deposition and caffeine interferes with the absorption of calcium in the small intestine and so may lead to reduced calcium deposition in bones. This may also be as a result of energy drinks being consumed instead of calcium-containing drinks such as milk

  • In addition to physical effects, mental health effects due to consumption of energy drinks can include sensation-seeking behaviour, self-destructive behaviour, insomnia, problems with behavioural regulation and poor lifestyle behaviours, such as poor diet and consumption of fast food. The use of energy drinks in adolescents may also be affecting future food and drinks choices in young people due to alterations in the developing reward and addiction centre of the brain and the addiction due to the high caffeine content 


The addictive nature of these drinks is that after a while, the body will start to crave the jolt of energy again so the drinker will get stuck in a continuous loop of needing to get the buzz from the sugar and caffeine instead of from more traditional methods like sleep and healthy food. By replacing more natural ways of maintaining the blood sugar levels and energy levels, the students are playing a dangerous game that often leads to insomnia and sometimes ill health.


There is no doubt that many young people now depend on these drinks to provide them with the energy to ‘survive’ school. The dependency on these supplements grows because kids are not getting a healthy breakfast and are not getting adequate rest. Its something that schools need to take more action on but this can be difficult as there seems to be few drinks that are actually immune from this. The bigger issue is not the taking of the drinks but the frequency and regularity that young people take them and how they have come to depend on them so that they can get through the day.



Teens are probably drinking too much caffeine (in The Atlantic, 30 June 2019) 

How much caffeine and sugar is in some of the UK’s most popular energy drinks?  (ITVNEWS, 30 Aug)






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