Healthy Living: Are “Energy” Shots Safe? 

By- Dr. Joan Marie PellegriniYou’ve seen those cute little colorful bottles near the cash register. The most popular “shot” is “5 Hour Energy”. If you look at the ingredients there is a listing of B vitamins and then a “proprietary” blend of supplements which includes caffeine. Most of the energy drinks (think Redbull) and “shots” have a mixture of vitamins and a “proprietary blend”. The common ingredient however is caffeine. None of the drinks tell you how much caffeine.Caffeine is a real part of our culture. It helps with alertness, it wakes us up in the morning, it puts us in a good mood, and it enhances our performance athletically. Just one small cup of coffee can give a boost of alertness that will last up to 5 hours. For some people they may stay more alert for up to 12 hours. There may not always be a good cup of coffee available. Or, perhaps, maybe you do not like the taste of coffee. For this reason there are energy drinks (typically 8 ounces or more) or shots (1-2 ounces). The drinks are mostly a sugary concoction that gives energy in the source of sugar with a bit of caffeine on top. There is no danger to these drinks except that some have a fairly large amount of calories. The shots have the benefit of few calories and they are quite portable (can easily fit in a pocket or purse). Because they are meant to be consumed as a shot, there is no need for refrigeration (thus making them even more convenient).All of these drinks contain a variable mixture of vitamins and it is unlikely that the vitamins will give any energy. It is also unlikely there will be any harm though. You would have to drink a lot of these drinks in order to have toxic levels of the vitamins. The dangerous ingredient is the caffeine. Too much caffeine can cause high blood pressure, a fast pulse, headache, stomach ache, and shakiness. If you drink only one of these drinks at a time then there is really no danger.It is very difficult to how much caffeine you are getting in any of these drinks. It is also nearly impossible to know how much caffeine is in any coffee that you may make or buy. Therefore, if you drink coffee and you drink energy drinks, you risk getting an overdose of caffeine. So, although energy drinks are safe they become unsafe if they contribute to caffeine overdose. How much caffeine is needed for an overdose is also difficult to predict. There are genetic factors, tolerance (people who drink caffeine become accustomed to it), and differences in metabolism.Children should not be given energy drinks. Contrary to a popular myth, caffeine does not stunt growth. However, children should avoid caffeine because of the negative side effects that most of them experience. They may become anxious or inattentive in school. They are more likely to have difficulties sleeping and studying. People who do not usually drink coffee (or other caffeinated drinks) should probably avoid these drinks. People who have heart problems and are on medications should also avoid these drinks.I do not believe there should be any concern if you consume an energy drink on occasion. However, if you feel you need an energy drink or shot several times a day then you should evaluate why that is. Do you need to change your sleep habits? Decrease stress? Exercise more? Cut out caffeine completely? Drink less alcohol?