Energy drinks are an enticing option in our sleep-deprived culture. They claim to give you quick energy in a tasty package. Are energy drinks all they are cracked up to be? Are energy drinks good for you? Specifically, do energy drinks cause kidney stones?
Read on to learn more about energy drinks, nutrition and kidney stones.
What Is In Energy Drinks?
The ingredients in energy drinks are very different brand to brand. But, most energy drinks have some common key ingredients.
Unless you choose a sugar free option, energy drinks are packed with sugar. A lot of it.
The amount of sugar in energy drinks ranges quite a bit. The most popular energy drink brands have around 50 grams of sugar per can. That is 12 1/2 teaspoons of sugar and more sugar than a can of soda. One 12oz can of coke has 42 grams of sugar.
The amount of sugar in most energy drinks is more than you should have in an entire day. The American Heart Association recommends men limit added sugar to 36 grams per day. Women should limit added sugar to 25 grams per day. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather enjoy my sugar in the form of ice cream or cookies!
It makes sense that energy drinks are packed with sugar. Sugar is a quick source of energy. Compared to other energy sources, sugar is the most quickly absorbed, digested and delivered to cells for fuel.
But, this quick burst of energy comes with a downside. Blood sugar dives after a large sugar load. This plunge in blood sugar leaves you feeling tired and lethargic.
Drinking sugar sweetened beverages, like energy drinks, can also increase your risk of metabolic syndrome, stroke, coronary artery disease, and type 2 diabetes. (1)
Everyone’s favorite stimulant! Caffeine is the main ingredient in energy drinks that gives you quick energy.
The amount of caffeine in energy drinks varies a lot. Most have around 150mg of caffeine per serving. For context, here is the amount of caffeine in other common caffeinated beverages:
- 8oz cup of coffee: 100mg of caffeine
- 8oz black tea: 50mg
- 12oz can caffeinated soda: 20mg
Unfortunately, energy from caffeine is also short lived. Energy levels often plummet after a large dose of caffeine, often leaving you feeling even more tired.
|Serving Size||Calories||Carbohydrate (g)||Added Sugar (g)||Sodium (mg)||Caffeine (mg)||B-Vitamins|
|Monster Energy Drink Original||16oz can||230||58||54||370||160||260% B2, 250% B3, 240% B6, 500% B12|
|Red Bull||8.4oz can||110||29||26||105||80||100% B3, 50% B, 250% B6, 80% B12|
|Sugar Free Red Bull||8.4oz can||20||3||0||150||114||140% B3, 70% B5, 350% B6, 120% B12|
|Rockstar||16oz can||250||63||63||70||160||100% B2, 100% B3, 100% B5, 100% B6, 100% B12|
|NOS High Energy||16oz can||210||54||51||410||160||200% B6, 200% B12|
|5 Hour Energy||2oz shot||4||0||0||18||215||150% B3, 2000% B6, 100% B9|
Most energy drinks are packed with very high doses of a variety of B-vitamins. B-vitamins are a group of 8 different vitamins:
- Thiamine (vitamin B1)
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
- Niacin (vitamin B3)
- Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)
- Vitamin B6
- Biotin (vitamin B7)
- Folate (vitamin B9)
- Cobalamin (vitamin B12)
B-vitamins are well known for their role in energy production. A molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the main source of energy in our bodies. ATP is made from the metabolism of carbohydrate, protein, and fat in a process called the Krebs Cycle. B-vitamins are critical for the Krebs cycle to work properly and to make energy!
So, getting a whole bunch of B-vitamins from energy drinks must give us energy, right? Not so fast.
Large doses of B-vitamins aren’t going to help our body make ATP (or, energy) unless we don’t have enough B-vitamins in the first place. In most places in the world, B-vitamin deficiencies are very rare. Deficiencies can happen in people who cannot absorb nutrients from food properly. Vitamin B12 deficiency is also more common in older adults. (2) However, most people are getting more than enough B-vitamins from food.
When you consume excess B-vitamins, they are simply excreted in your urine. Your body has no use or way to store them. Taking B-vitamins from energy drinks or other supplements just results in very expensive urine!
Many energy drinks are also surprisingly high in sodium. Energy drinks have up to 400mg of sodium per can. This is 15-25% of the amount of sodium people should have in an entire day!
Sugar Free Energy Drinks
Sugar free energy drinks have similar ingredients to the regular versions except for, well, the sugar!
In place of sugar, sugar-free energy drinks contain artificial sweeteners such as sucralose, acesulfame K or aspartame.
Do Energy Drinks Cause Kidney Stones?
No studies have investigated if energy drinks cause kidney stones. However, we know that sugary drinks such as regular soda, punch, sweet tea, lemonade, and most fruit juices do cause kidney stones. (3) (4)
So, because energy drinks contain so much sugar, it is a safe assumption that energy drinks can cause kidney stones.
How Do Energy Drinks Cause Kidney Stones?
The link between sugary drinks and kidney stones seems to be related to higher urine calcium. (5) Sugar, especially fructose, is known to increase urine calcium. (6) High urine calcium is one of the most common causes of kidney stones. (7)
Sodium is another possible reason why energy drinks could cause kidney stones. Eating too much sodium can also increase urine calcium. A key part of the prevention of calcium kidney stones is a low sodium diet.
Most people are eating way more sodium than they need. Adding the sodium in energy drinks on top of this may only make the problem worse. This could further increase kidney stone risk in people who are susceptible to kidney stones.
Other Health Concerns with Energy Drinks
In addition to increased kidney stones, energy drinks have other health impacts.
Most notably, energy drinks have been linked to high blood pressure and changes in heart function. (8) Although caffeine is generally recognized as safe by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), caffeine in large doses can exacerbate insomnia, nervousness, headache, fast heartrate, and seizures. (9) (10) Highly concentrated sources of caffeine, like energy drinks, make it easier to drink dangerous amounts of caffeine.
In 2011, more than 20,000 emergency room visits in the United States were attributed to energy drinks. (10) Although more research is needed, energy drinks have been implicated in some cases of death, especially in adolescents. (11) (12) (13)
Healthy Ways To Get More Energy
Unfortunately, there is no magic pill or food that will give you more energy. Instead, it is more important to focus on a general healthy dietary pattern and healthy lifestyle. Here are some tips to change your lifestyle for more energy – that will not cause kidney stones!
Eat a Balanced Diet
Other than focusing on “super foods” that claim to boost energy, it is much more effective to simply eat a healthy, well balanced diet. Boring advice, I know, but true!
Eating mostly fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and legumes will give you energy! Pay special attention to limit added sugar and excess fat.
Get Enough Sleep
I know. Easier said than done. But perhaps the best way to have more energy is to get enough sleep. Most people need about 8 hours of sleep each night.
If 8 hours seems impossible for your schedule, even an extra 30 minutes of sleep can leave you feeling better rested. Practicing good sleep hygiene can make the hours you do have in bed more restful.
Stress impacts nearly every aspect of health, and can be a pretty significant energy suck. The more stress you have, the harder it is to feel energetic and your best self!
Prioritize your mental and physical health. Try to be preventative about stress management as much as you can.
As extra motivation to reduce stress, stress is also connected with kidney stones!
Lastly, regular physical activity can also help energy levels. Physical activity helps you sleep better, and can help you feel more energetic.