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Energy Drinks: Staying Awake v The Side Effects

Energy drink can

Overheard at the law library…

Law Student 1: You’re probably tired because you haven’t had enough sleep.

Law Student 2: I’m tired because I haven’t had enough Red Bull.

Products like Red Bull, V and Mother appeal to exhausted law students because they offer a way of getting through that all-nighter or exam. But what are you doing to your body?

The Good News

Most energy drinks are packed full of caffeine, taurine and glucuronolactone. So what does that mean? Makers of energy drinks promise you’ll:

  • Feel more alert;

  • Concentrate better;

  • Have better physical endurance; and

  • Experience improved reaction times.

A law school friend told me that he had an energy shot (one of those mini, concentrated energy drinks) and that he then wrote 5,000 words in half an hour… but that he also couldn’t remember a word he’d written.

The Bad News

If you frequently consume energy drinks, you’re in for some unwanted extras, such as dizziness, nausea, insomnia and jitteriness. In some cases over-consumption of these drinks can lead to arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and damage to the immune system. This is particularly so if you’re also a regular coffee drinker.

On top of that, if you’re using energy drinks while you study, it’s probably going to make you a bit chubby. The 250ml can of Red Bull on my desk contains 27g of sugar!

If you decide to down an energy drink for a quick boost, you can expect a short-term pick-me-up, before you crash and burn. Another law school pal downed three energy drinks right before an exam and found herself shaking and feeling jittery – not quite the energy boost she was hoping for. Keep in mind that if you’re also a fan of coffee, you’re probably not going to get much of a kick from these drinks anyway.

Probably the easiest way to work out if an energy drink is going to be bad for you is to read the side of the can. If you don’t know what most of the listed ingredients are, and if they sound like they could be heavy metals or relatives of kryptonite, then it’s probably not a great idea to put that in your body.


Eat well, get a good night’s sleep each night and exercise regularly. If you need an energy hit, have a piece of fruit (good for natural sugars) or a cup of tea (many teas have a high amount of caffeine in them).

FROM THE ARCHIVES: This story was first published on Survive Law on 8 September 2010.

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