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Crazy for caffeine: Energy drinks give only short burst of energy

"Unleash the beast." "Throttle in a bottle." "Ignite your Mind."

If that doesn't make consumers want to try energy drinks, what will?

Energy drinks have become more and more popular among adults and teens. Maybe it's one of those days where you just need a pick-me-up. Or maybe there's a big game, and you need a little extra burst of energy. Maybe it's late at night, and you just need to stay awake for a little longer to finish that paper. Or, you're out at the bar and need a push to make closing time.

Maybe reaching for an energy drink isn't the right decision.

"Mainly, it's a lot of sugar and caffeine," said Sarah Marr, clinical dietician for St. Mary's Regional Health Center hospital and nursing home. She is a registered and licensed dietician.

Drinking these energy drinks is similar to drinking a lot of coffee, giving the person jitters and a racing heartbeat.

"My overall feeling is they can be safe for adults in moderation," Marr said. Kids and teens are another matter, though.

There are dangers that come with the energy.

Those under 18 shouldn't drink the caffeine-filled beverages because teens' bodies and brains are still developing, which could cause growth problems, she said.

There can be adverse affects to mixing energy drinks with alcohol, which is a fairly common practice with Red Bull.

Energy drinks also should not be used as sports drinks, Marr said. They can actually cause dehydration, nausea, vomiting and rapid heartbeat.

Since the energy is only proven to last 15 minutes to one hour, after having that burst of energy in the first period, athletes lost that energy and can become sluggish instead.

Pregnant women should also avoid energy drinks.

Caffeine and lots of sugar are the two main ingredients in the drinks, causing the energy burst. It tends to be short-lived, and "then you're going to crash again," Marr said.

But, some power drinks are coming out with diet products that cut back on the sugar intake.

Herbs like guarana used in the drinks can have negative affects as well. Especially when mixed with prescription medications, Marr said.

Some energy drink producers try to sell the energy drinks, saying taurine (another active ingredient) is good for speeding up the metabolism. In reality, Marr said that's never been proven.

In fact, according to, taurine is an "acidic chemical substance found in bile, urine, as well as juices and fluids of muscle, lungs and nerve tissue of many animals."

According to Webster's Dictionary, taurine in a colorless compound, "which in free form in invertebrates and as a constituent of taurocholic acid in the bile of mammals.

In adults, if that one- or two-a-day energy drink habit isn't cutting it, or for students who need a little boost, Marr offers an alternative that may just be healthier. And work better.

Instead of slamming back an energy drink, she suggests eating a small snack filled with protein and carbohydrates. The snack will stay in the body longer and bring more energy for a longer period of time.