Catching A Buzz

One sip and your chest begins to pound. A few more and your heart rate spikes. You want to jump, scream and run at the same time, all thanks to your first energy drink.

"On average I have an energy drink once a day, but every now and then, when I'm pulling the occasional all-nighter, I have four a day," says AJ Smith, a senior at Silverado High School, but "I am not addicted to energy drinks."

There are many teens who cannot make it through the day without the buzz their Monster, Red Bull or Amp gives them.

Some teenagers discover their need for energy drinks around freshman year; however, Terrance Bagley, a senior at Sierra Vista High School, started at age 11.

"I drink energy drinks like a madman," Bagley says.

Silverado senior Matt Sides had a bad experience with his first energy drink. He thought it tasted disgusting but decided to give it a try.

For one swim meet, Sides took a 5-Hour Energy shot before the 100-meter freestyle race.  

"I probably swam the fastest 50 of my life," Sides says. That is when he forgot he had to continue. His heart rate spiked and he had, what the paramedics deemed, a panic attack.

"I basically drowned," Sides says. "The UNLV lifeguards kept screaming 'Are you OK?' instead of actually helping, like it is totally normal for someone to stop in the middle of the race."

Subsequently, energy drinks have been banned from Silverado's swim team.  

Many students have an energy drink before a sporting event or performance to help them stay awake.

"I took a Monster energy shot before a marching band show," says Austin Rau, a junior at Coronado High School. "I was completely awake the entire time."

Smith usually has whichever energy drink is on the 2-for-$3 special at 7-Eleven before his football games or track meets. Occasionally Smith will have a 5-Hour Energy shot only when he doesn't have time for a Monster.

"They taste like horse piss but they make you feel like a champ," Smith says.

All energy drinks do not taste the same, but they all have the same basic ingredients that provide the boost.

According to Stanford University's chemistry department, taurine, an organic acid, assists in the steady heartbeat, muscle contractions and energy levels.

Ginseng comes from a root originally found in the forests of Manchuria and provides a sizable amount of the caffeine. It also improves memory and relieves stress. 

Guarana is a plant found in South America and provides the majority of the caffeine.

L-Carnitine is a combination of two amino acids and provides the endurance for the long-lasting energy before the crash.

"When I crash, that's a good time for a nap," Smith says.

B vitamins help to convert food into energy for the body and assist in the formation of red blood cells.

"From a nutrition perspective (drinking energy drinks) is not something high school athletes should be doing," says Jessica Larosa, a registered dietitian.

Larosa suggests that instead of drinking energy drinks teens should be getting their energy from eating protein and healthy carbohydrates such as fruit.

The energy drinks give the body extra sugar that it doesn't need which contributes to the crash. Still, many teens feel the need for the energy boosts.

"When I have school I have (an energy drink) about once or twice a day," Bagley says. "When you are really, really tired they help you stay awake. Other than that, they don't do anything for you."