Drinking Alcohol? Don't Drink This, Too
Go ahead and enjoy a bottle of beer, glass of wine or a martini, but never mix your booze with an energy drink. Mixing caffeinated energy drinks like Red Bull and Full Throttle with alcohol puts unnecessary stress on the body, dehydrating it and pulling the brain and central nervous system in two different directions, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
"Understand that when you're putting that much caffeine into your body, it's going to mask the effects of alcohol, and you're probably going to feel more sober than you are," warned Joe Mull, substance abuse prevention specialist from UPMC's Student Health Services' Health Education Office. Energy drinks mixed with alcohol also is a concern for the cardiovascular system. "One of the concerns is that when you have a lot of caffeine, your heart rate goes up, your blood pressure goes up," said Leslie Bonci, director of sports nutrition at UPMC's Center for Sports Medicine. "Now we have double stress on the heart because alcohol dehydrates."
And that's not all. A special ingredient in Red Bull is taurine, an amino acid that naturally occurs in the body. The Red Bull Web site notes, "Taurine acts as an antioxidant and has been shown to promote detoxification by binding together with harmful substances and thereby accelerating their excretion from the body." Baloney. It's marketing without substance. "Unfortunately, herbal supplements aren't regulated in this country, so you end up with a lot of mythical effects. What you're left with is a caffeinated beverage trying to fight that depressant effect," said Meg Mayer-Costa, a dietitian in the UPMC Student Health Services' Health Education Office. She explained that taurine is actually a nonessential amino acid that doesn't have any harmful effects, but it doesn't have any beneficial effects either. For Mull, this marketing strategy "is kind of a fancy way of saying that our drink will make you pee."
Combine energy drinks with alcohol and you will increase the drunken experience many times over, as well as impair the body's ability to recover from the booze. "The liver does not multitask well," Mull quipped. "It doesn't really focus on anything else until it's done with the alcohol." If the prospect of a wicked hangover isn't enough to make you leave the Red Bull at home when you're out drinking, consider this: Combine the 300 or so calories from a single energy drink with the significant calories in alcohol, and you could get fat.