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Are You Getting Too Much Caffeine From Energy Drinks?

Yes, caffeine can boost endurance exercise performance. But energy drink labels may not be giving you the information you need to drink safely.

Caffeine is one of the most widely used stimulants in the world, with many athletes turning to it to improve their performance— especially in endurance exercise sports. But even though it's legal, caffeine can still have serious side effects if you overdo it. So how do you know how much is too much?

According to a new review by Consumer Reports, it might not be so easy. While caffeine counts vary for energy drinks—Red Bull and Street Kings Energy, for example, came in at just 80 mg per container, while 5-Hour Energy Extra Strength had a whopping 242 mg—what's even worse is that you can't always trust the label. In their review, CR found that some of the companies underestimated the caffeine content by as much as 20 percent. Yikes

How can you use energy drinks responsibly? If you’re looking for a competitive edge for your workout, you’ll need to take between 3 and 6 mg per kg of bodyweight about an hour before exercise—for a 175-lb. man this comes out to about 240 to 480 mg. Any more than this and you could end up with some nasty side effects (jitters, anxiety, difficulty focusing, insomnia), or in the emergency room with an irregular heartbeat or mild hallucinations…joining the roughly 13,000 other Americans yearly who have bad reactions to energy drinks.

Your best bet is to only use energy drinks occasionally, like before the big race, and pay attention to your body's reaction when you do.  And if you rarely drink caffeine, remember: you might not need as much to get that pre-workout boost.

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