Here's Why the Army Told Soldiers to Cut Down on Energy Drinks (and the Rest of Us Should, Too)

Do you drink energy drinks such as Red Bull or Monster, or energy "shots" such as 5-Hour Energy? How many do you drink a day? If the answer is more than one, the U.S. Army has a suggestion for you: Cut down.

A new post in the official Pentagon science blog warns soldiers to avoid drinking multiple energy drinks, after reviewing a survey of more than 1,200 active duty soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army offers some pretty compelling reasons why soldiers should drink fewer energy drinks. Those reasons make sense for you and me as well:

1. It will make you dehydrated.

Granted, this may be a particular concern for soldiers deployed in desert countries, but dehydration is unhealthy, no matter where you are. And dehydration is a known side effect of consuming too much caffeine--the key ingredient in energy drinks.

2. It can make you anxious and paranoid.

That's bad news for anyone, whether you're in the military or not. Paranoia and anxiety are two more known side effects of excessive caffeine consumption. And keep in mind that if you drink coffee in the morning and then energy drinks during the day, you're piling caffeine on top of caffeine. Doctors recommend no more than 400 grams of caffeine a day (the Army recommends no more than 200 grams every four hours no less than six hours before planned sleep). There are 95 grams of caffeine in an 8-oz cup of regular coffee, 112 grams in a Red Bull, and a whopping 212 grams in a regular 5-Hour Energy shot, with even more in the extra-strength version.

3. You'll risk diabetes and weight gain.

Some energy drinks contain more sugar than is recommended for women to consume in a whole day. The sugar-free versions may be better, but not much. Many artificial sweeteners are questionable at best from a health viewpoint, and studies show that even they tend to raise blood sugar in those who consume them. It isn't worth it.

4. You could be drunk without knowing it.

Combining energy drinks with alcohol is a particularly bad idea, according to military experts, yet many soldiers and others do just that, with the goal of being able to party longer without getting tired. Some companies sell energy drinks with alcohol already mixed into them. The problem with mixing these two is that energy drinks mask the most obvious effects of inebriation, making it very hard to tell just how drunk you are. So people drinking energy drinks with alcohol are likelier to over-consume, and to have both their judgment and their motor skills impaired.

5. It will do the opposite of what you want.

Soldiers survey who drank three or more energy drinks a day were significantly more likely to fall asleep during briefings or on guard duty than those who drank less or none at all. That seems surprising since the whole point of drinking energy drinks is that they're supposed to keep you awake. There's a simple explanation: Drinking too many energy drinks will disturb your normal sleep cycle; in the survey, soldiers who drank three or more energy drinks were significantly likelier to report sleeping fewer than four hours a night, or sleeping badly.

No amount of energy drink can help you be alert and effective the way being well-rested will. If you're drinking energy drinks to stay awake and then sleeping badly as a result, you're on a spiral that will only get worse and worse. You're better off cutting back, or stopping altogether, before that happens.