Study drinks are not all created equal

Brittany Westerberg

Brittany Westerberg

So you are studying for your second final during Finals Week. You look at the clock, which reads 10:15. You’re a little tired, but you know you have to at least get through this information and hopefully study for your third test as well tonight. What do you do?

Some people might reach for a pop, others an energy drink and still others will either make some coffee or head to Food Services to get a mug full.

Which is the best to reach for? Personally, I don’t touch coffee – I’ve never liked the taste, though I love the smell. I have never tasted an energy drink that I could take more than two sips of. Once in a while, if I really need a boost, I will drink Coke or Pepsi – whatever’s available – but I try to stay away from them.

I’ve talked to a number of people who are completely unlike me. I know people who drink coffee just to survive during the day. Both of my parents go through at least a pot every morning. I also know people who can’t survive without drinking a couple sodas every day. Other people can’t get through the day without their energy drinks.

These three types of drinks all have one thing in common: caffeine, a naturally occurring substance found in coffee, tea, cola drinks, many foods – including chocolate – and in many over-the-counter and prescription medications.

The main effect of caffeine is that it’s a mild stimulant of the central nervous system, reducing feelings of drowsiness and fatigue. Though caffeine is not technically addictive, many people are habitual caffeine users of one form or another, including those people who can’t get through the day without their coffee/energy drink/pop.

The issue as to which of these is the best for a person – both health wise and at keeping people awake – is not related to caffeine. It relates to what else is in the drink.


Pop – or soda or cola, whatever you like to call it – usually contains caffeine, carbonated water, phosphoric acid, sugar or high fructose corn syrup, aspartame and sucralose.

I read at that for every can of carbonated soda ingested, the amount of oxygen in the blood is decreased by 25 percent for up to three hours. Doesn’t the human body require oxygen to keep on going?

How about the sugar or high fructose corn syrup? Too much sugar lowers immune function of the body by reducing the ability of white blood cells to ingest and destroy bacteria. It also contributes to the increased numbers of diabetics in the country, including childhood diabetes. Sucralose – otherwise known as Splenda – breaks down into a chemical similar to chlorinated pesticides. There hasn’t been a lot of testing on this, but I don’t think pesticides are good for the human body.

The last note for pop: it has a pH of about 1.5; normal blood pH is between 7.2 and 7.4. According to, it takes 32 glasses of alkaline water at a pH of 9 to neutralize the acid in one can of soda. Since most people don’t drink near that much water in a day, the body uses the calcium from your bones to counteract that acid, depleting your bones at a rate of about 20 mg per can of soda.

Energy Drinks

I’m not talking about sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade. I’m talking about Red Bull, Impulse, Hype, etc. Not all energy drinks are equal, of course, but most contain caffeine, taurine, guarana, B vitamins, ginseng, ginkgo biloba, l-carnitine, sugars and antioxidants.

Sure, B vitamins, ginseng, ginkgo biloba, antioxidants andamino acids like taurine and l-carnitine are good for your body. Guarana, though, is denser in caffeine than coffee beans, meaning you’re technically getting more bang for your buck. However, that just means you’re getting more caffeine, which could be either good or bad.

Energy drinks also contain a whole bunch of sugar and mounds of calories, which cause the same problems I stated already.


For the most part, coffee is made up of water and the roasted seeds of the coffee plant. That means none of the sugar problems pop and energy drinks bring to the table, nor the acidic effects. (Coffee is acidic, usually rating a pH of about 4.7, but nowhere near as acidic as pop.)

Also, I read at that coffee “has a much higher total in-vitro antioxidant activity than other commonly consumed beverages.” Many believe that antioxidants protect against the development of chronic diseases, like heart disease and cancer, though no such effects have been determined by any scientific studies.

No one really knows which keeps people up better. Some say the more caffeine, the more awake you will be. It has its side effects, though. It really depends on the person as to which one works better.

As for the health concerns, it just seems to me that if you have to have your caffeine, coffee is the best choice. You can buy creamers if you don’t like the taste; my brother prefers to mix coffee and chocolate creamer at least half and half, if not more so on the chocolate side. This adds calories, though.

After learning a lot of these things about the three drinks, I’m still going to stay away from all of these. For those who like them, though, just remember one word: moderation.