Energy drinks have been around since the ’40s, promising a range of benefits — from increased metabolism to a boost in productivity. One drink in particular, though, has been in the spotlight lately due to both popularity and controversy. Celsius energy drinks — a popular workout companion for many — claim to accelerate metabolism, burn calories and body fat, and boost energy levels. But many are uncertain about whether or not the drinks are truly as beneficial as they claim to be.
TikTokers have accused the caffeinated energy drink of several worrying side effects — with some citing heart problems and palpitations, while others have been alarmed by the extreme spike in energy levels. Caffeine overload can lead to palpitations, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, nervousness, and insomnia, Joe Whittington, MD, tells POPSUGAR. “While these effects can cause just mild symptoms in some, in certain populations such as individuals with heart arrhythmias, high blood pressure, heart disease, or sleep disorders, the effects can be outright dangerous.”
On top of the social media claims, Celsius was also recently sued for stating that its drinks contained “no preservatives” on the label even though citric acid is one of the drink’s ingredients. The company did state that it used citric acid for flavor purposes rather than as a preservative, but still decided to settle the lawsuit. This, in addition to all of the TikTok claims, has left a bad taste in the mouths of consumers. But what do experts think about the popular beverage? Before you empty your Amazon shopping cart, here’s everything you need to know about Celsius, including Celsius’s ingredients, Celsius’s side effects and concerns, and whether or not Celsius is ultimately bad for you.
Celsius Drink Ingredients
The first thing to note is that the standard Celsius energy drink contains MetaPlus, what the brand describes as “a proprietary blend that enacts thermogenesis to accelerate metabolism and increase caloric burn.” The ingredients in the blend include green tea, EGCG (a type of plant compound and antioxidant), caffeine, guarana seed extract, taurine, and ginger root extract. It’s also worth noting that in small amounts, Celsius also contains carbonated water, citric acid, fruit juice, vegetable juice, sucralose, and natural flavor. But the beverage is considered vegan-certified, kosher, gluten-free, and soy-free.
The individual ingredients alone don’t raise any major red flags. But as far as Dr. Whittington is concerned, it’s crucial to remember that the true safety of these ingredients depends on their dosage and individual tolerance. “When combined in an energy drink, the overall effect on a person can be different from consuming each ingredient individually,” he says. The presence of multiple stimulating ingredients like caffeine, guarana seed extract, and green tea extract can amplify the potential for adverse effects like anxiety, increased heart rate, and nervousness, he explains. Another thing to consider with not just Celsius, but any energy drink: “The FDA’s oversight into energy drinks primarily focuses on ensuring accurate labeling,” Dr. Whittingon says. The agency does not conduct extensive pre-market testing or approval for dietary supplements or energy drinks, meaning it’s the primary responsibility of manufacturers to ensure the safety of their products and to comply with all relevant regulations.
Celsius Drink Side Effects and Concerns
For some, the biggest concern is that the drinks may have worrying side effects for those who are caffeine-sensitive. The Celsius website itself attests to this fact, adding that “CELSIUS is not recommended for people sensitive to caffeine, children under the age of 18, or women who are pregnant or nursing.”
But is the level of caffeine in Celsius actually dangerous? “It’s typically recommended that daily intake of caffeine be within 400 mg. According to the Celsius label, the beverage appears to fall within this range,” says Kathleen Meehan MS, RD, an anti-diet dietitian and certified intuitive eating counsellor. The standard Celsius drink contains 200 mg of caffeine, according to the brand’s website, while other iterations of the drink like Celsius Heat have 300 mg of caffeine. For those with caffeine sensitivity, that amount can still be too much, and limitations can vary from person to person. “Some individuals are highly sensitive to caffeine and can experience adverse effects even with small amounts of less than 100mg, while others may tolerate higher doses without apparent issues,” Dr. Whittington says. “It’s essential for individuals who know or suspect they are sensitive to caffeine to pay close attention to their body’s response when consuming products containing caffeine. If you are sensitive to caffeine, consider reducing caffeine intake or eliminating it altogether, depending on the severity of the symptoms.”
Dr. Whittington also invites those who regularly drink Celsius to consider the other consequences of relying on the caffeine-rich energy drink. “An additional problem is that drinks with such high caffeine content can lead to dependency and addiction, causing individuals to consume more energy drinks to maintain the same level of alertness, leading to a cycle of dependence. This is especially true in adolescent populations who may not be aware of the risks,” Dr. Whittington says.
Meehan also notes that often people opt for energy drinks when they feel low energy, which may be related to nutrition and beyond. “Energy levels are often impacted by restricting calories or eating low-carb, so I am always interested in a persons pattern of eating,” Meehan tells POPSUGAR. “I’m especially wary if someone relies on Celsius drinks to replace meals or provide energy when they really need more food.” Meehan’s concern is that the familiar afternoon slump may not be a call to reach for an energy drink, rather a need for a high-carb or high-protein snack.
So, Is Celsius Bad For You?
With caffeine-related concerns and the effects of potential dependencies, it is hard to know whether Celsius drinks are worth the hype or the risk. It really depends on your personal health situation, Dr. Whittington says.
Those who want to enjoy the drink should “stay aware of the potential risks and make informed decisions about their beverage choices to safeguard their health and well-being,” he adds. This is particularly important in the case of caffeine, which is at the heart of most of the concerns. “Moderate caffeine consumption is generally considered safe and may be beneficial for most healthy adults, but high caffeine intake can be problematic for some individuals,” Dr. Whittington reiterates.
In particular, the drink will likely not have favorable side effects among individuals with underlying heart conditions, anxiety or panic disorders, or sleep disorders, he says. But in general, the key is to be aware of your own personal health factors and individual tolerance, Dr. Whittington says. If you find that you’re having a negative reaction to the beverage, stop drinking it.
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