Energy drinks are now a billion dollar industry. Currently, there are at least 200 energy drinks on the market. So is there a dark side to getting an energy drink buzz?

“There was a time when we would get our caffeine intake from coffee and cola, but now there are a number of caffeine containing beverages and we need to be careful because over a period of 24 hours that caffeine intake is cumulative,” says Dee Rollins, R.D., PhD, dietitian with Baylor Regional Medical Center at Grapevine.

In fact, experts say energy drink consumers should keep careful track of the amount of caffeine they get in a day.

“If you know that 400 milligrams a day is the upper limit you can check the back of the labels and make sure that you don’t get more than that,” explains Dr. Rollins. Also realize that some forms of caffeine are hidden, such as in the herb guarana. Other herbs in these energy drinks, such as ginseng, can make some people not feel well.

It may sound like a lot, but 400 milligrams of caffeine is roughly the equivalent of just one energy drink and two cups of coffee. Getting more than that can lead to jitteriness, nausea, heart palpations – and in extreme cases more severe symptoms. Insomnia is also a common side effect. Also remember that when you get close to the caffeine dose at which jitteriness occurs, impaired concentration and increased irritability can develop, both of which can contribute to curt or angry interpersonal relations. This is especially true of children and adolescents who often think that getting an energy drink buzz is cool or funny, when in reality it is making them disruptive and more impulsive.

“It can be so bad that if you take too much caffeine you can end up in the hospital thinking you have flu-like symptoms and really it’s caffeine overdose.” So remember as you’re sipping – take it slow or it may not just be energy you end up with.

“We don’t think of caffeine as being a drug that we need to monitor, but we can overdo it,” says Dr. Rollins.

For many people – if they’re not getting more than around 400 milligrams of caffeine a day – these energy drinks can be safe. But here are some important things to remember:

* Don’t drink energy beverages while exercising. It can lead to severe dehydration.
* Don’t ever mix these drinks with alcohol – it’s popular – but doing so can not only mask how intoxicated you really are, it again can be extremely dehydrating.
* In addition to caffeine, most of these energy drinks contain very high amounts of sugar and sodium which can be dangerous for diabetics or those with high blood pressure (Newswise).

Most people will have all the energy they need without energy drinks if they just start getting enough good quality sleep, eating healthy, and begin an exercise program (you will probably feel more energy in only about two to three weeks after beginning to exercise!).