It’s no question that gamers are a competitive bunch. All you have to do is spend a couple minutes on Call of Duty online or listen in on a WOW raid to see how much some people are determined to be the very best at their personal addiction.

That’s why it’s interesting that so many gamers are switching to energy drinks to try to get an edge on gaming. While they started out as simply a way to wake up when tired (the start of the modern energy drink craze, Jolt Cola, billed its drink as a means to promote wakefulness) energy drinks are being used more and more as a means of improving performance.

And that’s not entirely wrong. Researchers at the University of Birmingham and Manchester Metropolitan University reported in the Journal of Physiology that sugary energy drinks actually improved both mental and physical ability, allowing subjects to complete a physical-training session 2% faster than those who got artificially sweetened drinks.

And the primary ingredient in most energy drinks is caffeine, which improves mental capabilities including extracting meaning from language, increasing the rate of learning, decreasing reflex time, and aiding in comprehension and memory.

It does this by entering the adenosine (a chemical that triggers tiredness) receptors in the brain and blocking them, stopping the onset of tiredness while allowing the brain’s normal neurostimulants, dopamine and glutamate, to continue to function and build without as many checks.

However, caffeine and the other stimulants in any given energy drink can be dangerous in high dosages. When tested, most energy drinks showed caffeine levels per serving ranging from 6mg to 242mg per serving. To put that in perspective, your average cup of coffee has about 100mg in it, and most energy drinks contain 2 to 3 servings per can.

When it comes right down to it, energy drinks aren’t really all that bad for you as long as you use them in moderation. Keep your serving sizes in mind, eat some food to help soak it up, and try them out for yourself.

Ryan Boucher is a student at Penn State interested in business, art, and culture. Follow his musings at http://marketsandwords.wordpress.com/

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