Tampa Strength Owner Recounts struggle with energy drink addiction


Personal trainer Shawn Balow realized he had a problem when he couldn’t sleep. 

“So you’re coming in for your night session to train people,” Balow said. “You want a little pick me up before the people at night, so you’re gonna have an energy drink at four o’clock. That’s like the worst time, because then you can’t sleep all night long. All that caffeine you just downed late in the afternoon and you’re up all night.” 

Balow’s energy drink history started around 2015, but he didn’t realize he had a problem until 2017. Typically, Balow would drink two to three, but his habits slowly grew until he had up to six energy drinks a day by the end of the addiction. This caffeine intake led to sleepless nights and anxiety, which Balow had never suffered from before. 

“That’s not who I am basically,” Balow said. “You know I… never had a problem sleeping before. Ever. Always could go home and sleep. Never worried about every little thing, the anxiety and everything like that. So, whether or not that was from owning a business or energy drinks, what I found was more of the absurd amount of caffeine in them.”

According to a 2012 Consumer Report study that measured the 27 top-selling energy drinks, caffiene levels per serving range from 6 miligrams to 242 miligrams per serving with some drinks having more than one serving. Balow said he turned to energy drinks to feel more awake- and they worked. Sleepless nights soon ‘took a toll on everything’ according to Balow, both physically and emotionally. 

According to a 2012 Consumer Report study, an 8 fl. oz. can of Monster Energy has 92 mg. of caffeine. High caffeine content in similar energy drinks led Tampa Strength owner Shawn Balow to suffer from sleepless nights and anxiety. 

I had to make a change or else I was gonna crash

Around one year ago, Balow quit cold turkey and now limits daily caffiene intake to green tea and doesn’t drink any type of energy drink. 

“They were destroying me,” Balow said. “They were slowly destroying me, but they didn’t destroy me, slowly, and I knew I had to make a change or else I was gonna crash.”

“This was my mindset, ‘I’m either gonna do this, or I’m gonna die,’” Balow said. “‘I’m either going to quit, or I’m going to die.’ That’s the mindset I take, so you can do anything you put your mind to, and that’s what it was. That simple. It truly was a drug.”   

Balow said he would never go back to consuming energy drinks as it just gets ‘worse and worse’ and believes that energy drinks hurt athletes. 

“It’s more of a false sense of alertness,” Balow said. “Draw that from within, not from an outside substance.”

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