Dietitians Weigh In On Panera's Viral Charged Lemonade

Find out if you really need to be concerned about the high caffeine and sugar content in the drink everyone is talking about on TikTok.

Orange Beverage In Clear Cup Next to an Orange
Courtesy of Panera.

If a refreshing, fruit-flavored lemonade from Panera Bread sounds like a perfect pick-me-up, you might want to heed the hilarious yet eye-opening warning of one TikTok user. Sarah Baus' recent video review of the chain's new "charged" lemonades has gone viral on social media after the content creator realized the drink has more caffeine than four servings of espresso.

In the caption of her post, Baus tagged Panera Bread, writing: "This drink should come with a warning because it's delicious and will lead to my cardiac arrest." She frequently works out of a Panera to take advantage of the free Wi-Fi as well as complimentary beverage refills, she explains in the clip.

With the telltale signs of someone who's had a lot of caffeine (e.g., speaking quickly and having lots of ideas at once), Baus shares that during her working sessions, she'll sometimes drink "four or five" of the Mango Yuzu Citrus Charged Lemonades. "I was always like, 'Man, when I work at Panera, I feel great!'" she says. "I feel awesome! I get so much done!'"

It wasn't until she visited the eatery with her husband, who has type 1 diabetes, and looked up the drink's nutritional info to see if it was safe for him to consume, that she realized exactly what was in her go-to beverage. Turns out, a standard 20-ounce size contains a whopping 260 milligrams of caffeine and 82 grams of sugar.

"An espresso has 63 milligrams of caffeine," says Baus, adding that she doesn't drink coffee and previously didn't think she had caffeine often. "I feel like the Hulk. And I'm drinking these, and I really like them. I said that I'm gonna water them down. But Panera, who's gonna create a product with 263 milligrams of caffeine?"

Baus' highly-caffeinated cautionary tale has entertained nearly one million TikTok viewers and thousands of commenters (so much so that Panera is trending on Twitter). But you might be curious about the lemonade drinks from a dietary perspective.

Panera Charged Lemonade Caffeine Content

First, there's the caffeine conundrum, which is at least partly responsible for Baus' jittery, frenetic energy levels in the now-viral clip. "Most people can have up to 400 milligrams of caffeine without any adverse side effects," says Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D., founder of Greenletes and author of Planted Performance. "To put that into perspective, most 8-ounce cups of coffee have about 95 milligrams of caffeine, so that's about 4 cups of coffee per day." Technically, the Panera's "charged" lemonade's 263 milligrams of caffeine is under this daily suggested limit.

Still, there are plenty of people who can't easily tolerate that much caffeine, adds Jessica Cording, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., a registered dietitian, health coach, and author. "Pregnant people should limit daily consumption to 200 milligrams or less," she says. "People who are sensitive to caffeine, have underlying medical conditions made worse by caffeine, or are on medications that impact caffeine metabolism may need to restrict to less than that."

Panera Charged Lemonade Sugar Content

It's hard to deny that even in the smallest size (called "regular"), this drink is a low-key sugar bomb that both pros agree is better saved for special occasions, if only to avoid a serious blood sugar crash. "The United States Department of Agriculture's added sugar recommendation per day is about 10 percent of calories," says Rizzo. "On a 2,000 calorie diet, this amounts to 200 calories or 12 teaspoons or 48 grams of added sugar per day."

The 82 grams of sugar found in the "regular" size "charged" lemonade from Panera is the equivalent to 20.5 teaspoons of sugar, points out Cording. "That's more than you'll find in most sodas," she says. "While [I] don't know how much of that is from added sugar versus juice, there is no protein, fat, or fiber in this beverage. Such a large amount of sugar (simple carbohydrates) will spike your blood sugar pretty quickly." You might end up feeling lethargic and/or sluggish, and probably searching for more energy again ASAP, says Cording.

Plant-Based Caffeine v. Synthetic Caffeine

While Panera's marketing approach seems to imply that there's some nutritional benefits to these drinks (calling them "plant-based" and "clean" online), Rizzo notes that "plant-based caffeine" is a confusing term. "It makes you think that other sources of caffeine come from animals, but that isn't the case," she explains.

"There is 'plant-based' or natural caffeine that comes from things like cacao beans or tea leaves, and there is also synthetic caffeine that comes from two chemical compounds — urea and chloroacetic acid,' continues Rizzo. "The body doesn't know what type of caffeine you are ingesting, so the source of the caffeine really doesn't matter."

For the record, Panera's "charged" lemonade drinks include coffee extract and guarana extract as their source of caffeine. Guarana fruit comes from a Brazillian plant with seeds containing about four times the amount of caffeine found in coffee beans.

Should You Drink Panera's Charged Lemonade?

Consuming this level of caffeine and sugar in one sitting will impact people differently. "Effects of caffeine depend on the amount/dose of caffeine as well as factors [such as the] time of day and the rate at which someone metabolizes caffeine due to individual body chemistry and/or underlying medical issues/medications," says Cording.

That said, there are short- and long-terms effects of consuming too much caffeine. In the short term, you might experience jitters, headaches, digestive issues, irritability, feelings of anxiety, and trouble sleeping, explains Cording. In the long-term, consuming too much caffeine can lead to chronic sleep issues, digestive woes, and anxiety, she adds. Additionally, long-term excess sugar intake can lead to chronic health issues such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, notes Rizzo.

Still, there's absolutely no shame or judgment in enjoying a sweet treat as part of a balanced diet overall. You can also create a lightened-up DIY lemonade at home if you're sensitive to caffeine and/or sugar. "The best way to cut down on sugar and caffeine is to make your own lemonade at home," says Rizzo. "You can control how much sugar you put in it."

Cording recommends adding lemon juice, mango juice, yuzu juice, water, and a little bit of your favorite sweetener to taste to recreate a version of Panera's drink at home with less sugar and caffeine. You could follow Baus' lead and dilute the drink with water, but Rizzo notes that will only slightly reduce the sugar content. Of course, drinking half and storing it in the fridge for another day is a great option to reduce the effects of the drink's caffeine and sugar content, as well.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles