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HomeHealth & FitnessWhat's Going On With Panera's Charged Lemonade?

What’s Going On With Panera’s Charged Lemonade?

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A standard latte has one shot of espresso. If you’re really tired, you might opt for a macchiato, which calls for two. But a single, 20-ounce serving of Panera’s Charged Lemonade contains the caffeine equivalent of more than four shots of espresso. If you’re wondering, “Is that even healthy?” you’re not alone. In fact, even Panera is rethinking the beverage, with Bloomberg reporting that the restaurant chain is removing the infamous Charged Lemonades from its menu, after being involved in several lawsuits claiming that the substantial caffeine levels in the beverage caused irreversible health complications and in two cases, death.

Panera is reportedly replacing the drinks with low-sugar, low-caffeine alternatives, including a blueberry lavender lemonade, pomegranate hibiscus tea, citrus punch and tropical green smoothie. And while the Charged Lemonades spawned a thousand memes, many people will be saying good riddance to super caffeinated drinks. Here, what to know about the health risks of the Panera Charged Lemonades, and two alternatives you can mix up at home if you want a fruity, but safe, pick-me-up.

A Brief History of the Charged Lemonades

The chain’s line of lemonades has been out since April 2022. But shortly after, complaints and lawsuits trickled in making some serious claims.

In late Oct. 2023, a lawsuit alleged the company’s failure to properly warn customers about the drink’s ingredients led to the death of University of Pennsylvania student Sarah Katz, who had a heart condition and reportedly consumed the highly caffeinated beverage, NBC News reports. A lawsuit filed in December claimed that Florida resident Dennis Brown died of cardiac arrest after allegedly drinking three Charged Lemonades, per “Today.” In a third lawsuit filed in Jan. 2024, a plaintiff allegedly experienced “permanent cardiac injuries” after reportedly drinking the lemonades, according to ABC.

The Charged Lemonades also spawned their fair share of social media content. “I feel like the Hulk!” content creator @sarahebaus shared in a viral TikTok after consuming multiple refills of the beverage. Others echoed her sentiments, claiming that the lemonade kept them up for over 24 hours. Customers have compared taking one sip of Charged Lemonade to Fergie doing cartwheels and Winnie the Pooh having an out-of-body experience — and while these are memes and not meant to be taken seriously, the bottom line is that the caffeine content is noteworthy.

How Much Caffeine Is in Panera’s Charged Lemonade?

According to Forbes, a 20-ounce Panera Charged Lemonade was originally listed as containing 260 milligrams of caffeine, on par with Panera’s 20-ounce Cafe Blend Dark Roast Coffee, which has 268 milligrams. The 30-ounce lemonade was originally reported to contain 390 milligrams of caffeine, more than any of the company’s coffee drinks. But Forbes notes that a more recently updated caffeine guide listed the amounts starting at around 155 milligrams for a 20-ounce drink.

The recommended daily intake of caffeine is 400 milligrams, but every body is different. “Some individuals are highly sensitive to caffeine and can experience adverse effects even with small amounts of less than 100 milligrams, while others may tolerate higher doses without apparent issues,” Joe Whittington, MD, previously told POPSUGAR.

In the case of Panera’s Charged Lemonades, it’s not just the caffeine that you have to take into consideration. According to dietitian Wendy Lord, RD, the drink contains four different sources of energy. In addition to caffeine, coffee extract, and guarana extract, the Strawberry Lemon Mint flavor also contains a whopping 65 grams of sugar (the other two flavors, Fuji Apple Cranberry and Mango Yuzu Citrus, have 65 grams of sugar and 82 grams of sugar, respectively). “It gives you a quick energy boost, but as soon as the sugar level goes down, you feel low,” Lord explains.

For this reason, NYC-based dietitian Leyla Shamayeva, RD, says Panera’s Charged Lemonades are more like “energy drinks with added caffeine” than they are actual lemonade. The sugar content, Shamayeva says, is “right on par with sugar counts in 20 ounces of regular Red Bull, and it’s more sugar than the American Heart Association recommends per day.” Although Panera’s Charged Lemonades are technically “clean” and “plant-based” since they don’t contain artificial flavors, the truth is they have little nutritional value.

Plus, “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 told POPSUGAR.

Before the news of the lawsuits came out, I was curious about all the hype and tried the Strawberry Lemon Mint Charged Lemonade myself. I admit, it was tasty — fruity and refreshing and, flavor-wise, more like a lemonade than an energy drink. But by the time I was finished with my drink, I was completely wired and felt significantly more energized than I usually do after a cup of coffee. It went beyond “awake” and into “unpleasant.”

All things considered, plenty of people won’t be sad to say goodbye to Panera’s Charged Lemonades. And if you want a healthier, yet energizing alternative to the beverages, we’ve got you covered. Below, how to make Shamayeva’s strawberry mint lemonade.

— Additional reporting by Alexis Jones

Kalea Martín writes primarily about food and cooking for POPSUGAR, but as a former figure skater and hockey player, she covers fitness, too. Prior to becoming a lifestyle writer, Kalea covered hotels, restaurants, and travel for Luxos Magazine in Milan and worked in marketing at HarperCollins Publishers.

Alexis Jones is the senior health and fitness editor at PS. Her passions and areas of expertise include women’s health and fitness, mental health, racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare, and chronic conditions. Prior to joining PS, she was the senior editor at Health magazine. Her other bylines can be found at Women’s Health, Prevention, Marie Claire, and more.



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