Energy drinks are beverages that are formulated to provide an energy boost. They're safe to consume at late-night study sessions, for a day-time pick-me-up, and prior to or during workouts.
Energy drinks may contain B vitamins, taurine (an amino acid), guarana (an herb with caffeine-laden seeds), ginseng (an immunity booster), and other ingredients that provide a variety of benefits ranging from aiding in weight loss to lowering disease risk.
Unlike sports drinks, energy drinks are notorious its caffeine content.
Do energy drinks work
Energy drinks provide a boost in energy, but it doesn't last long. There's limited evidence that energy drinks have a positive impact on health, and there are mixed opinions regarding their ability to improve mental and athletic performance. There has been no research to demonstrate if energy drinks are effective because of the caffeine content, herbs, or both. But generally, energy drinks are not recommended for improving sports performance.[1,2]
Energy drinks are safe when consumed in moderation, about 300mg to 500mg per day. But, remember, caffeine affects each person individually. Some may be more sensitive to the stimulant than others.[1, 2, 3]
It's important to take note of the number of servings per container. One serving of an energy drink may have 80mg of caffeine, which is equivalent to a small cup of coffee. But many energy drinks come in large bottles, often containing two to three servings each. If you drink the whole thing, you're getting much more caffeine than you bargained for, and, in some cases, calories and sugar.
Ingredients and interactions
Guarana and ginseng, both regularly added to energy drinks, tend to boosts the effect of caffeine.
Also, do not mix energy drinks with alcohol. The stimulating effect of an energy drink combined with the sedative effect of alcohol can interfere with the feeling of inebriation and fatigue, which can spur the drinker to continue drinking. It can also cause dehydration.
People who should limit caffeine intake, and thus energy drinks, are: [1, 2]
Children should consume no more than 2.5mg per kilograms of body weight daily, if at all
Adolescents should drink Less than 100mg daily, if at all
Women of reproductive age, especially those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, should keep energy drink intake at 300mg per day or less
People with heart disease or high blood pressure should avoid energy drinks entirely
Elevated blood pressure
If people drink these beverages on an empty stomach, side effects could be more intense. [1, 2, 3, 4]
Alternative ways of getting energy
There are many healthier and more effective ways to get energy than consuming energy drinks.
|Alternative energy source||Benefit|
|Sleep||Adults should get seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Teens need eight or more hours.|
|Healthy diet||Shoot for a balanced diet consisting of lean meats, vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates.|
|Eat often||Spreading out smaller meals throughout the day will boost energy more than three big meals.|
|Don't skip meals||This is an energy buster.|
|Drink water, or otherwise stay well hydrated||Drink about eight glasses of water per day to prevent dehydration and promote good health. Juice, sports drinks, and milk are good alternatives to energy drinks.|
|Exercise||Adults should get at least 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise per day, while children should get an hour. Take breaks, too, from studies or work, and go for a short walk or do stretches, to help keep refreshed.|
- Herbs and supplements are not regulated by the FDA. Product safety and consistency aren't guaranteed. Effects may vary according to brand and batch.
- If you are experiencing chronic fatigue or lack of energy, consult your health care provider for an evaluation.
Ingredient amounts aren't always listed on energy drink labels. Start out with a a small amount to see how it affects you.
Purchase energy drinks from reputable companies only.
- Zaira Ahmad, MS; Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Cooperative Extension; Energy Drinks: The Truth Behind the Boost;" July 2009
- Karrie Heneman; University of California, Davis, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources; "Nutrition and Health Info Sheet: Energy Drinks;" 2007
- Katherine Zeratsky; Mayo Clinic; "Energy Drinks: Do They Really Boost Energy;" March 2012
- Kathleen Zelman; WebMD.com; "What's the Buzz About Energy Drinks?;" Reviewed 2006