Nutrition & Health Info Sheets for Consumers - Energy Drinks

Beverage cans

Nutrition & Health Info Sheets contain up-to-date information about nutrition, health, and food. They are provided in two different formats for consumer and professional users. These resources are produced by Dr. Rachel Scherr and her research staff. Produced by Kaleem Khan, Meghan Crebbin-Coates, Timothy Lipuma, Britt Robinson, Anna M. Jones, PhD, and Rachel E. Scherr, PhD.

What are energy drinks?

Energy drinks are non-alcoholic beverages that often include ingredients like caffeine, taurine, B-vitamins and herbal supplements. [1] Energy drinks often claim to have physical and mental benefits. They can even claim to be a liquid dietary supplement depending on the producer.

Is there evidence that energy drinks increase energy?

Caffeine consumption can help with alertness, physical performance, and reduce sleep-related issues. [2] There is some evidence that energy drinks may provide similar effects. [3] However, energy drinks have more ingredients than just caffeine and it is still unclear if these effects are from the caffeine, the herbal ingredients, or the combination of them. [1]

How does the caffeine content of energy drinks compare to other beverages that contain caffeine?

Energy drinks can have anywhere from 50 to 200 mg of caffeine in one serving. However, many energy drink cans have more than one serving. If a whole container is consumed at one time, the consumer is taking in more than one serving of caffeine. [4] Furthermore, only manufacturers that belong to the American Beverage Association are required to report caffeine content. [5]

In comparison, one serving of regular drip coffee can have between 95 to 165 mg of caffeine, one serving of caffeinated tea has between 24 to 46 mg of caffeine, and one serving of cola has between 24 to 46 mg of caffeine. [6] 

Can consumption of energy drinks have negative effects?

Having too much caffeine can cause side effects like nervousness, irritability, sleeplessness, increased urination, abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia), and upset stomach. [7] Healthy adults can usually consume up to 400 mg of caffeine in a day without having negative effects. [8]

Adults who consume energy drinks should do so with caution. Though drinking one energy drink in a day is not likely to lead to excessive caffeine intake, drinking more than one in a day could lead to excessive caffeine intake, especially if these are combined with other caffeine-containing foods or beverages like coffee. There are also other ingredients often added to energy drinks such as guarana and ginseng, which can make the effects of caffeine stronger. Guarana contains caffeine (1g of guarana is equal to about 40 mg caffeine) and may substantially increase the effects of an energy drink. [9]

Energy drinks often contain added sugar. According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, added sugar should be limited in the normal daily diet to less than 10% of total calorie intake (about 50 g for a 2,000 calorie diet). [8]

Pregnant and breastfeeding women, women of reproductive age, and children have a higher risk for negative effects from consuming caffeine. Pregnant women should consume less than 200 mg of caffeine in a day. [10] Women who are nursing should avoid caffeine as it can be found in breastmilk at 50% of the amount in the mother’s bloodstream. [11] The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children also avoid caffeine. [5]

What is the caffeine and sugar content of energy drinks?

The contents of caffeine and sugar in energy drinks can vary widely among different energy drink brands. Table 1 lists the content of sugar and caffeine in a variety of popular energy drinks.

Table 1. Energy Drink Sugar and Caffeine Contents (12)

Drink

Serving (fl. oz.)

Servings per container

Kcal per serving

Sugar per serving (g)

Caffeine per serving (mg)

Rock Star ™

8

2

130

30

80

Monster Energy™

8

1

101

27

86

Red Bull Sugar Free™

8.4

1

5

0

80

Monster Zero Ultra™

16

2

0

0

70

NOS™

8

2

110

26

80

Java Monster™

8

2

50

5

100

Monster Rehab™

8

2

10

2

83

Monster Energy Lo-Carb™

8

2

10

3

70

Red Bull Energy Drink™

8.4

1

110

27

80

5 Hour Energy™

1.93

1

4

0

200

Redline Xtreme™

4

2

0

0

 

Note: This table does not include amounts of other stimulants found in energy drinks that can enhance the effects of caffeine. Many products are available in multiple sizes and may contain more servings than listed in this table.

 

There are many ingredients in energy drinks. What do they claim to do? Is there any scientific evidence to support these claims?

Energy drinks contain ingredients which may enhance the effects of caffeine. These ingredients are listed in Table 2 with manufacturer’s product claims.

Table 2. Common Energy Drink Ingredients and their Claims

Ingredient

Found In

Product Claims

Scientific Evidence

Carnitine

Monster Energy™, Rock Star™, Monster Energy Zero™, Java Monster™, Monster, Energy Lo-Carb™, Monster Rehab™

Improves endurance; increases fat metabolism; protects against heart disease. [13, 14, 15]

There is no scientific evidence to show that carnitine increases endurance or promotes weight loss, and whether or not it lowers the risk of heart disease in controversial. [21]

Glucuronlactone

5 Hour Energy™, Monster Energy™, Monster Energy Zero™, Java Monster™, Monster Energy Lo-Carb™, Monster Rehab™

Gets rid of “toxins” and protects against cancer. [5]

No scientific evidence supports the efficacy of glucuronolactone. [22]

Guarana

Nos™, Monster Energy™, Rock Star™, Monster Energy Zero™, Java Monster™, Monster Energy Lo-Carb™, Monster Rehab™

Increases energy, enhances physical performance, and promotes weight loss. [16]

Generally regarded as safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (FDA CFSAN) when added to cola beverages. [23]

 

Inositol

 

 

Monster Energy™, Rock Star™, Monster Energy Zero™, Java Monster™, Monster Energy Lo-Carb™, Monster Rehab™

Decreases fat and cholesterol levels, lowering risk of heart disease. [17]

Scientific evidence does support claims regarding the efficacy of inositol. [17]

Panax Ginseng

Monster Energy™, Rock Star™, Monster Energy Zero™, Java Monster™, Monster Energy Lo-Carb™, Monster Rehab™

Speeds illness recovery; improves mental, physical, and sexual performance; controls blood glucose, and lowers blood pressure. [18]

No scientific evidence supports the efficacy of panax ginseng. [18]

Taurine

Red Bull™, Red Bull Total Zero™, Red Bull Sugar Free™, Nos™, 5 Hour Energy™, Monster Energy™,Rock Star™, Monster Energy Zero™, Java Monster™, Monster Energy Lo-Carb™, Monster Rehab™

Lowers risk of diabetes, epilepsy, and high blood pressure. [19, 20]

There is not enough evidence to show that taurine treats diabetes or epilepsy. [20]

 

Is consumption of these ingredients safe?

Ingredient

Safety

Carnitine

Not enough data to establish safety of use (14).

Glucuronlactone

Not enough data to deem the amount used in energy drinks as safe (22).

Guarana

Generally regarded as safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (FDA CFSAN) when added to cola beverages. [23]

 

Inositol

Generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA when added to foods. [23]

Panax Ginseng

Not enough data to establish safety of use. [18] 

Taurine

Regarded as safe (GRAS) to use in water beverages in small amounts. [23]

Should energy drinks be consumed before or during exercise?

Caffeine is recognized as a safe and effective way to improve physical performance. Energy drinks have other ingredients in them besides caffeine, and the safety of the interactions of ingredients in energy drinks during exercise is unknown. [24] There are no recommendations for the consumption of energy drinks before exercise.

Is it safe to mix energy drinks with alcohol?

It is not recommended to consume alcohol and energy drinks at the same time. One study demonstrated that people who consume alcohol combined with energy drinks did not feel as drunk and even felt alert. Importantly, they performed just as poorly on tests measuring motor coordination and reaction time as people who have only had alcohol. Additionally, consumers of these types of mixed drinks often believe that they are less drunk than they actually are, leading to the consumption of larger volumes of alcohol. [25]

 

References:

  1. Burrows T, Pursey K, Neve M, Stanwell P. What are the health implications associated with the consumption of energy drinks? A systematic review. Nutrition Reviews. 2013;71(3):135-148. doi:10.1111/nure.12005.
  2. McLellan TM, Caldwell JA, Lieberman HR. . A review of caffeine’s effect on cognitive, physical and occupational performance. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. 2016;71:294-312. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.09.001.
  3. Seifert et al. Health Effects of Energy Drinks on Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults. Pediatrics. 2011;127(3):511-528. Pediatrics. 2016;137(5). doi:10.1542/peds.2016-0454.
  4. Caffeine: How much is too much? Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy- eating/in-depth/caffeine/art-20045678?pg=1. Published March 8, 2017. Accessed August 16, 2017.
  5. American Beverage Association. ABA Guidance for the Responsible Labeling and Marketing of Energy Drinks.https://www.ameribev.org/files/resources/2014-energy-drinks-guidance-approved-by-bod-43020c.pdf. Accessed August 17, 2017.
  6. The Truth About Energy Drinks. Today’s Dietitian. http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/100713p62.shtml. Accessed August 16, 2017.
  7. The buzz on energy-drink caffeine. Caffeine levels in energy drinks - Consumer Reports. http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2012/12/the-buzz-on-energy-drink-caffeine/index.htm. Accessed August 16, 2017.
  8. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015. Accessed August 17, 2017.
  9. Gonzales de Mejia E, Ramirez-Mares MV. Impact of caffeine and coffee on our health. Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism . 2014;25(10):489-492. doi:10.1016/j.tem.2014.07.003.
  10. Kaiser LL, Campbell CG. Practice Paper of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Abstract: Nutrition and Lifestyle for a Healthy Pregnancy Outcome. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2014;114(9):1447. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2014.07.001.
  11. Budzynska K, Gardner ZE, Dog TL, Gardiner P. Complementary, Holistic, and Integrative Medicine: Advice for Clinicians on Herbs and Breastfeeding. Pediatrics in Review. 2013;34(8):343-353. doi:10.1542/pir.34-8-343.
  12. Savoca MR, Evans CD, Wilson ME, Harshfield GA, Ludwig DA. The association of caffeinated beverages withblood pressure in adolescents. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. 2004;158:343-353. doi:10.1001/ archpedi.158.5.473.
  13. Caffeine Informer. http://www.caffeineinformer.com/. Accessed February 16, 2018.
  14. Finnegan D. The health effects of stimulant drinks. Nutrition Bulletin. 2003;28(2):147-155. doi:10.1046/j.1467- 3010.2003.00345.x.
  15. Brass EP. Supplemental carnitine and exercise. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2000;72(2):618S-623S.
  16. Saper RB, Eisenberg DM, Phillips RS. Common dietary supplements for weight loss. American Family Physician. 2004;70(9):1731-1738.
  17. Inquiry Report. foodstandards.gov. Published August 8, 2001. Accessed August 17, 2017.
  18. Dietary Supplements Containing Ephedrine Alkaloids. WAIS Document Retrieval. Accessed August 17, 2017.
  19. Birdsall TC. Therapeutic applications of taurine. Alternative Medicine Review. 1998;3(2):128-136.
  20. Militante JD, Lombardini JB. Treatment of hypertension with oral taurine: experimental and clinical studies. Amino Acids. 2002;23(4):381-393. doi:10.1007/s00726-002-0212
  21. Jong JWD, Ferrari R. Effect of L-carnitine and propionyl-L-carnitine on cardiovascular diseases: a summary. The Carnitine System Developments in Cardiovascular Medicine. 1995:383-388. doi:10.1007/978-94-011-0275-9_27.
  22. Scientific Opinion on the safety of caffeine. Scientific Opinion on the safety of caffeine | European Food SafetyAuthority. https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/4102. Accessed August 17, 2017.
  23. CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. accessdata.fda.gov. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/ cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=172.510. Accessed August 17, 2017.
  24. Campbell B, Wilborn C, Bounty PL, et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: energy drinks. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2013;10(1):1. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-10-1.
  25. Arria AM, O’Brien MC. The “high” risk of energy drinks. JAMA. 2011;305.6:600-601. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.109.

 

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