Here Are the Effects of Energy Drinks on the Body (Spoiler Alert: You Won't Grow Wings)
Soda sales are finally declining (thankfully), but the energy-drink market is doing better than ever. By 2026, energy drinks are expected to be an $86 billion industry. Every time you walk into a convenience store, you probably see a phalanx of lined up colorfully labeled cans that look, well, energetic. But what are the effects of energy drinks on the body? Let’s start with the basics.
What Are Energy Drinks?
Energy drinks are beverages that contain a significant amount of caffeine, as well as other ingredients like taurine and B vitamins. Many varieties contain sugar.
They come in a variety of forms, ranging from 16-ounce tallboy cans to small “energy shots.”
Are Energy Drinks Healthy?
“Energy drinks are a broad range of products (from tin bottles to shots), consumed with other broad ranges of products,” says Jagdish Khubchandani, MBBS, Ph.D., MPH, professor of public health at Ball State University. “I am skeptical about calling them universally beneficial or healthy.”
The amount of caffeine in energy drinks can vary widely, from 60mg to over 250mg. That’s compared to the average cup of coffee at 100mg.
Some energy drinks contain B vitamins, which are necessary for the body to convert food to energy. That’s a point in the “healthy” column, but keep in mind that you can get B vitamins from whole foods like leafy greens, fatty fish, nuts, eggs, and milk.
Are There Benefits to Energy Drinks?
Some research on the effects of energy drinks on the body indicates that they could have some benefits.
“Studies show that energy drinks can support focus (e.g., memory and concentration) and work productivity,” says Khubchandani. “Physical endurance is increased as well.”
1. Energy drinks might help you focus
Scientists aren’t sure whether that’s solely due to caffeine or a combination of caffeine and other ingredients.
2. Energy drinks might improve athletic performance
A small 2019 study published in the journal Nutrients found that consuming an energy drink before performing a handgrip activity improved performance and reaction times.
Another study found that swimmers who consumed an energy drink an hour beforehand improved their sprint swimming times.
What Are the Side Effects of Energy Drinks?
1. Caffeine overconsumption
According to the FDA, 400 mg of caffeine, or about four or five cups of coffee, is “not generally associated with dangerous, negative effects” for healthy adults.
Consuming too much caffeine can lead to nervousness, heart palpitations, insomnia, and stomach issues like heartburn and diarrhea.
2. Caffeine withdrawal
Some people who regularly consume caffeinated drinks experience withdrawal when they stop.
The effects can include headache, fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.
3. Sugar crashes
If your energy drink contains added sugar, it can cause a rapid spike in your blood sugar, then a rapid decline, a.k.a. a “sugar crash.”
That can leave you feeling lethargic and hungry for more sugar.
“Some healthier alternatives to boost your energy levels include green tea,” says Zarana Parekh, RDN, LD, CLT, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Irving, Texas. “Stay hydrated and eat at regular intervals to maintain stable blood sugar levels.”
Are Energy Drinks the Same as Pre-Workout Caffeine Supplements?
Although energy drinks and pre-workout supplements are two distinct products, some people use them interchangeably.
If you do consume energy drinks, do it in moderation, especially if you’re sensitive to caffeine.
Pre-workout caffeine supplements, like Ladder Pre-Workout, have flipped the sugar-heavy formula by adding sweetness with stevia. One scoop of Ladder Pre-Workout delivers about as much caffeine (100mg) as you’d find in an eight-ounce cup of coffee.
Always talk with your doctor before starting a new supplement.
- Beverages, Energy Drink, Monster fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171935/nutrients
- Energy Drink Consumption: Beneficial and Adverse Health Effects www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4682602/
- A taurine and caffeine-containing drink stimulates cognitive performance and well-being pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11140366/
Acute Effects of an "Energy Drink" on Short-Term Maximal Performance, Reaction Times, Psychological and Physiological Parameters: Insights from a Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Counterbalanced Crossover Trial
- Acute consumption of a caffeinated energy drink enhances aspects of performance in sprint swimmers pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26279580/
- Spilling the Beans: How Much Caffeine is Too Much? www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/spilling-beans-how-much-caffeine-too-much
- Caffeine Withdrawal www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430790/