“Working Out” the Science on Energy Drinks

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I have to admit, I’m not someone who regularly reaches for caffeine in the morning to get me going – but I certainly do use some to boost my training for endurance runs and triathlons. It definitely helps me focus better, swim/bike/run faster, and feel better during and after my workout. And I’m not alone. Marathon season is upon us, and I know many of my friends who are runners rely on small doses of caffeine to boost their performance.

When it comes to your pre-run beverage, caffeine is caffeine. Whether you choose a cup of coffee or an energy drink, both are proven to have the same effect. Surprised? Let’s do some more fact-finding and mythbusting on energy drinks.

energy-drinksWhat are energy drinks?

Energy drinks are beverages containing varying amounts of caffeine and other ingredients such as vitamins, amino acids, herbs, and sugars. They are not the same as “sports drinks,” which are made up of fluid, carbohydrates, and electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium.

Are they safe?

As with any caffeinated beverage, the key is consuming a moderate amount. Up to 400 mg per day from all sources (including coffee, energy drinks, tea, etc.) is considered a moderate intake of caffeine. Did you know most energy drinks contain levels of caffeine similar to coffee drinks of the same size? Also, many energy drink manufacturers voluntarily show caffeine content on the label, so this can help you moderate your caffeine intake.

For healthy individuals, consuming single servings of a typical energy drink, or less than 200 mg of a caffeine-containing beverage, at one time does not pose a health risk.

What about the other ingredients in energy drinks?

The EFSA’s Scientific Opinion on caffeine safety affirms that the other “constituents” commonly present in energy drinks do not affect the safety of the caffeine in those beverages.

What about dehydration?

Caffeine has a mild diuretic effect. Actually, all beverages have a mild diuretic effect. However, the fluid in the beverage itself contributes to your daily water intake and therefore cancels out any fluid loss.

How much are people drinking?

Consumption data show that caffeine intakes from energy drinks accounted for less than 2 percent of total daily mean intakes for all caffeinated-beverage consumers. Coffee, tea, and carbonated soft drinks are the primary sources of caffeine in the U.S. diet. In addition, the mean daily intake of caffeine for most individuals is well below the recommendation of 400 mg per day.

What’s the bottom line?

Just like any other beverage, I encourage you to “drink responsibly.” Don’t get hyped up by all the myths and misinformation. 


Additional Resources

Everything You Need to Know About Caffeine

Fact Sheet: Caffeine and Performance