Energy Drinks: What They Contain, Who Shouldn't Drink Them And Potential Health Risks

Date December 4, 2017

If you’re preparing for finals or pulling an all-nighter to finish a report in a few hours or you have a long night drive, you may opt for an energy drink instead of coffee. Energy drinks may indeed provide that extra kick that coffee doesn’t.

But are they safe? It depends on the amount of the drink you consume, your age, and the general condition of your health. And there may be healthier options that can help you stay awake and alert when your energy levels are down.


Energy drinks have become ever more popular in the US and worldwide. According to a review published in Frontiers in Public Health, energy drinks are an almost $21 billion industry in the United States.

According to research cited by CNN, the energy drinks market was worth $39 billion globally in 2013 and is expected to reach more than $61 billion by 2021. Energy drinks are consumed primarily by teenagers and young adults.

What do energy drinks contain? Many of them have large amounts of caffeine and sugar, and also B vitamins, guarana (which is high in caffeine but may not be included in the total caffeine content stated on the label), taurine, L-carnitine, and sometimes ginseng.

Researchers think it's the caffeine that provides the stimulant effect of energy drinks, and it’s not exactly clear how it acts in combination with other ingredients. Many people believe that energy drinks are more effective than coffee.

Who shouldn’t consume energy drinks?

The following groups of people are advised against consuming energy drinks:

  • pregnant and breastfeeding women;
  • anyone under age 18 (the labels of most energy drinks specifically state it);
  • people with sleep problems;
  • people with heart and kidney problems;
  • people with prediabetes and diabetes.

Risks associated with energy drinks consumption

Most healthcare professionals agree that the risks associated with energy drinks consumption far outweigh the benefits. Here’s what energy drinks can do to you:

  • consuming more than the recommended amount of an energy drink can lead to arrhythmias and a dramatic increase in blood pressure, and even to cardiac arrest – in extreme cases;
  • energy drinks can cause a spike in blood sugar levels unless they are sugar-free;
  • consuming energy drinks on a regular basis can lead to sleep disturbances;
  • energy drinks are more addictive than coffee;
  • mixing energy drinks with alcohol can make you less aware of how drunk you actually are and make you more likely to engage in risky activities, including drunk driving;

  • mixing energy drinks with central nervous system stimulants, e.g. Ritalin or Aderall, is likely to send you straight to the ER with rapid heartbeat, arrhythmia, excessive sweating, and other symptoms;
  • excessive consumption of energy drinks can also lead to digestive problems and dehydration;
  • adults are advised to consume no more than 400 mg of caffeine per day, so if you choose to have an energy drink, check the caffeine content first, and then refrain from drinking other caffeinated beverages for the rest of the day to avoid caffeine overdose;
  • if you’re already physically and mentally exhausted, an energy drink may give you a short-lasting kick, but after it wears off you’ll feel much worse.

All in all, having an energy drink every once in a while will not lead to any significant adverse consequences for your health. But if you need that extra stimulation more often, opt for a cup of strong coffee in the morning and ask your doctor about L-carnitine or other supplements and what changes you need to make in your diet to have more energy.

Source: HealthLine, NCCIH, Frontiers in Human Health, CNN

READ ALSO: According To A Recent Study, Three Cups Of Coffee A Day Are Rather Beneficial Than Harmful For Human Health

This article is purely for informational purposes. Do not self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for harm that may result from using the information stated in the article.