The energy drink industry is booming.  The demand for these products is driven by superior marketing efforts focused on students and professionals that require sustained alertness.  Certainly the key to any marketing campaign is to highlight the benefits of the product.  Caffeine is the main player and the benefits of caffeine use are improved performance, concentration and endurance.  It is easy to see the allure of using caffeinated products.  So perhaps the question isn’t whether energy drinks are good or bad, but rather when and if we should use energy drinks?

Use as an Ergogenic Aide

The research on caffeine as an ergogenic aide is generally related to athletic performance.  The results show improvement in athletic performance comes from the consumption of caffeine in capsule form and specific to endurance performance, such as distance runners.  As it relates to weight lifting maximum or low intensity efforts there doesn’t appear to be any measurable difference. It is important to note that because caffeine is a know ergogenic aide for endurance sports athletes need to be concerned with the amount of caffeine that can be consumed (International Olympic Committee banned amounts exceeding 12mg/ml in a urine sample, NCAA limit is 15mg/ml)

For athletes that require maximum intensity efforts and are using creatine supplementation, caffeine consumption may blunt the desired results from creatine supplementation.

Mixing Energy Drinks with Alcohol

Mixing a know stimulant (caffeine) with a know depressant (alcohol) is not a smart idea.  Consuming these drinks can halt the feeling of intoxication, lead to heavier drinking and increase the risks for alcohol related injuries.

Consumption for the average person

The occasional consumption of energy drinks appear to be harmless.  But the general recommendations are to limit the consumption to about 16 ounces (500 ml) per day. For adolescents the recommendation is no more than 100 ml and for younger children I would simply avoid caffeine.

Consuming caffeine above the recommended level can lead to a variety of side effects: insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, upset stomach, fast heartbeat and muscle tremors.  Important to note that some people are more sensitive than others so it is possible to experience the side effects in much smaller doses.

Please note if you have any underlying health conditions such as: heart disease, high blood pressure, pregnant or breast feeding, just avoid energy drinks altogether.

A Healthier Option

If the purpose for consuming energy drinks is to boost energy levels there is a better option that has more desirable side effects.  Improving eating behaviors, exercising and getting adequate amounts of sleep will leave you feeling well rested, focused, clear minded, and provide the increases in energy level.   The side effects will be fat loss, clothes fitting better, healthier looking skin, increase self confidence, and a better outlook on life.

In the end as a trainer and parent I would recommend steering clear of the energy drinks.  Enjoy the occasional cup of ‘Joe’, (I am a tea drinker myself).  Make better nutritional choices, exercise and get plenty of rest.