Energy drinks are often stimulant beverages that provide short term bursts of energy to enhance performance, concentration, mood and brain function. Red Bull and Bang, in particular, has become part of trends and for some individuals, a go-to pick-me-up.
Research indicates a variety of energy drink benefits, such as improvements in energy, performance, mood, and more. Yet, they also come with an array of side effects which the general public should be cautioned about and made aware of.
Further, some energy drinks prove to be superior health-wise, such as sugar-free, water-based, and vitamin varieties. Below the benefits and side effects of these beverages are examined and explored based on scientific research and evidence.
1Energy drinks may temporarily enhance performance and mood. A 2001 review looked at these properties, specifically in Red Bull, one of the most popular energy drinks worldwide. 3 studies observed 6 volunteers and measured their improvements based on “psychomotor performance, subjective alertness, and physical endurance.” Reaction time, immediate memory recall, and concentration variables all improved. In fact, memory and concentration abilities in participants increased by 24% (1).
Another study published in 2004 explored how glucose and caffeine combined in energy drinks contributed to cognitive functioning. 20 participants in the study were instructed to fast overnight. Researchers, then, gave them 250 militer energy drinks containing 37.5 grams of glucose and 75 milligrams of caffeine. Assessments were done right before the participants drank the energy drink and were performed 30 minutes after the drink was consumed. Researchers noted significant improvements in secondary memory and speed of attention (2).
A second 2004 study had similar parameters and set-ups to the other two studies above. Participants improved in a rapid visual information processing task. However, the study saw issues with extended mental demand and saw participants fatigue in the long-term (3).
2Energy drinks may also help reduce feelings of tiredness. A 2011 study looked at Red Bull as an aid for combating sleepiness and impairments when driving from feeling tired. The study involved 24 volunteers. They drove on the highway for 2 hours, and then had a 15-minute break. Within the 15-minute break, participants consumed Red Bull containing caffeine and other anti-fatigue substances or Red Bull without these substances.
They, then, drove another 2 hours. Researchers assessed weaving of the car, speed, subjective driving quality, and sleepiness. The results showed that Red Bull substantially improved driving performance and decreased driver sleepiness during the long hours of highway driving (4).
A 2002 study conducted a similar test. 12 healthy adults participated in the study. These participants had a sleep restriction of 5 hours the night before to increase their fatigue. After 30 minutes of driving, one group was given the energy drink and the other group was given a control drink. The energy drink group had reduce sleepiness in the first hour and a half of driving. Thus, researchers concluded that energy drinks may reduce sleep-related driving accidents (5).
3Energy drinks containing high B vitamin content may have various benefits to overall health. Vitamin B12, found in many popular energy drinks, is critical in cell metabolism and energy. It is also useful in DNA synthesis in the body. Vitamin B12 is further thought to help prevent against an array of chronic diseases (6).
Thiamine is crucial for converting carbohydrates to energy (7).
Riboflavin is another common B vitamin found in energy drinks. It is involved in a variety of processes in the body. It further helps with cell function and growth (8).
The body needs B vitamins obtained via the diet for normal and optimal functioning and processes. Energy drinks may offer benefits from these specific vitamins.
4Sugar, or glucose, in an energy drink may contribute to increased alertness and energy. In a 2007 study in the Nutrition Journal, cited the use of energy drinks by college students for the increase in alertness and energy. However, the study did not indicate whether these effects were coming from sugar or caffeine, although both are thought to play a significant role (9).
However, it is well-known that sugar is the body’s primary source of energy. Therefore, the impact of the high sugar content in energy drinks is very much contributing to the increase in energy and alertness (10).
5Energy drinks may improve attention and athletic performance. A 2014 article showed significant improvements in upper body strength, endurance, and lower body strength. Yet, other studies outlined in the article also showed no differences in endurance or strength factors (11).
In addition to B vitamins, many energy drinks are loaded with various other nutrients and vitamins. It is thought that these vitamins and nutrients contribute to their positive effects, such as performance and an elevated mood. Many energy drinks also contain taurine, glucuronolactone, and ginseng.
6Taurine in energy drinks as shown to help with cardiovascular disease. Various literature and research supports the fact that taurine helps prevent cardiovascular disease or problems, it may have antioxidant effects, and it may further have antiatherogenic effects (12)
A 2001 study further explored taurine and its antioxidant properties. Researchers found that taurine may be a viable treatment strategy for oxidative stress, such as that seen in lead poisoning (13).
A 2012 scientific study examined taurine as a protective property against mitochondrial damage. The study also found it was useful in mitochondrial protein synthesis (14).
7Ginseng may further improve hyperglycemic conditions in individuals, combat stress, help with the immune response, and provide antioxidative effects. A 2001 observed ginseng supplementation and its link to exercise performance and recovery. 24 healthy female participants were assigned to two different groups, the ginseng receiving group or the placebo group. They took the supplement or placebo once a day for 8 weeks. But this study didn’t find any benefits to ginseng supplementation in exercise performance, indicating that it likely does not have these benefits in energy drink form (15).
Another 2004 study found that ginseng may moderately improve fatigue in some, but not all, individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome (16).
In fact, this may add another ‘energy’ factor to the energy drinks overall impact on alertness, sleepiness, and fatigue.
8Taurine may benefit people with diabetes, potentially lowering blood sugar levels and improving various risk factors for heart disease. Long-term supplementing decreased fasting blood sugar levels in diabetic rats — without any changes in diet or exercise (17).
Interestingly, people with diabetes tend to have lower levels of taurine — another indicator that it may play a role in this disease (22).
In one human study, 12% of participants supplementing with taurine completely eliminated ringing in their ears, which is associated with hearing loss (25).
Taurine is also present in large quantities in your eyes, with research showing that eye problems may occur when these levels start to decline. Increased concentrations are believed to optimize eyesight and eye health (26, 27, 28).
10Creatine in Bang energy increases brain function. Research demonstrates that your brain requires a significant amount of ATP when performing difficult tasks (29).
For older individuals, two weeks of supplementing with creatine significantly improved memory and recall ability (31).
In older adults, creatine may boost brain function, protect against neurological diseases and reduce age-related loss of muscle and strength (32).
11Creatine in Bang energy increases energy production. Creatine supplements increase your phosphocreatine stores, allowing you to produce more ATP energy to fuel your muscles during high-intensity exercise (33).
During exercise, ATP is broken down to produce energy.
The rate of ATP resynthesis limits your ability to continually perform at maximum intensity — you use ATP faster than you reproduce it.
12Creatine in Bang energy reduces fatigue. One study determined that creatine led to reduced fatigue and increased energy levels during sleep deprivation (34).
Creatine can also reduce fatigue in athletes taking a cycling test and has been used to decrease fatigue when exercising in high heat (35).
1May experience fatigue in extended time periods requiring high cognitive demand (36).
2One 2006 study concluded that while energy drinks may help initially in shift workers, over longer durations, such as their next shift, it could negatively affect their performance and cognitive functioning (37).
3A 2014 study suggested that some types of energy drinks may increase the risk of heart problems and disease. As such, youth and younger adults are cautioned when it comes to energy drink consumption, with or without drug and alcohol use (38).
4Energy drink consumption may cause insomnia, headaches, a fast heart rate, nervousness, and seizures.
5Energy drinks may also interact with specific prescription medication, alcohol, and drugs. If you are on prescribed medication, it’s advised to not consume energy drinks (39).
6 Energy drinks may cause blood sugar spikes. Therefore, it is cautioned against taking them if you have blood sugar problems or diabetes. These blood sugar spikes may lead to increased oxidative stress, as well as inflammation. Consequently, they may contribute to various life-threatening diseases (40).
7Drinking certain high-sugar containing energy drinks may increase your risk of diabetes.
8Caffeine toxicity and other adverse effects may also occur when taking energy drinks on a regular basis (41).
9 Some energy drinks may dehydrate the body. Make sure you rehydrate with water when consuming.
10Excessive caffeine consumption may cause a rapid heartbeat, diarrhea, fever, and more. Monitor your caffeine intake and try not to exceed 400 milligrams per day.
11Some experts claim in may increase your risk of cancer.
12It has also been put forth that energy drinks may possibly contribute to male infertility issues.
13Mixing energy drinks and alcohol has serious health risks.
14The stimulating effects of caffeine in energy drinks can override the depressive effects of alcohol. This can leave you feeling less intoxicated while still experiencing alcohol-related impairments. This combination can be very troubling. People who ingest energy drinks with alcohol tend to report heavier alcohol consumption. They’re also more likely to drink and drive, and suffer from alcohol-related injuries (42).
Furthermore, one study of 403 young Australian adults showed that people were nearly six times more likely to experience heart palpitations when they drank energy drinks mixed with alcohol compared to when they drank alcohol alone (43).
The recommended daily intake (RDI) for vitamin B12 for people over 14 is 2.4 mcg (44).
However, you may want to take more or less, depending on your age, lifestyle and specific situation. Note that the percent of vitamin B12 your body can absorb from supplements is not very high. It’s estimated that your body only absorbs 10 mcg of a 500-mcg B12 supplement.
Most of the health concerns involving energy drinks center on their caffeine content. Importantly, it is generally recommended that adults consume no more than 400 mg of caffeine per day – which usually equals to about 2 or 3 energy drinks maximum in 24 hours.
The most common dosages of taurine are 500–2,000 mg per day. However, the upper limit for toxicity is much higher — even doses above 2,000 mg seem to be well tolerated. While some studies may use a higher dose for short periods, 3,000 mg per day will help you maximize the benefits while staying within a safe range (45).
Creatine dosing is usually set at around 5g/day for most people. However, most use a short-term “loading dose” followed by a long-term maintenance dose of 5g. Loading doses are typically 20 grams daily for 4-7 days.
Any type of energy drink should not be consumed by children or teenagers (46).
What do energy drinks do to your body? Large amounts of caffeine may cause serious heart and blood vessel problems such as heart rhythm disturbances and increases in heart rate and blood pressure.
Do energy drinks contain bull sperm? Many people bet it comes from some delicate parts of the strongest and most potent bulls in the world, but the truth is that the taurine in Red Bull is produced synthetically by pharmaceutical companies, which guarantees highest quality standards.
How do you treat low energy? To keep your energy levels more stable and reduce fatigue, try avoiding foods high in added sugar. You can improve the quality of your diet by eating whole and fiber-rich foods such as whole grains, vegetables and legumes.
Why is my energy so low? Many men feel tired and overwhelmed each day, especially with the busy lives that many people lead. Lifestyle factors can cause low energy levels, such as sleep patterns, exercise, and diet. Medical conditions, such as low testosterone and sleep apnea, can also cause low energy levels in men.
Why do I feel so tired all the time? Iron deficiency is thought to be a contributor to chronic fatigue. When you have too little hemoglobin or not enough red blood cells, your body doesn’t get enough oxygen so you feel tired or weak.
Does b12 help with energy? Vitamin B12 may benefit your body in impressive ways, such as by boosting your energy, improving your memory and helping prevent heart disease.
Why am I sleeping all the time? While there are many possible causes of extreme daytime sleepiness including dietary deficiencies, depression, diabetes, anemia, or thyroid problems, chronic daytime fatigue can very likely be caused by a sleep disorder.
Are energy drinks healthy? Energy drinks can deliver on some of their promised benefits by increasing brain function and helping you function when you’re tired or sleep-deprived. However, there are a number of health concerns with energy drinks, particularly related to excessive caffeine intake, sugar content and mixing them with alcohol.
Are v8 energy drinks healthy? V8 Energy Drink is V8’s attempt at a healthy, juice-based energy drink. The have a few different variations, but all flavors have the same amount of caffeine per can. This energy drink provides a full serving of fruit and vegetables while having just 50 calories.
What happens when you drink energy drinks everyday? One serious side effect of the daily consumption of energy drinks is caffeine overdose. More serious symptoms of acute caffeine toxicity include tremors, tachycardia or rapid heart rate, psychomotor agitation, high blood pressure, heart palpitations, dizziness, numbness and fainting. In rare cases, death has resulted from drinking too much caffeine.
What happens when you mix alcohol and energy drinks? This can lead to over-intoxication and risk for alcohol poisoning. Mixing energy drinks with alcohol also leads to increase rates of drunk driving. A recent study found that of those who consumed both caffeine and alcohol were more likely to still get behind the wheel than those who just consumed alcohol alone.
Are energy drinks worse than alcohol? Science finds drinking alcohol and energy drinks has same effect as taking cocaine. Mixing energy drinks like Red Bull with spirits may cause permanent damage to adolescent brains. Energy drinks, like Red Bull and Monster, contain as much as ten times the caffeine as soft drinks and are often marketed to teenagers.
Are caffeinated alcoholic beverages illegal? Yes, pre mixed energy alcohol drinks are effectively banned by the FDA as they are deemed unsafe.
Energy drinks have various benefits as explored above. However, long-term consumption is not recommended due to the risks and side effects associated with many of them. But drinking one energy drink on occasion is unlikely to cause harm or damage.
It should be noted that there are more healthy energy drinks containing less additives or chemicals and more all-natural ingredients. Sugar-free options also exist.
Before consuming, make sure you know the health risks involved. Pregnant, breastfeeding women, children, and teens are advised to avoid consuming these drinks.
If you’re concerned about interactions with medications, make sure to ask your doctor about your individual risk factors.