Updated 25 October 2021 Jae Haroldsen

Americans are hooked on energy drinks. In 2017, Grand View Research reported 60% of males and 40% of females were addicted to energy drinks. The pandemic only increased energy drink consumption with energy drink sales increasing by 11.6% from May 2020 to May 2021. 

The energy drink market continues to expand with new product development and diversity as consumers seek the benefit of increased energy from functional beverages. But are energy drinks healthy? 

The National Center for Complementary and Integrated Health gives several warnings concerning energy drink use. They warn caffeine content is often high in energy drinks causing cardiovascular issues (especially in children) and increasing anxiety and sleep issues. In addition, many energy drinks contain high amounts of added sugar which is linked to obesity, type II diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.  

No wonder Google fields daily questions like: 

  • What is the safest energy drink? 
  • What is the least unhealthy energy drink? 
  • Is it okay to drink energy drinks every day? 
  • How many energy drinks are safe? 
  • Are energy drinks worse than soda? 
  • What ingredients in energy drinks are harmful? 

  

Can Energy Drinks be Healthy? 

Yes. But not every energy drink on the market is a healthy choice. For long-term, high-energy levels, the best choice is choosing to live a healthy lifestyle.  

Eat real food (fresh vegetables and fruits, lean meats, and whole grains). Exercise regularly. Drink plenty of water. And follow a consistent sleep schedule to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night. 

However, life often throws curveballs, and consumers need an energy drink to work through something really important. Learning about common energy ingredients helps you sort through the numerous energy drink choices to find a healthy one to fit your lifestyle. 

You are not limited to exploring energy drinks offered in liquid forms like Red Bull, Monster Energy, Rockstar, or 5-Hour Energy. Several powdered energy mixes are on the market that are healthier and provide greater convenience and flexibility. 

The nutrition label and list of ingredients is the best place to start to determine if an energy drink is a healthy choice. The healthiest energy drinks will contain natural ingredients and have few calories and/or added sugar. As with all processed foods, fewer ingredients indicate the product is less processed and therefore healthier. 

  

Common Energy Ingredients in Energy Drinks 

Caffeine 

As a stimulant, caffeine is the main energy boosting-ingredient contained in energy drinks. It comes from both synthetic and natural sources. Synthetic and natural caffeine has the same chemical structure and acts the same way in the body.  

Numerous performance studies show caffeine improves alertness, cognitive functioning, and exercise endurance and strength. However, regular caffeine consumption builds caffeine tolerance, meaning over time higher amounts of caffeine are required to have the same stimulating effect. 

For adults, the Food and Drug Administration recommends consuming less than 400 mg of caffeine a day. The FDA also recommends talking to your doctor about caffeine consumption if you want to become pregnant, are pregnant, or breastfeeding. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry recommends against caffeine consumption for children under twelve and only 100 mg of caffeine a day for children ages twelve to eighteen. 

The FDA warns listing caffeine content on the nutrition facts label is voluntary. Be careful consuming an energy drink that does not list how much caffeine is in the product. Many energy drinks contain twice the amount of caffeine found in a regular cup of Jo. 

Ingredients to watch for that contain caffeine include guarana, coffee beans, yerba mate, green tea, cocoa beans, guayusa, and yaupon holly.  

  

Amino Acids  

Red Bull, Monster, 5-HourE Energy, and Rock Star all tout the benefits of Taurine. In its energy blend, 5-Hour energy also includes the amino acids L-Tyrosine, L-Phenylalanine, and Citicoline. 

However, research questions if any of these amino acids help to boost energy. In the McClellan and Liberman (2012) review of 32 articles that examined the effects of popular energy drink ingredients, they found: 

“With the exception of some weak evidence for glucose and guaraná extract, there is an overwhelming lack of evidence to substantiate claims that components of energy drinks, other than caffeine, contribute to the enhancement of physical or cognitive performance.” 

  

Panax Ginseng 

Studies indicate 200-400 mg of panax ginseng taken daily may help improve mood and cognitive functioning, especially for people with mild cognitive impairment. Studies are currently underway to research its therapeutic capabilities to help improve the quality of life for people with various neurological disorders. 

  

B Vitamins 

The body requires B vitamins to convert food to energy. In a healthy lifestyle, nutritious food is the best energy source. Vitamins B2, B3, B5, and B6 all play a part in metabolizing food into energy. Vitamin B12 is involved in replicating DNA and cell division. 

B Vitamins are added to energy drinks to support the body’s natural process to convert food into energy. 

  

L-Carnitine 

The body produces L-Carnitine from the amino acids lysine and methionine. It is also readily available in most meats, especially beef. L-Carnitine helps oxidate or breakup long-chained fatty acids to provide energy. Long-chained fatty acids are found in fatty fish like salmon, nuts and seeds, and vegetable oils. 

Studies on cancer patients and elderly individuals show L-Carnitine supplementation helps reduce fatigue to improve physical and mental performance. These studies involve daily supplementation of 2 g of L-Carnitine. Most energy drinks contain substantially less L-Carnitine. 

  

Carbohydrates 

Carbs are the body’s primary source of energy. Many energy drinks hype up the number of carbs they contain to provide quick energy sources. When you read the ingredients list, Glucose, Inositol, and Maltodextrin are added carbs. 

  

Other Chemicals 

The ingredients list of energy drinks often includes numerous chemical names. Some may list the chemical name of vitamins, but often they promote something that has little to no researched benefits. Glucuronolactone is one of them. In the liver, Glucuronolactone is a natural byproduct of glucose breakdown.  

  

Sweeteners  

Taste often determines consumer preference when it comes to energy drinks. With the well-known American sweet tooth, the right amount of sweetness is a must. Energy drinks can be either naturally and/or artificially sweetened. Both options have benefits and drawbacks. 

Natural Sweeteners 

High Fructose Corn Syrup and regular sugar are cheap. However, they are considered empty calories, providing little to no nutritional benefit. On the nutrition label, these types of sweeteners are represented under added sugars.  

The American Heart Association recommends men consume less than 36 grams of added sugar daily and women less than 25 grams. One serving of regular Red Bull contains 26 grams of added sugar. And Monster Energy has 54 grams of added sugar. That’s too much added sugar! 

Artificial Sweeteners 

Most artificial sweeteners are hundreds of times sweeter than regular table sugar with no calories or negative impact on blood glucose levels. However, some artificial sweeteners have been shown to negatively impact gut flora or cause cancer in rat/mice studies. 

When choosing a healthy energy drink, pay close attention to its sweetener. For a comprehensive rundown on the pros and cons of common sweeteners, see our ‘What is the Best Sweetener for Your Brand?’ blog. 

  

Develop An Energy Drink Brand with Origin Nutraceutical 

With so many consumers seeking a healthy energy drink, there is no better time to develop one.  

Origin Nutraceutical believes customer service is the origin of success. We love talking to potential customers looking to make the world a better place with energizing dietary supplements. And our research and development team delights in honing in on the perfect flavor blend. 

Check out our services on our website. Or spend some time looking through our blogs. To start developing your healthy energy drink  contact us today. Your energy drink brand may be the one health conscience consumers are waiting for. 

  

The content of Origin Nutraceutical’s website is for information only, not advice or guarantee of outcome. Information is gathered and shared from reputable sources; however, Origin Nutraceutical is not responsible for errors or omissions in reporting or explanation. No individuals, including those taking Origin Nutraceutical products, should use the information, resources or tools contained within to self-diagnosis or self-treat any health-related condition. Origin Nutraceutical gives no assurance or warranty regarding the accuracy, timeliness or applicability of the content. 

  

Sources: 

1.“Energy Drinks Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Product (Alcoholic, Non-Alcoholic), By Product Type, By Target Consumer, By Distribution Channel, By Region, And Segment Forecasts, 2018 – 2025.” Grand View Research. 2017. https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/energy-drinks-market 

2. McLellan, Tom and Lieberman, Harris. “Do Energy Drinks Contain Active Components Other than Caffeine.” 2012. Research Gate.https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233837453_Do_energy_drinks_contain_active_components_other_than_caffeine

Jacobsen, Jessica. “2021 State of the Industry: Energy Drinks Flourish as Consumers Seek Functionality.” Beverage Industry. 2021. https://www.bevindustry.com/articles/94255-state-of-the-beverage-industry-energy-drinks-flourish-as-consumers-seek-functionality 

“Energy Drinks.” National Center for Complementary and Integrated Health. 2018. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/energy-drinks 

“Added Sugars.” American Heart Association. 2018. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/added-sugars 

“Spilling the Beans: How Much Caffeine is too Much?” Food And Drug Administration. 2018. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/spilling-beans-how-much-caffeine-too-much 

“Caffeine and Children.” American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 2020. https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Caffeine_and_Children-131.aspx 

Nehlig A. Is caffeine a cognitive enhancer? J Alzheimers Dis. 2010;20 Suppl 1:S85-94. doi: 10.3233/JAD-2010-091315. PMID: 20182035. 

Patel, Kamal. “Panax Ginseng.” Examine.com. 2021. https://examine.com/supplements/panax-ginseng/ 

“Vitamin and Mineral Supplement Fact Sheets.” National Institute of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/list-VitaminsMinerals 

Patel, Kamal. “L-Carnitine.” Examine.com. 2021. https://examine.com/supplements/carnitine/ 

Malaguarnera M, Cammalleri L, Gargante MP, Vacante M, Colonna V, Motta M. L-Carnitine treatment reduces severity of physical and mental fatigue and increases cognitive functions in centenarians: a randomized and controlled clinical trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Dec;86(6):1738-44. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/86.5.1738. PMID: 18065594. 

Cruciani RA, Zhang JJ, Manola J, Cella D, Ansari B, Fisch MJ. L-carnitine supplementation for the management of fatigue in patients with cancer: an eastern cooperative oncology group phase III, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Clin Oncol. 2012 Nov 1;30(31):3864-9. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2011.40.2180. Epub 2012 Sep 17. PMID: 22987089; PMCID: PMC3478577. 

Storozhuk, Yaryna. “Does Glucuronolactone Boost Energy: Benefits vs Dangers. Self-Hacked. 2020. https://selfhacked.com/blog/glucuronolactone/ 

“Added Sugars.” American Heart Association. 2018. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/added-sugars