Energy drinks have become a popular alternative to coffee. But little is known on the health effects of this energy-booster, so we break down the good, the bad and the ugly.

After a workout, before a long drive, or during a study cram – energy drinks are now a popular choice for a stimulant. Red Bull, V, and Monster are some of the most recognised brands on the market. But how do they work? What are the health benefits, or effects of consuming these cans?

What are energy drinks?

Energy drinks give what the name implies, a burst of energy, through two main ingredients – sugar and caffeine. Other legal stimulants like guarana and ginseng are also often included. Cans contain from 18 to 48mg of caffeine usually. If a brand advertises no caffeine, it has been substituted by guarana and sugar.

What are the ingredients?

Ephedrine – A stimulant that affects the central nervous system. A common ingredient in weight-loss products, and is used to relieve asthma.

Taurine – A natural amino acid. The rumour that taurine comes from bull testicles is not true – the human body naturally produces taurine to regulate heartbeat.

Ginseng – A root plant native to eastern Asia and North America. Linked to several medicinal benefits including reducing stress.

Guarana – A substance yielded from a Brazilian shrub, used as a tonic or stimulant.

Creatine – An organic acid used by the body to supply energy for muscle movement.

B-vitamins – A group of eight vitamins used in body functions such as energy production and red blood cell production.

So what are the effects?

Individual responses to caffeine and the ingredients will always vary – but these powerful drinks should be consumed with consideration.

Energy drink effects include:

Boost of heart rate

Raised blood pressure



When used occasionally, energy drinks are not necessarily harmful to the body. However, the claims such as ‘improved concentration, performance and energy levels’ can be deceptive. Note – Red Bull cannot give you wings!

Can I combine energy drinks and alcohol?

Of course you can, but be weary. Energy drinks are stimulants, while alcohol is a depressant – so mixing the two can be quite dangerous. The stimulating effect of the energy drink can alter your perception of how intoxicated you are. Additionally, energy drinks are dehydrating, so as a mixer it will make it more difficult for your body to metabolise the alcohol – so be prepared for a potential hangover!

So are energy drinks our friend or foe? Like anything, energy drinks should be consumed with awareness of the effects, and in moderation – choose wisely as a consumer.


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