Energy Drinks… What The Science Says…

Energy drinks are a relatively new phenomena in modern diets. While standard carbohydrate based “sport” drinks have been available for a long time “energy” drinks are perhaps another example of “functional” foods which promise to achieve the purpose of giving you more energy.


Energy drinks in general are misleading. They don’t give you energy, well unless they contain a large amount of sugar. What is often reported on their advertising is a host of herbs, vitamins and other creations that will unlock your physical ability and give you more physical capacity or indeed simply stimulants. Now this is one of those things which I consider mis-selling to the consumer. In fact it is quite similar to the reasoning behind why yoghurt priobiotics cannot be advertised as good for gut health. Quite simply if evidence is not definite should a product be able to be sold with ridiculous claims?


An analysis of energy drinks was carried out by Nutrition Reviews, Often these products contain caffeine, taurine, guaraná, ginseng, glucuronolactone, B-vitamins, and other compounds. Some of these are “involved” in the energy creation/ breakdown process but by their involvement it does not necessarily mean that they stimulate energy production. Indeed with the exception of some weak evidence for glucose and guaraná extract, there is an overwhelming lack of evidence to substantiate these claims.


Caffeine is the only component of these products which contributes to the improvement of physical and mental performance. While this area needs to be investigated further it highlights that these wide claims are related to one active compound. Often these products are targeted at younger markets as well as time busy people. Commonly the variety of caffeine and other compounds are combined with vaste amounts of sugar. Simply said in active individuals who feel like they need a boost pre- training or in just general you need to ask these questions.

1. Do you need the extra sugar- if your diet is healthy enough you won’t, if it isn’t healthy enough a sugary drink will only make things worse. 2 hours later you will be more tired once the energy stimulating caffeine has run out and your blood sugar drops in response to a it being too high.

2. If you are using this as a stimulant to give you a push then why do you need this lift? For time busy stressed out individuals caffeine is not the answer, it is a short term boost. If chronically overused it can lead to adrenal stress which can lead to a host of illnesses, poor metabolic function and generally poor recovery from exercise.

3. Caffeine is safe as a pre-workout supplement, it has been tested, but in turn it can be abused. If you need it pre-race/ training/ everyday to perform then go back to question 2.

What are my recommendations?  Knowing where you caffeine comes from is important. Coffee is as simple as it comes. It is simply not necessary to purchase an energy drink loaded with sugar and other random stimulants with the hope that it will pick you up. Again used in moderation on occasions but never as the part of an “energy drink.”

Below is a graphic on how caffeine works- it doesn’t just make energy;)




Published by ianmellis

Ian Mellis MSc. CSCS is the co-founder of Results FAST ( in Ware, Hertfordshire. Specialising in athletic development, physique improvement and injury rehabilitation he provides personal training, strength and conditioning and nutrition coaching for motivated exercisers and those looking to make a long term change to their health, fitness and performance.

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