Can energy drinks really boost a person's energy?

Answers from Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.

Most energy drinks contain large amounts of caffeine, which can provide a temporary energy boost. Some energy drinks contain sugar and other substances. The boost is short-lived, however, and may be accompanied by other problems.

For example, energy drinks that contain sugar may contribute to weight gain — and too much caffeine can lead to:

  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Increased blood pressure

Mixing energy drinks with alcohol may be even more problematic. Energy drinks can blunt the feeling of intoxication, which may lead to heavier drinking and alcohol-related injuries.

For most people, occasional energy drinks are fine, but try to limit yourself to about 16 ounces (500 milliliters) a day. If you're consistently fatigued or rundown, however, consider a better — and healthier — way to boost your energy. Get adequate sleep, include physical activity in your daily routine, and eat a healthy diet. If these strategies don't seem to help, consult your doctor. Sometimes fatigue is a sign of an underlying medical condition, such as hypothyroidism or anemia.

There are a few groups for which energy drinks are typically not recommended. If you have an underlying condition such as heart disease or high blood pressure, ask your doctor if energy drinks may cause complications. Pregnant women and women who are breast-feeding may want to especially limit consumption of these beverages.

With the growing popularity of energy drinks, many parents have become concerned about how much caffeine their kids are getting. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that adolescents get no more than 100 milligrams of caffeine a day. Younger children shouldn't drink caffeinated beverages on a regular basis.

Mar. 27, 2012