Energy Drink Nutrition Facts, Ingredients, and More

Man drinking energy drink
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Energy drinks are canned or bottled beverages sold in grocery stores, convenience stores, and bars and nightclubs (where they are sometimes added to mixed drinks).

Energy Drink Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided for one 8-ounce (240ml) serving of original Monster Energy drink.

  • Calories: 110
  • Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 180mg
  • Carbohydrates: 27g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 27g
  • Protein: 0g

Most energy drinks are carbonated beverages containing caffeine, large amounts of sugar, and additional ingredients such as B vitamins, amino acids (e.g. taurine), and herbal stimulants like guarana.

Note that in this Monster Energy Drink nutrition label lists the serving size as 8 ounces, which is half of a 16 oz. can. Red Bull®, another popular energy drink, usually comes in 8.4 ounce cans, which contain 117 calories, 98 mg sodium, 8 mg potassium, 28 grams of carbohydrate, 2 grams of sugar, and 77 mg of caffeine. It also offers vitamins B-12 and B-6.

History of Energy Drinks

Red Bull® was created by Dietrich Mateschitz, an Austrian who adapted the energy drink from a Thai beverage called Krating Daeng, a popular drink with rickshaw drivers in Thailand. The key ingredient in the Thai energy drink was taurine, an amino acid that was first discovered in bulls (this association is responsible for the Red Bull urban legend that the drink's active ingredient is bull urine or semen). Red Bull® was introduced to Europe in 1987 and to the United States in 1997.

According to Packaged Facts, total U.S. sales for energy drinks and shots in 2012 was over $12.5 billion. These beverages are marketed primarily to people between the ages of 18 and 30 as a stimulant, which is why they have names that convey strength, power, and speed, and sexuality:

  • Red Bull® Energy Drink
  • Monster Energy® Drink
  • Full Throttle® Energy Drink
  • Amp Energy Drink
  • XS® Energy Drink
  • Redline Energy Drink
  • Rock Star Energy Drink
  • Spark® Energy Drink

Caffeine in Energy Drinks

Most energy drinks contain caffeine. Red Bull®, for example, contains nearly 80 mg of caffeine per can, about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of brewed coffee and twice the caffeine as a cup of tea. Other energy drinks contain several times this amount.

The amount of caffeine in an energy drink isn't always indicated on the label, so it is difficult to calculate how much one is consuming.

Another problem with energy drinks is that unlike hot coffee or tea, which is sipped slowly, it's common for typical energy drink consumers to drink large amounts quickly.

Some people are sensitive to caffeine and experience anxiety, palpitations, irritability, difficulty sleeping, indigestion, and other symptoms with relatively small amounts. People with heart conditions should avoid large amounts of caffeine, because it is a stimulant.

The Combination of Ingredients in Energy Drinks 

One of the biggest concerns is that we just don't know enough about the effect of the combination of ingredients in energy drinks. Many ingredients are believed to work synergistically with caffeine to boost its stimulant power.

For instance, one can of Red Bull® contains 1000 mg of taurine. A German double-blind study compared a taurine and caffeine drink, a caffeine-only drink, and a placebo drink. Stroke volume—the volume of blood ejected with each beat of the heart—was increased only in the group taking the taurine-and-caffeine drink. Taurine appears to play an important role in muscle contraction (especially in the heart) and the nervous system.

Red Bull® also contains 600 mg of glucuronolactone, a substance that is naturally found in the body. There is a lack of published information on the health effects of glucuronolactone supplementation in humans or on the safety of this combination.

Energy drinks contain sugar (although sugar-free energy drinks are now available) because it is a quick source of energy.

B vitamins are sometimes added to energy drinks in small amounts. It makes energy drinks appear healthy, although they probably contribute little. B vitamins are needed to convert food into energy.

Some energy drinks contain guarana, a South American herb that is an additional source of caffeine.

Energy Drinks Shouldn't Be Mixed With Alcohol

Red Bull® and vodka has become a popular mixed drink at bars because it has a reputation for reducing the depressant effects of alcohol (e.g. fatigue) while enhancing the "feel good" buzz. But while people may not feel impaired, their blood alcohol concentration is still high. People may consume larger amounts of alcohol as a result.

A study compared the effects of alcohol alone to an alcohol plus energy drink combination. Researchers found that the alcohol plus energy drink significantly reduced subjective alcohol-related symptoms such as headache, weakness, dry mouth, and impairment of motor coordination, even though breath alcohol concentration and objective tests of motor coordination and reaction time didn't reflect this.

The caffeine in energy drinks is also dehydrating, which may slow the body's ability to metabolize alcohol.

Energy Drinks Shouldn't Be Consumed During Exercise

Energy drinks should not be confused with sports drinks such as Gatorade®, which are consumed to help people stay hydrated during exercise. Sports drinks also provide carbohydrates in the form of sugar and electrolytes that may be lost through perspiration.

The caffeine in energy drinks acts as a diuretic and promotes dehydration.

Potential Safety Concerns

Ingredients vary from brand to brand, but some of the ingredients to be concerned about are caffeine, sugar, and the added vitamins and herbs. Many people who consume energy beverages drink a few cans a day or combine them with coffee or other stimulants.

If you consume energy drinks in high amounts, you can easily far exceed the recommended daily value for vitamins. A man who drank four to five energy drinks per day for three weeks developed acute hepatitis, according to case report published in BMJ Case Reports in 2016. The cause was believed to be excess niacin (vitamin B3) consumption.

"As the energy drink market continues to rapidly expand, consumers should be aware of the potential risks of their various ingredients," the authors wrote in the study. "Vitamins and nutrients, such as niacin, are present in quantities that greatly exceed the recommended daily intake, lending to their high risk for harmful accumulation and toxicity."

There have also been case reports of other serious medical conditions associated with the use and overuse of energy drinks (such as cardiovascular incidents, kidney disease, and even death).

Pregnant and breastfeeding women and children should avoid energy drinks. 

The Bottom Line

Energy drinks may seem harmless because they're ubiquitous, but the ingredients can quickly add up and increase the risk of toxicity if you consume them regularly or in large amounts. It's a good idea to speak with your healthcare provider if you're thinking of drinking them regularly to discuss the potential benefits and risks, particularly if you have a medical condition or are taking medications or supplements.

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