Energy Drinks: What’s Really Inside?

Energy drinks are exploding with more than just a burst of energy! Energy drink manufactures have been trying to get a healthier reputation by adding more B vitamins, fruit juice, organic coffee beans, and cutting back on the added sugar. So, what exactly is inside your energy drink and which ingredients actually give you the energy you need to get through the workday?

What is in your energy drink?


It doesn’t take a genius to know that caffeine will give you energy. So many people rely on caffeine everyday to get them moving after a long night’s slumber. Caffeine is a stimulant amps your metabolism, improves your concentration and focus. How much is too much? According to the Mayo Clinic, up to 400 mg of caffeine/day appears to be safe for most healthy adults. This is equivalent to 10 cans of soda, 2 1/2 16 oz energy drinks, 4 cups of brewed coffee, or 2 energy shots.


Guarana derives from seeds native from Brazil. It tastes terrible by itself due to the HUGE amounts of caffeine inside the seeds! During the Rio Olympics, there was a special on the Today show featuring Camila Alves, Matthew McConaughey’s wife. She is from Brazil and introduced her favorite Brazilian street foods and drinks. She mentioned guarani during the interview. She said Guarana traditionally is added to fresh fruit juice to give a natural energy boost, calling it a “natural Red Bull” while masking it’s nasty taste. If you see guarana in your energy drink, this is likely giving you a perk of energy due to the caffeine content.


Taurine was originally discovered in an ox and was named after a taurus, or bull. Taurine is an amino acid and has been shown to safely enhance athletic performance. Taurine plays an integral role in gallbladder and eye functions. Some argue it may have some detoxifying properties. However, energy boosting claims are unsupported.

B Vitamins

B Vitamins all have specific functions in the body on the cellular level (Vitamin B6, B12, Folic Acid, Niacin). All B Vitamins are water soluble. When you drink B Vitamins from an energy drink, you are likely urinating most of them all out of your body because energy drinks are giving you more than your body can metabolize at a given time. Your body can’t store B Vitamins. Some research even suggests that B Vitamins don’t really give you the energy as touted on energy drink labels.


A “sugar rush” is purely a myth. Sugary drinks do not boost energy levels. Sugar levels vary from energy drink to the next, but they can pack >50 grams of sugar. Almost as much sugar as a 20 oz bottle of soda.

Green Coffee Extract

Green coffee extract is harvested from unroasted coffee beans. It does not taste much like coffee, but packs a caffeine punch like regular coffee does. More research is needed to validate weight loss claims.


Carnitine is needed to transport fatty acids for conversion into energy for fat burning. It’s rare to have a carnitine deficiency in the United States due to our usual high protein diets. Research is slim to confirm it actually gives bursts of energy.

The Bottom Line

  • Consumer take caution! Almost every brand of energy drink contains its unique blend of ingredients.
  • Energy drink manufactures are not mandated to inform you of the quantity of each ingredient their product contains. For some of these ingredients there has not been a maximum amount determined before experiencing any side effects.
  • Usually drinking one can of an energy drink is safe for most healthy adults. Combining it with other beverages containing caffeine or alcohol can be deadly, reducing the feeling of drunkenness.
  • If your looking for a drink to rehydrate, water is always best! (Even if the energy drink claims it has electrolytes)


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