Painting of a man tempted by the allure of energy drinks.

Are Energy Drinks Unhealthy? Not Necessarily

Energy drinks taste like life, feel like fire, and look like Norman Reedus. But that says little about whether they’re healthy or not. What kind of deal are we making? What’s their true cost?

Ingredients & Supplements

To figure out if energy drinks are actually bad for us, I asked Danny Lennon, a nutritionist with a MSc. in nutritional sciences from University College Cork (UCC), Ireland.

He notes that energy drinks contain caffeine, which is fine under the right circumstances. Just keep your total caffeine intake below 400mg per day, and keep it well away from your bedtime. Best to have an energy drink in the morning or early afternoon.

Some energy drinks also contain processed sugar. That can be good or bad. Sugar is a source of energy, and it can be a good ally if you’re having it before a workout. Sugar can be part of a balanced diet when consumed in moderation. Sugar is bad in excess, with “excess” being more than 10% of your total calories.

Energy drinks also contain a host of other vitamins and supplements, such as taurine, b-vitamins, l-carnitine, inositol, and the list goes on. Some of these ingredients are well-studied and offer health benefits in certain circumstances. Others are less well-studied, so it’s hard to say how they affect our health. Overall, with the evidence we have right now, energy drinks seem fine for most people.

The Wisdom in the Old Ways

To get another opinion, I asked my wife, a nutritionist. She takes a different approach. She recommends drinking coffee and tea instead of energy drinks. They offer similar amounts of caffeine, they’re incredibly well studied, they’re prevalent in most traditional cultures, and they come packaged with phytonutrients that improve our health.

She doesn’t drink energy drinks, but she doesn’t forbid them, either. I often have one or two in the fridge, and she doesn’t mind. As with any good nutritionist, she understands moderation. For her, that means having a small dessert most nights. For me, that means having a couple of energy drinks every week.

The Barbarian Approach

If you want to play it safe, coffee and tea are the healthiest ways to satisfy your caffeine cravings. They’re incredibly well-studied and offer several health benefits, leading to a longer lifespan on average.

If you want to live on the edge, I’m not sure energy drinks will help you, either. You might need to find something edgier. Most energy drinks are relatively tame.

Overall, if you’re sticking within the recommended serving sizes (usually up to one energy drink per day) and having them relatively early in the day, you should be okay, especially if you’re having them within the context of a healthy lifestyle. However, given how many different supplements are packed in there, all interacting with one another, it’s hard to say for sure.

Shane Duquette

Shane has over 10 years of full-time experience helping over 10,000 skinny guys build muscle by lifting weights, eating a good bulking diet, and living a healthy lifestyle. He's the founder of Bony to Beastly, Bony to Bombshell, and Outlift.

Cassandra Duquette

Cassandra is a registered nutritionist living in Cancun, Mexico. She believes vitality comes from an abundant diet, regular exercise, and a healthy lifestyle. Her specialty is nutrition. She's gained 20 pounds.

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