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Energy Drinks

Energy drinks have become a popular beverage, especially among children and adolescents; however, they can cause serious health concerns. Energy drinks usually contain ingredients, like caffeine, vitamins and herbs, and claim to improve energy levels and alertness.1 Children, adolescents, and pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid energy drinks.2


Common Ingredients in Energy Drinks

The long-term health effects of regularly consuming energy drinks and their unique combination of ingredients is unknown. Below is information about some of the common ingredients.

  • Caffeine - caffeine is a stimulant and can be found on energy drink labels listed as guarana, yerba mate, kola nut or caffeine. 1 Side effects of excessive caffeine intake include: headaches, irritability, nervousness, increased heart rate, high blood pressure.1 While energy drinks contain varying amounts of caffeine, in Canada they can contain up to 180 mg/serving2, which is equivalent to over 2 cups of espresso.3
  • Carbohydrates - these drinks can be high in sugar and contain up to 17 teaspoons of sugar.1,3
  • Taurine - an amino acid found in meat and fish. Some energy drinks claim that taurine makes you more alert. However, there is no research to support this. Also the long-term effects of consuming taurine in energy drinks on a regular basis are not known.1
  • Herbs - some drinks contain herbs like gingko biloba and ginseng. It has been claimed that these herbs improve both mental and physical performance; however, there is no evidence to support this. These herbs do have the potential to interact with medications and other supplements.1
  • Other Ingredients - some energy drink may also contain ingredients like B vitamins and glucuronolactone (a type of carbohydrate). They claim these ingredients will give you extra energy, however there is no research to support this.1

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Energy Drinks and Special Populations

Energy drinks should not be consumed by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.1 There is limited research available to address the health effects of energy drinks on their infants.

Energy drinks are not recommended for children and adolescents.2 Health Canada recommends the maximum daily intake of caffeine not exceed 2.5 mg/kg body weight for children under 12.4 For children aged four to six years this equates to approximately 45 mg/day,  for children seven to nine years is approximately 62.5 mg/day and for children aged 10-12 years is approximately 85 mg/day.4 While Health Canada limits the amount of caffeine in energy drinks to 180 mg/serving or 400 mg/L, this amount usually exceeds the maximum daily caffeine intake recommended for children and adolescents.2 Children are at an increased risk of side effects from caffeine due to their body size and lack of exposure to caffeine.4 Energy drinks also contain a significant amount of sugar that is not recommended for children and adolescents. A better beverage choice for hydration is water.

Energy Drinks and Alcohol

Alcohol should never be mixed with energy drinks.2 The consumption of energy drinks mixed with alcohol has been associated with an increase in risk-taking behaviours and harmful incidents.2 As a result, Health Canada does not allow pre-mixed drinks containing energy drinks and alcohol.4 Furthermore, energy drinks must contain the statement “Do not mix with alcohol” on their labels.2

Energizing without Energy Drinks

Healthcare providers are encouraged to discuss the use and risks of energy drinks with their patients, especially with populations for which energy drinks are not recommended (children, adolescents and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding). Patients should be encouraged to consume a healthy diet, stay hydrated (with water), be active and get adequate amounts of sleep to improve energy levels. Further research is needed to understand the long-term risks of consuming energy drinks; however, current research suggests that the risks far outweigh any benefits of energy drinks.

Date of creation: December 22, 2017
Last modified on: November 26, 2019


1Dietitians of Canada - Unlock Food. (2018 April 26). Facts on Energy Drinks. Retrieved from
2Canadian Paediatric Society. (2017). Energy and sport drinks in children and adolescents. Paediatrics and Child Health. 22(7): 406-410.