AFMC Command News

The low-down on energy drinks

  • Published
  • By Air Force Materiel Command Nutritional Medicine Team

Energy drinks have become increasingly popular in recent years, particularly among young adults and teenagers.  According to the Mayo Clinic, energy drink global sales reached $57 billion in 2020 making energy drinks the second most popular dietary supplement among U.S. young adults and teens, just behind multivitamins. These drinks, which typically contain high levels of caffeine and other stimulants, are marketed as a quick and easy way to boost energy and improve concentration. However, they also pose significant risks to health, particularly when consumed in excess.


One of the main dangers of energy drinks is their high caffeine content.  Many of these drinks contain as much as 300 milligrams of caffeine per serving, which is roughly equivalent to the amount of caffeine found in three cups of coffee.  When consumed in large quantities, caffeine can cause a range of health problems, including increased heart rate, high blood pressure, and anxiety.  In severe cases, it can even lead to seizures and cardiac arrest. The ingredients of energy drinks may also negatively interact with other medications and have adverse effects, mainly due to the high levels of caffeine.  Healthcare professionals should be consulted to provide information about potential health risk of consuming energy drinks.


The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 recommends limiting the intake of sugar to 10% a day. For example, in a 2,000-calorie diet, no more than 200 calories should come from added sugars; this is about 12 teaspoons a day. One 16-ounce can of Monster Energy Juice Pacific Punch supplies 210 calories and 47 grams of added sugar, which is equal to roughly 12 teaspoons or an entire day's worth of added sugar.


Energy drinks can also lead to dehydration, which is particularly dangerous for athletes and individuals who engage in strenuous physical activity. Caffeine has a diuretic effect, which means it increases the amount of salt and water that your body releases in urine. In extreme cases, because these drinks are often consumed during or after exercise, they can cause the body to lose fluids more quickly than it can replace them leading to severe dehydration. This can lead to a range of symptoms, including dizziness, headache, and fatigue, as well as more serious complications such as heat stroke.


Another danger of energy drinks is their impact on sleep.  Due to the high levels of caffeine and other stimulants, they interfere with the body’s natural sleep cycle, making it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.  The consumption of energy drinks increases sleep latency, and the effects of energy drinks can persist for up to 8 hours and can lead to sleepiness. This can lead to a range of health problems, including fatigue, irritability, and poor concentration, as well as an increased risk of accidents or injuries.




In addition to these health risks, energy drinks can also be addictive.  Many people who consume these drinks regularly report feeling a strong sense of dependence and may experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit.  This can include headaches, fatigue, and irritability, as well as more serious symptoms like tremors and seizures.

Perhaps most concerning is the impact that energy drinks can have on young people, particularly teenagers.  These drinks are often marketed as trendy and cool and made to seem like a harmless way to boost energy and improve performance.  However, the risk associated with these drinks are particularly high for young people, whose bodies may be more vulnerable to the effects of caffeine and other stimulants.  Studies have linked energy drink consumption among young people to a range of negative outcomes, including poor academic performances, substance abuse, and risky behavior.

Bottom Line

While energy drinks may seem like a quick and easy way to boost energy and improve performance, they pose significant risks to health, especially when consumed in excess.  These drinks can lead to a range of health problems, including high blood pressure, dehydration, and sleep disturbances, and can even be addictive. To protect your health, it is important to be aware of the dangers of energy drinks, and to consume them in moderation, if at all.  Instead, try to focus on healthy habits like regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and adequate sleep, which can help to boost energy and improve performance in a safe and sustainable way.

The Air Force has Registered Dietitians and Diet Technicians who are food and nutrition experts, to help individuals improve their nutritional status. Nutrition classes and appointments are open to active-duty members, retirees, and dependents.

To get personalized assistance in improving your eating lifestyle and reducing your caffeine intake, please call your Wright-Patterson Nutritional Medicine Clinic for an appointment with a Dietitian today, 937-257-8815.

Comprehensive information on the potential dangers of energy drinks can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.