What are the Worst Energy Drink Ingredients?

Edited and Published by Wellness Monster Louise

Energy drink manufacturers are claiming their “soda-like” beverages are safe for consumption and tout the health benefits of increased energy, stamina, and endurance when needed. These would be helpful while studying for an exam, when performing exercise workouts, or for staying alert on a late night, out of town drive down the highway. Sales are skyrocketing worldwide, but are they legitimate? If not, what are the risks in consuming these drinks? To answer this question, it’s important to take a closer look at what are considered to be the worst energy drink ingredients.


caffeineCaffeine can help to improve focus, alertness, energy, and boost athletic stamina when taken in small quantities. A total of 400 mg of caffeine per day is considered the maximum daily limit for adults, but many energy drinks contain well over that this amount. Furthermore, pure caffeine is not regulated by the FDA and manufacturers are not required to list it on the label. In addition, caffeine derived from substances, such as Green Coffee Extract, Green Tea Extract, or Guarana (Brazillian Cocoa) do not have to be added to the total caffeine count. Meaning, the caffeine content can be much higher than what is listed on the label, if it is listed at all. Energy drinks tend to be gulped down, rather than sipped, causing caffeine levels to spike too high in the body, which is the number one reason for side-effects, such as digestive issues, euphoria, nervousness, irritability, anxiety, panic attacks, nausea, dizziness, high blood pressure, heart problems, dehydration, miscarriage, seizures, headaches, general malaise, and death.


Carnitine or L-Carnitine is an amino acid found in nearly all cells of the body and plays a large role in mitochondrial energy production. Because it promotes endurance and fat loss it is popular among athletes. Carnitine is made by the body, so there is no need to supplement Carnitine in the diet. According to National Institutes of Health (NIH), the side-effects of taking in more than 3 grams of carnitine a day include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, skin rash, “fishy” body odor, muscle weakness and seizures.


Creatine is a naturally occurring chemical in the body that helps to improve exercise performance and increase muscle mass. Side-effects of excessive creatine include nausea, stomach pain, muscle cramps, diarrhea, and dehydration.

Gingko Biloba

Gingko has the ability to improve cognitive alertness by improving blood circulation. However, gingko should never be combined with blood thinning medications, antidepressants, or used by anyone who is allergic to poison ivy. In addition, a combination of Ibuprofen and Gingko can increase the risk of internal bleeding.

Niacin (B3) and Pyridoxine (B6)

Niacin and Pyridoxine are B vitamins, which the body needs for energy. Although B vitamins are flushed out of the body rather quickly, energy drinks containing high levels of B3 and B6 are damaging. Side-effects of B3 include skin flushing (combined with dizziness), light-headedness or fainting, pounding heart, heart palpitations, itching or rash, nausea, severe stomach pain, vomiting, grayish stool color, and breathing problems. Side-effects of too much B6 include sensitivity to sunlight, headache, upset stomach, loss of appetite, sensitivity to light, tingling or burning in hands or feet, and sleepiness.

Sugar and Sugar Substitutes

sugarEnergy drink manufacturers include sugar as it provides energy and improves the taste of the beverage. Pure, refined sugar and sugar substitutes have no nutritional value. The total amount of daily, dietary sugar intake for women and men should be no more 6-9 teaspoons each day, respectively. Energy drinks can contain up to 7.5 teaspoons of sugar in an 8-ounce can. Side-effects of excessive sugar consumption include irritability, moodiness, depression, blood sugar disorders, sugar cravings, weight gain, and dental problems. Artificially sweetened energy drinks also pose health risks. Side-effects include confusion, metabolic syndrome, sugar cravings, diabetes, and passing out at high altitude.

Other dangerous ingredients that may be included in energy drinks, but not listed on the label, are Cocoa Extract, Bitter Orange Extract, Korean Ginseng, Synephrine (similar to Ephedrine), Taurine, and Yohimbe have been reported as causing low blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and death.

With energy drinks being related to thousands of emergency room visits every year with patients reporting symptoms such as heart palpitations, dizziness, head and chest pain, seizures, and the Food and Drug Administration receiving several reports of “death by energy drink,” it appears consumers should use caution in selecting any beverage claiming to increase alertness, energy, or performance.





Photo Credits:

Energy drinks in a store. [ID 45445639 © Clearvista – Dreamstime.com]

Caffeine molecule ball from xtal. [By Jynto – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Caffeine_molecule_ball_from_xtal_(1).png]

Sucre blanc cassonade complet rapadura. [By Romain Behar (Romainbehar) – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sucre_blanc_cassonade_complet_rapadura.jpg]