Energy drinks have been getting a bad rep in the media, but how bad are energy drinks for you and how do they compare to your daily coffee fix?

Energy drinks may claim to give you more energy and make you feel alert, but did you know that most energy drinks actually have a lot less caffeine than your morning coffee? One can of Red Bull has about 80 mg [1] of caffeine whereas a Starbucks Tall Pike has about 260 mg [2]. This, however, doesn’t mean you should swap your morning coffee for an energy drink. Unlike coffee, energy drinks have a lot of added sugar, which may add to the sudden energy boost. This sugary taste makes it a lot easier to consume more and add some other substances to the mix [3].

Energy drinks can also cause problems when mixed with alcohol. The caffeine in the energy drink masks the effect of alcohol, causing the person to drink a lot more alcohol than they normally would [4,5]. Mixing the two can increase your risk of experiencing physical and psychological side effects such as heart palpitations, sleeping problems, anxiety and panic attacks [4]. So before you order another round of jagerbombs, beware! Caffeinated beverages alone can cause headaches, irritability, nervousness, and a rapid heart rate [3].

For the average healthy adult, Health Canada states that up to 400 mg of caffeine per day is not associated with any adverse health effects [6]. Anything more could have potential effects on heart health, bone health, behaviour, cancer risk, and fertility [7].

If you feel like you’re low on energy, here are some tips to help you improve your energy levels without caffeine:

  • Get some sleep. Get into a good routine by waking up and sleeping at the same time everyday. Although it may be tempting to sleep in during the weekend, it might actually be the reason why you feel low on energy during the week. Instead of drinking another coffee to perk you up, try taking a 20-minute power nap to help you feel more energized if you have the time.
  • Exercise. It might sound strange to tell someone to exercise when they are already low on energy, but hitting the gym on a regular basis will actually help you feel more awake and energized throughout the day. Try to catch a workout in between classes [8].
  • Eat breakfast. You may have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day for many reasons, and you can add more energy onto that list. Breakfast will give you the energy you need to start your day off right.
  • Drink more water [9]. Are you really tired or is it because you’re dehydrated? Even mild dehydration can impact your energy levels throughout the day. To add to that, there has been some controversy about whether or not caffeine is a diuretic (a substance that causes you to pee more). If it is, in fact, a diuretic, drinking more coffee might actually contribute to you being more tired after that caffeine crash. So don’t forget to drink plenty of water!

Jane Skapinker

Registered Dietitian


1. Caffeine Content of Food and Drugs. (2014, November 1). Retrieved July 27, 2015, from

2. Pike Place® Roast. (n.d.). Retrieved July 27, 2015, from

3. Facts on Energy Drinks. (n.d.). Retrieved July 27, 2015, from

4. Alcohol and energy drinks. (2015, April 1). Retrieved July 27, 2015, from

5. Fact Sheets – Caffeine and Alcohol. (2014, November 19). Retrieved July 27, 2015, from

6. Caffeine in Food. (2012, February 16). Retrieved July 27, 2015, from

7. Caffeine and Health. (n.d.). Retrieved July 27, 2015, from

8. Warner, J. (2006, November 3). Exercise Fights Fatigue, Boosts Energy. Retrieved July 27, 2015, from

9. Armstrong, L. E., Ganio, M. S., Casa, D. J., Lee, E. C., McDermott, B. P., Klau, J. F., . . . Lieberman, H. R. (2012). Mild dehydration affects mood in healthy young women. The Journal of Nutrition, 142(2), 382-388. doi:10.3945/jn.111.142000

Monday, December 18, 2017 in
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