Stimulating Research on Energy Drinks

Dave_TrainerThey’re everywhere: beverages that promise to keep you energized, revved, and alert. But labels don’t have to reveal how much caffeine the products packConsumer Reports did. Testers measured the amount in 27 top-selling energy drinks and shots.

The drinks were bought online or at stores in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York, and three lots of each product were tested, choosing one flavor, usually fruit. Consumer Reports also sent shoppers to stores all across the U.S. to see where energy drinks are displayed. (The shoppers usually found energy drinks near soda and juice, sometimes at checkout, and less often near alcoholic beverages. That’s good, since the potential for intoxication in people who mix energy drinks and alcohol is a concern.)

The findings

Caffeine levels ranged from about 6 milligrams to 242 milligrams—and some containers have more than one serving. The highest level was in 5-hour Energy Extra Strength (242mg); the lowest in 5-hour Energy Decaf (6mg). (The company says it’s for people who want to limit caffeine but still get a blend of nutrients that provides “an energy boost and a sustained feeling of alertness.”) By comparison, an 8-ounce cup of coffee has about 100 milligrams; a 16-ounce Starbucks Grande, 330 milligrams.


Five of the 16 products that list a specific amount of caffeine—Arizona EnergyClif Shot Turbo Energy GelNestlé JambaSambazon Organic Amazon Energy, and Venom Energy—had more than 20 percent above their labeled amount on average in the samples tested by Consumer Reports.

On the other hand, one of our three samples of Archer Farms Energy Drink Juice Infused had caffeine about 70 percent below the labeled amount. For the other drinks that list caffeine levels, the actual numbers were within 20 percent of claimed, which we think is an acceptable range for meeting caffeine claims.

Eleven of the 27 drinks don’t specify the amount of caffeine.

Why the secrecy?

Their blends may be proprietary. (Common blends include amino acids, carbohydrates, or guarana, a botanical caffeine source.) A representative of the Monster Beverage Corporation provided another reason: The company doesn’t list levels “because there is no legal or commercial business requirement to do so, and also because our products are completely safe, and the actual numbers are not meaningful to most consumers.” Yet labels on both tested Monster drinks—like those of 16 other products—warn against use by children, pregnant or nursing women, and people sensitive to caffeine. The Monster drinks and eight others also recommend a daily limit.

Consumer and scientific groups have for years urged the Food and Drug Administration to make companies disclose caffeine levels, but the agency says it lacks the authority.

Bottom line

Caffeine can make you feel more alert, boost your mental and physical performance, and even elevate your mood. But it can also make you jittery, keep you from sleeping, cause rapid pulse or abnormal heart rhythms, and raise blood pressure.

Safe limits of caffeine consumption are still being studied, but data suggest that most healthy adults can safely consume up to 400 milligrams per day; pregnant women, up to 200 milligrams; and children, up to 45 to 85 milligrams depending on weight. An occasional energy drink is probably fine for most adults.

Check the Consumer Reports ratings below for caffeine levels and price. And note that some products cost less than half as much as others per serving.

A look into ads

The New York attorney general has begun an investigation into the marketing and advertising practices of energy-drink companies, said a person familiar with the inquiry. Living Essentials (maker of 5-hour Energy), Monster Beverage, and PepsiCo (maker of AMP) were subpoenaed for information in July, the source said. A representative for Living Essentials defended its practices and said it complied with federal law; Monster and PepsiCo declined to comment.

REF: Consumer Reports

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About Dave Barnas, M.S., CES, NASM-CPT

Dave is the true health guy. He is the founder and owner of True Health Unlimited, LLC, a personal health and fitness company in Tolland, CT & Wellness Writers, a subscription wellness newsletter service that incorporates live & virtual wellness workshops for companies across New England. Dave earned both a Bachelor's (1998) and Master's Degree (2000) in Nutritional Science from the University of Connecticut, and also holds certifications as a National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Personal Trainer, National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist, Aerobics and Fitness Association of America Group Instructor, and Nutrition Specialist. He's also the lead author for four published works. Dave has over 20 years of combined experience in nutrition counseling, dietary supplement advising, personal training, corrective exercise training, health coaching and public speaking. In addition, he's spent over 25 years studying spirituality, meditation, and personal growth strategies. Dave's clients are all ages: youth, college championship level athletes, folks in their retired years, and everywhere in between. He's worked with three of the nation's leading physicians as a dietary supplement advisor and been a guest lecturer at Harvard University, Yale University, UConn, St. Joseph College and various church groups, health clubs, and high schools. In 2013, he was invited to Whole Foods Market to share his Real Food Therapy Guide. And in 2015, Dave's funny "Snowga" (yoga in the snow) video caught the attention of The National Weather Channel, who aired it to shake off cabin fever and bring laughter. In 2016, Dave & Hollie (his wife) founded Wellness Writers and deliver evidence-based Wellness E-newsletters to spread a message of health and happiness to various businesses throughout the US. Dave currently serves as a personal trainer in Tolland as well as a wellness coach and writer for several businesses, gyms and wellness facilities throughout the US.

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