Ditch the Energy Drinks When Exercising (2023)

The use of high-caffeine energy drinks before and during exercise has become increasingly popular, but energy drinks don't always mix well with exercise. While the caffeine and taurine they deliver might improve performance in endurance exercise, these drinks can't replace sports drinks that provide energy and electrolytes. Dietitian Dee Rollins, PhD, warns that energy drinks can lead to dehydration if you don't ensure you're getting enough fluids.

Sports Drinks vs. Energy Drinks

Traditional sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade include water, sodium, sugars, and sometimes potassium in proportions that help the body absorb fluids and salts lost in sweat and breath while exercising. The sugars not only help the body take in the water, but also provide fuel for muscles that need sugars to keep performing well during long walks, runs, or bike rides.

A small amount of salt helps protect the body from hyponatremia (also known as water intoxication), which can happen if you drink a large amount of water without any salt.

Energy drinks, on the other hand, are formulated to deliver caffeine and other stimulants, such as guarana or ginseng, to give a rush of energy. They may also contain taurine, an amino acid that may boost performance during exercise by helping muscular contraction and the removal of waste products.

But energy drinks are not designed to replace lost fluids during exercise. Some products come in small cans that deliver a large amount of caffeine in a small amount of fluid. Many are carbonated, which can lead exercisers to experience burping, nausea, and a bloated feeling.

Why Electrolyte Drinks May Prevent Cramps for Runners Better Than Pure Water

(Video) Energy Drinks & Intermittent Fasting - What to Look for and AVOID

Energy Drink Side Effects

The energy drink Red Bull is often handed out at running and walking events by marketers, which might lead people to think that it is a sports drink. "Most people assume that if you stick something in their hand while they are exercising, that it is good for them," says Rollins. Experts say it is important to know that many of the substances in energy drinks are not regulated by the FDA and most energy drinks aren't required to list all of their ingredients.

Red Bull comes in small cans that pack as much caffeine as a cup of coffee (80 milligrams) and more than a can of cola (40 milligrams). In addition, some energy drinks have more than one serving in a can. There are some energy drinks, such as the 5-Hour Energy, that has 200 mg of caffeine in the small 1.9 ounce bottle.

Caffeine is a mild diuretic that can cause a frequent urge to urinate in the short term, if you're not experienced with caffeine. The high caffeine in energy drinks can cause more serious issues, however, including:

  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Dehydration
  • Jittery feeling
  • In kids and teens, experts say it can affect developing hearts and brains
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach issues, such as diarrhea
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Can also cause a caffeine overdose, leading to signs such as breathing issues, hallucinations, and seizures

The 6 Best Supplements to Support Your Workout for 2023

Are Energy Drinks Safe?

Rollins notes that if you have already had a cup or two of coffee in the morning, adding a can of energy drink can put you over the amount of caffeine most dietitians think is a reasonable limit for the day.

Studies show that having the right amount of caffeine onboard may improve performance for endurance exercises such as running and for muscle strength and endurance. According to a review of 34 studies, it appears caffeine plays a role in improving performance. But it must be taken in moderate doses, about 5 mg to 6 mg per kilogram of body weight.

The International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends 3 mg/kg to 9 mg/kg of caffeine. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports toxic effects at 1200 mg.

(Video) What Is Best Alternative To Energy Drink?

If exercisers rely on energy drinks, they may drink two to three small cans, thinking they haven't had enough fluids. If they drink a larger can, it may contain two servings. Many pain medications, sinus medications, and other beverages also contain caffeine.

"People may be in more trouble than they realize," said Rollins. She says a general consensus is that 250 milligrams per day of caffeine should be the limit. Drinking more than 400 milligrams a day—two cups of coffee and an energy drink—can lead to jitters, nausea, or even heart palpitations.

It is fine to drink an energy drink every now and then before exercise, just make sure you are only limiting your caffeine intake to the recommended amount. That means you need to be aware of how many serving sizes in the can, as well as other caffeine that you have ingested that day from coffee and colas.

Symptoms of Too Much Caffeine

Preventing Caffeine Side Effects

In addition to being a mild diuretic, caffeine can also have a laxative effect. "When you walk or run, you make your whole GI tract move, from mouth to rectum," noted Rollins. This can lead to needing a restroom more often, or with more urgency (runner's trots). This can lead to dehydration during exercise.

There is no magic formula for determining how much water and sports drink you need to prevent dehydration while exercising. Everyone reacts a little differently.

The recommendation from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) for walkers and runners is to pre-hydrate (i.e., being sure you are adequately hydrated before you even start exercising), and then drink during and after exercise to replace water lost through sweat.

(Video) Ditch Your Expensive Pre Workout- Have COFFEE Instead!

Contrary to what many people believe, thirst is not a reliable indicator of dehydration, especially during exercise.

Don't ignore hunger pangs; some people will feel hungry rather than thirsty when they're dehydrated.

Weighing yourself before and after a workout can tell you whether you are hydrating correctly. You should neither gain nor lose weight over the course of a single workout. If you lose weight, you are dehydrated. A 2% or greater weight loss is when your performance begins being compromised. A 4% or greater weight loss can lead to illness. If you gain weight, you are drinking too much and may put yourself at risk of hyponatremia.

ACSM Clarifies Hydration Recommendations for Athletes

Hydration Recommendations for Endurance Exercise

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) offers tips to help ensure proper hydration during endurance exercise. Staying properly hydrated before, during, and after exercise is imperative to optimize athletic performance and safety.

Here are some general guidelines recommended by the ACSM:

(Video) 🥤 It's PRIME time to ditch the sugar-laden energy drinks…Trust me, they're full of sh*t.

  • Before exercise: Make an effort to start hydrating several hours prior to your planned activity. Aim to 5 to 6 milliliters of fluid intake per kilogram of body weight.
  • During exercise: If you're exercising for more than 60 minutes, or in warm weather, select a fluid replacement beverage (sports drink) that contains sodium (20 to 30 meq/L), potassium (2 to 5 meq/L), and carbohydrate (5% to 10%) for maximum hydration.
  • After exercise: Consume similar sports beverages or drink water and eat foods that contain some sodium for proper rehydration. For each kilogram of body weight lost during exercise, slowly consume 1.5 liters of fluid.

Water is generally considered the best form of hydration. However, for endurance exercise, sports drinks can be more effective at getting your body to absorb fluid quickly. Unlike sports drinks, energy drinks are not considered a proper source of hydration, especially in regards to endurance activities when hydration is paramount.

The Effects of Drinking Coffee Before Running

Energy Drink Guidelines When Exercising

The jolt of caffeine from energy drinks can have a positive effect on athletic performance and exercise, especially if it is taken about an hour before activity. Just make sure you read the label and stick to less than 400 mg of caffeine per day, and that includes other caffeine beverage as well. Make sure you are keeping an eye on the sugar content in the energy drinks as well. There are several new energy drinks on the market that have zero sugar or low sugar.

Kids, teens and pregnant women should steer clear of energy drinks. If the energy drinks make you feel jittery or have other side effects, stick to other caffeinated beverages such as coffee or tea.

You should also make sure that you are staying hydrated with non-caffeinated beverages as well.

There are caffeine-free alternatives to energy drinks to give you that boost of energy when you are exercising. For endurance athletes, consider energy chews or gels, which have a mix of carbohydrate sources to keep you fueled up and feeling energized.

Sports drinks that have electrolytes will help ward off fatigue as they keep you hydrated, especially if you sweat a lot or are doing high-intensity exercises. There are also energy drinks on the market that contain electrolytes for that added boost.Just be aware of the caffeine content and note any adverse side effects.

(Video) Ditch the energy drinks and caffeine fixes

The 9 Best Pre-Workout Drinks of 2023, According to a Dietitian


Ditch the Energy Drinks When Exercising? ›

Energy drinks can help with any type of workout, but they are especially helpful for high-intensity workouts or endurance activities. The added energy and caffeine can help you push through a tough workout, and the electrolytes can help keep you hydrated.

Is it bad to drink energy drinks while working out? ›

Energy drinks can help with any type of workout, but they are especially helpful for high-intensity workouts or endurance activities. The added energy and caffeine can help you push through a tough workout, and the electrolytes can help keep you hydrated.

Can I lose weight by cutting out energy drinks? ›

Unless you cut about 200-500 calories from your diet, you will be unable to lose weight. Many people think that skipping a meal and consuming an energy drink can help create that deficit, but energy drinks are devoid of nutrition and high in empty calories.

Why you should cut out energy drinks? ›

Energy drinks can contain significant amounts of added sugar or other sweeteners. Because high intake of added sugar can contribute to health problems, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting intake of added sugars to no more than 10% of total daily calories.

What should I drink while working out at the gym? ›

Water is truly the best choice for most types of day-to-day workouts. It will be absorbed quickly and provide the fluid needed to keep your blood pumping, and it will replace fluid losses from sweat during exercise.

Why should athletes avoid energy drinks? ›

While caffeine does help to energize the body temporarily, it does not replenish the nutrients that are lost during prolonged physical activity. In fact, caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it actually depletes water from the body which can lead to dehydration during exercise.

Do energy drinks affect cardio? ›

If you consume high-calorie drinks frequently, you are increasing your risk for weight gain, obesity and type 2 diabetes – all of which are detrimental for cardiovascular health, says Dr. Ho, leading to long-term hypertension (high blood pressure), rapid heart rate, cardiovascular disease and more.

Are energy drinks bad for belly fat? ›

Studies show that frequent energy drink consumption leads to increased belly fat, which is one of the easiest places for body fat to accumulate. If wondering how this happens, the fructose in energy drinks has been linked to fat accumulation around the midsection, often referred to as belly fat or visceral fat.

Do energy drinks slow down your metabolism? ›

Some ingredients in energy drinks can give your metabolism a boost. They're full of caffeine, which increases the amount of energy your body uses. They sometimes have taurine, an amino acid. Taurine can speed up your metabolism and may help burn fat.

What happens when you crash off energy drinks? ›

Your blood sugar levels will spike shortly after drinking a high-sugar energy drink, but the boost in energy will only last 30 to 60 minutes. After this, your blood sugar — and energy levels — will crash, leaving you feeling more tired than before. Symptoms of a sugar crash include: Tiredness.

What are 10 negative effects of energy drinks? ›

Side Effects of Too Much Caffeine
  • Increased heart rate.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Insomnia.
  • Dehydration.
  • Restlessness.

What can I drink instead of energy drinks? ›

Top 11 Healthy Alternatives for Energy Drinks
  • Greens Powder. Greens powder can give you more energy and give your body the vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and antioxidants it needs. ...
  • Green Tea. ...
  • Yerba Mate. ...
  • Fresh Juice. ...
  • Coffee. ...
  • Matcha. ...
  • Dark Chocolate. ...
  • Coconut Water.
Apr 26, 2023

What are 3 bad things about energy drinks? ›

Some of the dangers of energy drinks include1:
  • Dehydration (not enough water in your body).
  • Heart complications (such as irregular heartbeat and heart failure).
  • Anxiety (feeling nervous and jittery).
  • Insomnia (unable to sleep).

Does caffeine wear off during exercise? ›

Unfortunately, no. "Caffeine is metabolized by enzymes in the liver," says Garrard. "Exercise isn't going to speed up the liver. You may feel like you're getting rid of the energy, but the caffeine is still there."

What is the best thing to drink during a workout? ›

Water is generally the best way to replace lost fluids. But if you're exercising for more than 60 minutes, use a sports drink. Sports drinks can help maintain your body's electrolyte balance and give you a bit more energy because they contain carbohydrates.

What do bodybuilders drink during workout? ›

While endurance training, or during a high intensity long bodybuilding session, what to drink during workouts could include water and a protein/carbohydrate drink, or an essential amino acid drink.

Why is taurine banned? ›

Taurine is an amino acid that can lead to a positive drug test. Many of the most common brands also have a high amount sugar, which contributes to the that burst of energy. While caffeine naturally occurs in coffee, it is considered a performance enhancer and is banned by organizations such as the NCAA.

Do energy drinks improve endurance? ›

Caffeine in Energy Drinks

Studies suggest that the right amount of Caffeine before physical activity may improve endurance and muscular strength. However, while this stimulant can help in more ways than one, it needs to be taken in moderation as too much can cause ill effects during and after exercising.

Do pro athletes really drink Red Bull? ›

Caffeine is the primary active ingredient in Red Bull, and it is known to have stimulant effects that can increase alertness and reduce fatigue. In some cases, athletes may choose to consume caffeine in the form of an energy drink or other supplement in order to improve their focus and endurance during competition.

Is it OK to drink Red Bull while working out? ›

Red Bull Energy Drink can be consumed before, during and after sportive activities. Red Bull Energy Drink is a functional product, but it is not a thirst quencher. It has not been formulated to deliver re-hydration. Hence, water should be consumed in addition to Red Bull Energy Drink during exercise.

Is it OK to drink caffeine while working out? ›

Caffeine enhances performance during exercises and activities that require endurance. Caffeine is beneficial for high-intensity exercise performance. Caffeine is an even greater ergogenic aid (meaning it enhances performance) when it's consumed in the dehydrated form found in sports drinks and energy bars.

Is it bad to drink caffeine and workout? ›

Although coffee is a healthy beverage, there are some downsides to drinking it before a workout. During exercise, your body redirects blood toward active muscle groups and away from the digestive system, which slows digestion. For some, this can lead to stomach upset and digestive issues.

What is the benefits of energy drink during exercise? ›

These drinks contain carbohydrates (sugar), which can provide an immediate source of energy at a time when the body's stores are used up. Sports drinks also have electrolytes like sodium and potassium, which the body loses through sweat. These keep the body's fluid levels in balance and help muscles work properly.


1. Coffee VS Energy Drinks VS Pre-Workouts
(Self Made Athletes)
2. Top 5 Drinks You Should NEVER Drink Again - Science Reveal All
(Healthy Bay)
3. Ditch The Beer Gut (WITHOUT GIVING UP BEER!)
(Live Anabolic)
4. Ditch the energy drinks and get healthy
(Living Well Now)
5. B12 Water 💦 Not An Energy Drink
(Acid Rain Water)
6. Want to gain muscle? Ditch the protein shake, and do THIS
(The Dr. Gundry Podcast)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Trent Wehner

Last Updated: 24/09/2023

Views: 5802

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (56 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Trent Wehner

Birthday: 1993-03-14

Address: 872 Kevin Squares, New Codyville, AK 01785-0416

Phone: +18698800304764

Job: Senior Farming Developer

Hobby: Paintball, Calligraphy, Hunting, Flying disc, Lapidary, Rafting, Inline skating

Introduction: My name is Trent Wehner, I am a talented, brainy, zealous, light, funny, gleaming, attractive person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.