Ergogenic Supplements: Energy drinks (caffeine and carbohydrate)

Energy drinks typically contain water, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, with the aim of increasing energy, alertness, metabolism, and/or performance (e.g., caffeine, taurine, amino acids, glucoronolactone...) (1).

Caffeine is the most common ingredient, and is absorbed in 30-60 minutes (2). Caffeine stimulates the cardiovascular system and increases epinephrine output (3,4); enhance vigilance during bouts of exhaustive exercise, and periods of sustained sleep deprivation.  

Energy drinks with approximately 2 mg·kgBM-1caffeine consumed 10 to 60 minutes prior to anaerobic/resistance exercise may improve upper- and lower- body total lifting volume, and improve cycling and running performance (1).

Carbohydrate feeding during exercise can improve endurance capacity and performance (5,6), through maintenance of blood glucose levels, high levels of carbohydrate oxidation (1 g of carbohydrate per minute), while sparing liver and skeletal muscle glycogen (7).

Energy drinks also have a small amount of vitamins (e.g., Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, Vitamin C) and electrolytes (e.g., sodium, potassium, phosphorus, etc.).

Energy drinks can improve mood, reaction time, and/or markers of alertness, most likely due to the ergogenic value of caffeine and/or carbohydrate.

Caffeine can elevate metabolic rate and the rate of lipolysis. 200-500 mg of caffeine (typical of thermogenic supplements) can increase acute energy expenditure (1-24 hours) (1), chronic energy expenditure (28 days) (8), and elevate plasma free-fatty acid, glycerol levels and catecholamine secretion (1,8). The caffeine in energy drinks ranges from 80-200 mg, and it’s not conclusive whether daily use of ED would affect long-term energy balance and body composition (1).

Individuals with metabolic syndrome and or diabetes mellitus should avoid consumption of high glycemic drinks and/or foods. More importantly, individuals with known cardiovascular disease should avoid any use of energy drinks due to the cardiostimulant effects (1).

It is wise not to consume energy drinks more than one serving per day, indiscriminate consumption may lead to adverse events and harmful side effects. 

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1. Bill Campbell, Colin Wilborn, Paul La Bounty, Lem Taylor, Mike T Nelson, Mike Greenwood, Tim N Ziegenfuss, Hector L Lopez, Jay R Hoffman, Jeffrey R Stout, Stephen Schmitz, Rick Collins, Doug S Kalman, Jose Antonio and Richard B Kreider. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: energy drinks. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2013, 10:1 
2. Goldstein ER, Ziegenfuss T, Kalman D, Kreider R, Campbell B, Wilborn C, Taylor L, Willoughby D, Stout J, Graves BS, et al: International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2010, 7:5.
3. Graham TE, Hibbert E, Sathasivam P: Metabolic and exercise endurance effects of coffee and caffeine ingestion. J Appl Physiol 1998, 85:883–889.
4. McLellan TM, Bell DG: The impact of prior coffee consumption on the subsequent ergogenic effect of anhydrous caffeine. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2004, 14:698–708.
5. Jeukendrup A, Brouns F, Wagenmakers AJ, Saris WH: Carbohydrate-electrolyte feedings improve 1 h time trial cycling performance. Int J Sports Med 1997, 18:125–129.
6. Jeukendrup AE: Carbohydrate intake during exercise and performance. Nutrition 2004, 20:669–677.
7. Coyle EF, Coggan AR, Hemmert MK, Ivy JL: Muscle glycogen utilization during prolonged strenuous exercise when fed carbohydrate. J Appl Physiol 1986, 61:165–172.
8. Roberts MD, Dalbo VJ, Hassell SE, Stout JR, Kerksick CM: Efficacy and safety of a popular thermogenic drink after 28 days of ingestion. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2008, 5:19.