The Truth About What's Really In Energy Drinks

Many of us have busy lives and find it difficult to stay energized throughout the day. One of the most convenient ways to feel more alert is to down an energy drink when we start to feel tired. Found in grocery stores and gas stations across the country, these are tasty and effective. But you may be surprised to find out what is actually inside of them. Most energy drinks contain a variety of ingredients, including caffeine, carbonated water, sugar, and added colors and flavorings (via US News). Many drinks also contain supplements that can increase your energy levels, like B vitamins, taurine, guarana, and carnitine.

The biggest issue that experts have with energy drinks is that they are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration. This means that while the ingredients may be listed on the label, it can be unclear how much of each ingredient you're consuming when you enjoy an energy drink. These products are not required to share how much of each stimulant is present in each serving. "That's the biggest problem I see: It's not required on the label, and in most cases, they are not disclosing the total stimulant dose in the product for people to make an educated decision," said Ruth Litchfield, an associate professor in the department of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University in Ames. Even if you know what's in an energy drink, you may not know exactly what you're putting in your body.

Ingredients to look out for

With the lack of FDA regulations in mind, it is still smart to understand what each ingredient in an energy drink is. Caffeine is one of the main ingredients that you'll see in most drinks. According to Eating Well, you should consume no more than 200 milligrams of caffeine at a time and you should keep your daily limit under 400 milligrams per day. If an energy drink doesn't say how much caffeine it contains, find a different brand.

B vitamins are often added to energy drinks, but probably won't boost your energy levels much. However, they are water-soluble and shouldn't cause any issues to your body when consumed in high doses. Watch the amount of sugar in your energy drinks, as they can contain as many as 62 grams in a single can. Guarana is another ingredient you might see that may or may not offer any real effects other than a high dose of caffeine. Green coffee extract will provide similar caffeine benefits. It's important to note that both guarana and green coffee extract contain caffeine, but the caffeine dosage may not be listed on the energy drink. Be wary of drinks that contain multiple kinds of caffeine, as these can easily have you consuming more than 400 milligrams in a single serving.