Back to Top Skip to main content

Energy boost in a can: Is it as beneficial as it seems?

Consumers who rely on energy drinks for a boost should understand how to dose caffeine because nutrition labels can be misleading, experts say (Photo by Sgt. David Bruce/Camp Atterbury Public Affairs). Experts say consumers who rely on energy drinks for a boost should understand how to dose caffeine because nutrition labels can be misleading. (U.S. Marine Corps graphic)

Recommended Content:


Grabbing an energy drink or two may seem like a good idea when you’re looking for a lift to get you through the day. After all, these drinks are marketed to provide mental and physical stimulation. The energy boost can help temporarily, but Military Health System experts want you to know there’s more to energy drinks than meets the eye.

Patricia Deuster, Ph.D., director of the Consortium for Health and Military Performance at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, said energy drinks can be beneficial when consumed properly, but people should understand how to dose caffeine.

“The amount of caffeine varies [between brands],” said Deuster, adding that information on the nutrition labels of energy drinks can be misleading. Other ingredients in energy drinks, such as guarana (Brazilian cocoa), can also contain caffeine, making the true caffeine content higher than the amount listed on the nutrition label.

Some people see performance benefits from caffeine, while others can be hypersensitive to it and have adverse reactions with even small amounts.

“People don’t realize that drinking a couple of energy drinks in a fairly short amount of time, like in one hour, can potentially harm them,” said Deuster. Drinking such high doses of caffeine and sugar in a short amount of time could overstimulate a person’s central nervous system, causing short-term effects like nervousness, shakiness, rapid heart rate, irritability, or sleep issues, said Deuster. More serious side effects include heart palpitations and an increase in blood pressure. Long-term effects of energy drinks are not yet known. Depending on a person’s caffeine tolerance, combining an energy drink with other caffeinated products like soda, tea, and dietary supplements – including pre-workout and weight loss supplements – can also overstimulate the central nervous system.

Maj. Sean Spanbauer, a performance dietitian for U.S. Army Special Operations Command, recommends limiting energy drink consumption to one or two per day, and no more than one in a four-hour period.

“A general rule of thumb is not consuming more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day,” said Spanbauer, or 200 milligrams every three to four hours. According to OPSS, the most popular energy drinks contains about 80-120 milligrams of caffeine per eight ounce serving, and some contain more than one serving in a can.

“In a deployed environment,” Spanbauer added, “if somebody is sleep deprived and mission critical, there are benefits to caffeine, so I would start with 200 milligrams but do not exceed 600 milligrams in one day.”

A 2010 study by Walter Reed Army Institute of Research found that almost 45 percent of deployed service members drank at least one energy drink per day, and nearly 14 percent drank three or more a day. The long-term effects of consuming energy drinks regularly aren’t known, but in the short term, sleep quality can be impacted. Long-term sleep issues can negatively affect health and disease risks.

“If you consume caffeine habitually, the cognitive boost or physical performance benefit becomes less effective just because your body gets used to it,” said Spanbauer.

Coffee and caffeine gum can provide a quick energy boost for those who aren’t keen on energy drinks. However, getting enough sleep, staying hydrated and eating a healthy diet are essential for maintaining good health and energy in the long run.

“It’s very important to talk about this because it’s a safety issue that affects our service members and their families, their ability to stay healthy and perform the mission, and potentially their long-term health,” said Spanbauer.

To learn more about supplements in dietary drinks, visit the Operation Supplement Safety website, a DoD dietary supplement resource for the military community, leaders, health care providers, and DoD civilians. 

You also may be interested in...

Sticks and stones can break bones – and so can osteoporosis

Master Sgt. Kimberly Kaminski, 380th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, flips a 445-pound tire during a workout at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates. Resistance training is just one of many steps to take to fight osteoporosis. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ross A. Whitley)

Steps to take today to build a future of healthy bones

Recommended Content:

Nutrition | Physical Activity | Women's Health

Army researchers develop tasty, healthy performance bar

Two U.S. Army soldiers eat a version of the Performance Readiness Bar. USARIEM researchers will monitor them to test whether the bar affects bone density. (U.S. Army photo by Mr. David Kamm)

Researchers aren’t working to provide recruits and soldiers with something that only tastes good; it has to make sense for their nutrition

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Nutrition

Small changes, big results: Healthy lifestyle choices can make a difference for heart health

Dr. Jonathan Woodson, director of the Institute for Health System Innovation & Policy at Boston University, provides insight on the importance of heart health. From 2010 to 2016, Woodson served as the assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. He is also a brigadier general in the United States Army Reserve. (Photo courtesy of Boston University)

Risk for heart disease, the number one killer of Americans every year, can be decreased through healthy lifestyle and nutrition choices

Recommended Content:

Heart Health | Nutrition | Physical Activity

Breakfast (and lunch, and dinner) of champions: What this Olympian eats

Army Sgt. Matt Mortensen, a two-time Olympian, has been competing in doubles luge since 2011 as a member of the Army World Class Athlete Program. (U.S. Army photo)

March may be “cheat month,” but slider sticks close to regular diet

Recommended Content:


Eat an apple a day, but don't keep the dentist away

A child eats an apple during a Trunk-or-Treat event, which featured a healthy snack station as an alternative to candy, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jimmie D. Pike)

Good oral health takes more than brushing teeth and flossing – it also requires proper nutrition

Recommended Content:

Deployment Health | Health Readiness | Nutrition | Preventive Health

Fuel your body during National Nutrition Month

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than one-third of adults in the U.S. are obese and obesity-related conditions are one of the leading causes of preventable deaths. Eating healthy can prevent the onset of chronic diseases, reduce inflammation and improve physical recovery time from wounds. (U.S. Air Force illustration by Airman 1st Class Destinee Sweeney)

More than one-third of adults in the U.S. are obese and obesity-related conditions are one of the leading causes of preventable deaths

Recommended Content:

Operation Live Well | Nutrition

Eating disorders, disordered eating: A look into the personal struggle for balance

Eating disorders, which are a mix of psychological, physiological, and behavioral factors, can affect every system in the body. (U.S. Air Force illustration by Staff Sgt. Keith Ballard)

Eating disorders are about more than nutrition, experts warn. These disorders involve psychological, physiological, and behavioral characteristics

Recommended Content:


Eating's a risky business with water, water everywhere and no power

A resident of a Hurricane Harvey-flooded neighborhood in Houston gets evacuated. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection photo by Glenn Fawcett)

If in doubt, throw it out, food safety experts say

Recommended Content:

Nutrition | Emergency Preparedness and Response

Watch out for 'hidden' sugars

Some sugars occur naturally in fruits and milk products. However, other sugars are added to foods and drinks during preparation, processing, or at your table. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Caleb McDonald)

Some sugars occur naturally in fruits and milk products. However, other sugars are added to foods and drinks during preparation, processing, or at your table.

Recommended Content:

Nutrition | Human Performance Resource Center | Operation Live Well

Shedding light on vitamin D

Air Force Senior Airman Michael Cossaboom pretends to eat the sun. Unlike other nutrients, vitamin D occurs naturally in very few foods, so it can be difficult to get enough through your diet. Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that your body produces when your skin is exposed to sunlight, but there are ways to get it from foods too. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jensen Stidham)

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that your body produces when your skin is exposed to sunlight, but there are ways to get it from foods too

Recommended Content:


Eat a rainbow of colorful produce

For adults, the current daily recommendation is 2-3 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit. Remember that raw, cooked, steamed, grilled, and broiled varieties all count, so fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables at mealtimes. (U.S. Army photo by Honey Nixon)

Eating colorful fruits and veggies can help reduce your risk of stroke, heart disease, diabetes and some cancers too

Recommended Content:

Nutrition | Human Performance Resource Center

Summertime food safety

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates one in six Americans get sick from foodborne illnesses, including those associated with poorly cooked or stored foods in hot environments. To avoid this, follow good cooking tips. Cook foods thoroughly. Use a food thermometer to check for doneness. Make sure cooked foods have reached a safe internal temperature. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The CDC estimates one in six Americans get sick from foodborne illnesses

Recommended Content:

Summer Safety | Nutrition | Human Performance Resource Center

Army researchers showcase Performance Readiness Bar

Two Soldiers taste-test the Performance Readiness Bar, a calcium and vitamin D-fortified snack bar developed to optimize bone health in basic trainees, during a bone health field study. (U.S. Army photo by David Kamm)

According to the Military Health System, recruits often arrive to basic training with poor calcium and vitamin D status

Recommended Content:


The scoop on probiotic and prebiotic foods

Prebiotic foods include bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, and whole grains. (Courtesy photo)

Benefits from eating foods with probiotics and prebiotics occur when they’re part of a diet that includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat sources of dairy and protein

Recommended Content:

Nutrition | Human Performance Resource Center

Daily nutrition strategies for endurance

Fueling for endurance events starts by eating a balanced diet, high in variety. Consuming carbs from various sources before training and throughout each day will help keep you energized. Protein after your workouts will help you recover from your workout so you can train again tomorrow. (U.S. Army photo)

Performance nutrition really begins during training, when you consistently fuel your body with the proper amounts and kinds of calories and nutrients

Recommended Content:

Nutrition | Physical Activity | Human Performance Resource Center
<< < 1 2 3 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 3

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing:: Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.