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Energy and Sports Drinks - Topic Overview

Are energy drinks safe for adults?

Consuming moderate amounts of caffeine is considered safe for adults. That means 100 mg to 200 mg of caffeine a day. There is about 95 mg of caffeine in 8 fl oz (237 mL) of brewed coffee.

Caffeine increases energy in adults and fights tiredness. But too much caffeine can cause nervousness, feeling grumpy, an upset stomach, diarrhea, and headaches.

Performance

Caffeine has been shown to improve endurance and performance in high-intensity sports. But research also notes that the improvement is mostly seen in trained athletes and may not be seen in people who exercise casually. Research also notes that taking low to moderate doses of caffeine produces the same improvement as taking higher doses.2

Alcohol

Adults and teens may mix energy drinks with alcohol. The caffeine in these drinks can make the effects of alcohol harder to notice. People may feel they are not as intoxicated as they really are. Mixing caffeine with alcohol may cause you to drink more, because the caffeine may keep you awake longer.

Pregnancy

In small amounts, caffeine is considered safe for the developing baby (fetus). But if you're pregnant, it's a good idea to keep your caffeine intake below 200 mg a day because:3

  • More caffeine may be connected to a higher rate of miscarriage. There isn't enough evidence to know for sure.4
  • Caffeine can interfere with sleep for both you and the fetus.

The total caffeine in an energy drink may be more than the recommended amount.

Are sports drinks useful?

Water is usually the best choice before, during, and after physical activity.

You might benefit from a sports drink if you have sweated a lot during activities that are intense or last a long time. For example, a runner or cyclist in a long-distance event could use a sports drink to hydrate and replace electrolytes.

Sports drinks may contain sugars but have little nutritional value. They add calories. So if you're not exercising long or hard, sports drinks could lead to weight gain. The sugars in these drinks can also lead to dental problems.

Children and teens

Children and teens use carbohydrate for energy. A balanced diet gives most children and teens the carbohydrate and electrolytes they need. Extra carbohydrate and electrolytes from sports drinks aren't needed, even after short physical activity or exercise.

Before, after, and during activity, water is the best choice for children and teens. A sports drink may be useful if children and teens have exercised intensively or for a long period of time. If your child is an athlete or takes part in intensive or long-lasting activities or exercises, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian about how to best use sports drinks.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 22, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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