Note, appended 3/20/11: This was some research I did on energy drink ingredients. I never had anything close to an energy drink addiction and merely experimented with some. My conclusion was they are fairly harmless (apart from large amounts of sugar and questionable artificial colorings). The main active ingredient in most energy drinks is caffeine and most of the other ingredients are questionable. Since this was written I have completely stopped drinking coffee, because of caffeine dependency, discussed below. I drink 1-2 cups of black tea and 1-2 cups of green tea every day instead, and have concluded that tea is much more healthy than coffee (due to higher levels of antioxidants and stress-relief from theanine and other compounds). Tea provides ~45mg of caffeine per cup of black tea, (~15-30mg per cup of green) which is adequate to provide all the beneficial effects of caffeine without committing to a major dependency.
Background & personal observations
There is a strong allure to energy drinks. It is now not uncommon to see a section in supermarkets marked “new-age beverages” and filled with a variety of concoctions with un-pronounceable ingredients which claim to improve everything from mental clarity to sexual performance. Beverage giants such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi are now experiencing major competition from numerous small start ups taking advantage of this new and fast growing market. The concept of a drink that enhances cognitive performance is not new, however. For a long time people have been searching for “smart drugs” or nootropics — drugs which enhance cognitive performance but without side effects or significant dependency. This article will try to sift through the various claims of energy drinks to determine if what , if any, of he ingredients are true nootropics, and make an evidence-based evaluation of what energy drinks may be worth buying.