The Truth About Energy Drinks


Energy drinks faulted for not disclosing excessive caffeine

by Gergana Koleva
published Oct 29th, 2010

Two-thirds of the energy drink brands on the market do not disclose their caffeine content and of the ones that do so, some ignore the threshold for what is considered excessive, researchers at found.

Venom, Monster, 5-Hour Energy, Ammo, FRS, and Red Bull Cola all keep hush about the amount of caffeine they put in their drinks, according to GoodGuide, which ranks consumer products according to their impact on health and the environment.

“Companies must think they will lose money, except on brands that advertise how powerful they are,” Marion Nestle, a nutrition professor at New York University told Consumer Ally.

Coca-Cola’s Full Throttle, which calls itself “the hardest working energy drink on the block,” also does not disclose its caffeine level. The brand is the official sponsor of the National Hot Rod Association Drag Racing Series, the world’s premier motor sports championship.

Of the beverage makers that are transparent about their caffeine content, Viso Energy Vigor and Spike Shooter each have 300 mg of caffeine in an 8-ounce serving. That’s 50% more than the 200mg guideline set by the American Dietetic Association. High amounts of caffeine cause jitters and insomnia, and can be especially harmful to people between 12 and 17 years old, who make up about a third of the energy drink market. (See the chart on the left from

“I think parents would be interested in how much caffeine their kids are getting,” Nestle said.

By comparison, Red Bull, Amp, Hi-Ball Energy, Rip It and Rock Star all contain the same amount of caffeine as is found in a can of Pepsi or a cup of brewed coffee (95mg or less), according to GoodGuide. A cup of premium coffee such as Starbucks has up to 180mg of caffeine.

Energy shots — a variation on the 8-ounce beverage that pack the same punch in a 2-ounce bottle — can also exceed the tolerable upper limits for caffeine. According to a report by, an independent subscription-based site that tests hundreds of unregulated health supplements, 5-Hour Energy shot contains 207mg of caffeine. That’s 15% higher than what one would get from a “tall” cup of Starbucks.

Stacker 2 6-Hour Power Shot also contains alarmingly high levels of caffeine, the report warns. Cramming 156mg into a 2-ounce package, the drink has 64% more of the stimulant than an 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee. In addition, both 5-Hour Energy and Stacker do not live up to their B-vitamin label claims, which were found to exaggerate the actual amount of the vitamins.

Living Essentials, the company behind 5-hour Energy, spends $60 million a year on advertisements and is known for keeping its ingredients top secret, claiming only that it contains about as much caffeine as a cup of the leading premium coffee (Starbucks). It was sued earlier this year by the family of a man who died after drinking it.

Caffeine intoxication is a potentially serious health risk associated with energy drinks, which “work” to restore mental and physical alertness by increasing blood pressure. It can occur with consumption of 250mg of caffeine.