Do energy drinks contain active components other than caffeine?

Nutr Rev. 2012 Dec;70(12):730-44. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2012.00525.x. Epub 2012 Nov 9.


Energy drinks (EDs) contain caffeine and are a new, popular category of beverage. It has been suggested that EDs enhance physical and cognitive performance; however, it is unclear whether the claimed benefits are attributable to components other than caffeine. A typical 235 mL ED provides between 40 and 250 mg of caffeine, equating to doses that improve cognitive and, at the higher levels, physical performance. EDs often contain taurine, guaraná, ginseng, glucuronolactone, B-vitamins, and other compounds. A literature search using PubMed, Psych Info, and Google Scholar identified 32 articles that examined the effects of ED ingredients alone and/or in combination with caffeine on physical or cognitive performance. A systematic evaluation of the evidence-based findings in these articles was then conducted. With the exception of some weak evidence for glucose and guaraná extract, there is an overwhelming lack of evidence to substantiate claims that components of EDs, other than caffeine, contribute to the enhancement of physical or cognitive performance. Additional well-designed, randomized, placebo-controlled studies replicated across laboratories are needed in order to assess claims made for these products.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Beverages / analysis*
  • Caffeine / analysis
  • Caffeine / pharmacology*
  • Dietary Sucrose / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Mental Processes / drug effects*
  • Paullinia / chemistry
  • Physical Endurance / drug effects*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects*


  • Dietary Sucrose
  • Plant Extracts
  • Caffeine