Purpose: Caffeine-containing energy drinks (EDs) are currently used as ergogenic aids to improve physical performance in a wide variety of sport disciplines. However, the outcomes of previous investigations on this topic are inconclusive due to methodological differences, especially, in the dosage of the active ingredients and the test used to assess performance.
Methods: We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies to evaluate the effects of acute ED intake on physical performance. The search for references was conducted in the databases PubMed, ISI Web of Knowledge and SPORTDiscus until December 2015.
Results: Thirty-four studies published between 1998 and 2015 were included in the analysis. Using a random-effects model, effect sizes (ES) were calculated as the standardized mean difference. Overall, ED ingestion improved physical performance in muscle strength and endurance (ES = 0.49; p < 0.001), endurance exercise tests (ES = 0.53; p < 0.001), jumping (ES = 0.29; p = 0.01) and sport-specific actions (ES = 0.51; p < 0.001), but not in sprinting (ES = 0.14; p = 0.06). The meta-regression demonstrated a significant association between taurine dosage (mg) and performance (slope = 0.0001; p = 0.04), but not between caffeine dosage (mg) and performance (slope = 0.0009; p = 0.21).
Conclusion: ED ingestion improved performance in muscle strength and endurance, endurance exercise tests, jumping and sport-specific actions. However, the improvement in performance was associated with taurine dosage.
Keywords: Caffeine; Performance-enhancing substances; Sports; Taurine.