Cramps suck, but are energy drinks helpful or harmful for people that regularly suffer from them?
Some people say that energy drinks might be the cause of cramps, others say that energy drinks can help with cramps.
Which is myth and which is a fact?
Let’s get started.
Ingredients in Energy Drinks
First, let’s take a closer look at some of the commonly used ingredients in energy drinks.
It also improves physical performances which makes it a great workout buddy.
However, caffeine can contribute to cramps, thus depending on your situation, you might want to stay away from energy drinks for a while if cramps are a serious problem for you.
Another strategy might be to choose an energy drink that has less caffeine. Some energy drinks have crazy amounts of caffeine in them. This is just one more reason to avoid them in my opinion.
Putting cramps to the side for a moment, I generally prefer my energy drinks to contain somewhere between 50mg and 100mg of caffeine per serve.
I find this to be the “sweet spot”.
Any more than 100mg of caffeine often leaves me unable to concentrate or think clearly. I find it to be a bit overpowering and sometimes I also get hot flushes.
Sugar also helps to make you feel an energy boost in the short term, but sugar is universally considered to be really unhealthy.
Sugar is also inflammatory which means it can also make cramps worse.
Indeed, some people report that sugar consumption causes them to cramp.
Similar to caffeine, if you suffer from cramps, you might like to cut out sugar for a while to see if that helps.
The good news regarding sugar and energy drinks is that there are lots of great sugar-free options available on the market.
Therefore, if you still want to have energy drinks, but don’t want the sugar, don’t stress, just grab one of the sugar-free options and enjoy your energy drink without the sugar-guilt.
Guarana can naturally increase the amount of caffeine in an energy drink. Therefore, if you see guarana extracts added to an energy drink, it might possibly have way more caffeine than what is stated.
BCAA’s are not a common ingredient in most energy drinks but are present in a few energy drinks these days.
BCAA’s are thought to improve athletic performance (but probably don’t have any material impact on that – more on that below) and could also indirectly help reduce muscle cramps during or after exercise.
Caffeine and cramps
This study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that caffeine consumption may increase the frequency of cramps.
However, the study was limited to just one person, so it’s not overwhelming evidence one way or the other.
On balance, almost every study and piece of research available on the topic of caffeine and cramps suggests that caffeine can contribute to increased cramping.
While that is not in dispute, the rate that caffeine causes increased cramping seems to be fairly small compared to the rate of cramps without consuming caffeine.
Still, if cramps are a problem for you, you might like to experiment with cutting out caffeine for a while to see if it has any effect on the number of cramps that you experience.
As for period cramps, caffeine is a vasoconstrictor which causes your blood vessels to constrict, making the vessels around your uterus tighten, which in turn might result in worse period cramps.
Another study showed that there doesn’t appear to be any link between caffeine consumption and PMS.
The recommended daily limit for caffeine is 400mg for healthy adults. That’s guidance straight from the FDA.
However, keep in mind that different people metabolize caffeine at different rates. If you are very sensitive to caffeine, you may be more likely to have more cramps than someone who isn’t as sensitive to caffeine.
If in doubt, talk to your doctor.
Do BCAA’s in energy drinks help with muscle cramps?
Yes, branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) do help with muscle cramps in certain individuals.
This study of 8 individuals with cirrhosis of the liver found that BCAA supplementation had a significant impact on the frequency of muscle cramps.
Healthline also notes that BCAA’s can help reduce cramping for people with liver disease.
There isn’t much information available online about the impact that BCAA’s have on the frequency of cramping for individuals that don’t have liver disease or cirrhosis. This is a potential area for further clinical trials and testing that I would certainly be watching with a keen eye.
If you’re interested in conducting such a study, please contact me!
Another study published in the journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that BCAA’s don’t improve athletic performance, but can help with muscle recovery and the immune system.
What all of this means is that BCAA’s certainly help with cramps if you have cirrhosis of the liver, and they probably don’t make cramps worse for you if you don’t have liver problems, although more research is needed on that.
Interestingly, the minimum effective dose of BCAA’s is 91mg per pound of body weight, per day (200mg per kg of body weight per day).
This means that an adult male that weighs 175 pounds would need about 16,000mg (16 grams) of BCAA’s to get the advertised benefits from taking them.
How to prevent cramps when exercising
A simple warm up before you exercise, lift weights, do cardio or run a marathon can help regulate blood flow to your muscles, thus getting more nutrients and oxygen in and waste out faster.
This can decrease your chances of suffering from a cramp during or after exercise.
This study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that the only risk factors for cramps during exercise were:
- Previous cramps within the last 10 days, and
- The pace that the athlete raced at
The study also looked at electrolyte depletion and dehydration, but did not find any correlation between either of them and the frequency of cramps.
The key takeaway points for me from this study are that if you push yourself too much, you’re more likely to reach the point of muscle exhaustion and cramp up.
If you pace yourself and never go too hard, the chance of cramping is much lower.
Track of your caffeine intake
What you consume before you exercise may play a role too in whether you end up with a cramp or not.
In relation to energy drinks, too much caffeine may cause muscle cramps.
This paper suggests that caffeine may contribute to muscle cramps due to the increased rate of magnesium loss after consuming caffeine and exercising.
However, moderate amounts of caffeine are definitely beneficial for exercise performance. Overall, you’ll need to weigh the performance beenfits that come from caffeine against the small risk of increased cramping.
Remember that your total caffeine intake includes caffeine from all sources.
Tea, coffee, energy drinks, sodas, chocolate and any other food or drink products may all contain caffeine.
Does Red Bull cause cramping?
Red Bull may be a slight risk factor to increased cramping, but the impact it has is likely to be fairly small.
Red Bull contains a moderate amount of caffeine, with 80mg per can. This amount of caffeine is unlikely to cause you much of a problem.
However, as outlined above, almost all studies of caffeine and cramps suggest that caffeine does contribute to increased frequency of cramps. With that in mind, Red Bull may contribute to increased frequency of cramping.
Also, regular Red Bull contains 27g of sugar per can.
Also mentioned above, sugar can increase cramping frequency. Therefore, due to the presence of caffeine and sugar, Red Bull may increase the chance of you suffering from cramps.
I personally would not suggest drinking Red Bull just for the high amount of sugar and calories, 27g and 110 respectively.
I’ve written extensively about Red Bull, including this very detailed post about whether or not Red Bull is bad for you which you should check out after reading this article.
Fun fact, did you know that Red Bull was once banned in France?
Also, if you’re wondering what the difference is between Red Bull and Monster, I covered everything you need to know in my other article which I recommend you check out if you want to learn more about how these two leading brands are different.
Can energy drinks help when I have a cramp?
Energy drinks probably won’t help you when you have cramps.
Energy drinks contain caffeine, which is likely to contribute to increased cramps.
Many energy drinks also contain sugar, which is also bad for cramps.
Therefore, when you are suffering from cramps, it’s probably a good idea to give energy drinks a miss for a while.
This Harvard study mentions that sports drinks might be a better choice than energy drinks with regard to reducing cramps because they contain electrolytes like sodium and potassium.
I can’t argue with that.
However, I’ll mention the same study that I mentioned above again because I find it so interesting.
According to this study, the level of electrolytes doesn’t have any impact on the frequency of cramps during exercise.
That’s certainly interesting and I would like to see further studies on this in the future.
Other drinks to help with cramps
Although green tea has caffeine in it, it’s a more mild dose than most coffee and energy drinks and therefore probably a better option for cramps.
A cup of hot green tea is soothing and filled with antioxidants that can also help you power through your menstrual cramps.
Peppermint tea is also a good option to help with period cramps.
It’s a caffeine-free, herbal concoction yummy enough to soothe and relax your uterine muscles that cause menstrual cramps.
Best energy drinks for cramps
In no particular order, here are a few options that might be worth checking out if you’re looking for energy drinks that are suitable for people who suffer from cramps:
BCAA Energy Drink by Nutrend
This drink is marketed more as a preworkout, but the ingredients make it an energy drink in my opinion, so I’ll list it here.
Often the difference between energy drink and preworkout is quite hard to determine, but this looks to be an energy drink aimed at the fitness crowd as far as I can tell.
It has zero sugar and 100mg of caffeine and is recommended to be taken 20-30 minutes before exercise.
It also has 5000mg of BCAA’s, which can help some people with cramps (as outlined above in this article).
Keep in mind that 5,000mg of BCAA’s isn’t enough for most people to get any benefit from taking them and some scientific studies sugges that BCAA’s don’t actually do anything to improve athletic performance.
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XS Energy Drink has 80mg of caffeine, with only 10 calories and zero sugar.
This is a sensible caffeine content and probably wouldn’t be a major concern for cramps while providing a nice energy boost.
XS Energy Drink also has 2 caffeine-free options:
• Caffeine-free cranberry-grape blast
• Caffeine-free mango pineapple guava
If you’re serious about avoiding caffeine, the caffeine-free options might be perfect for you. However, personally, I like my energy drinks to contain some caffeine.
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This is a healthier option and matcha flavored. I personally like matcha flavored products, so this gets a thumbs up from me.
Aside from being sugar free, it only contains 5 calories per can.
However, with 120mg of caffeine, it might be a little more caffeine than you want if you’re concerned about the risk of cramps.
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REIZE Energy Drink (10 out of 10)
Here’s my all-time favorite.
First and foremost, REIZE Energy Drink has just 50mg of caffeine – probably not enough to cause any concern with regard to cramps, but enough to give me a great energy boost and get me into the “optimal zone” of concentration and performance.
The caffeine works together with a unique blend of taurine, ginseng and B group vitamins to give you a long lasting energy boost, with no crash.
Also, it’s sugar free, and with just 11 calories, you don’t need to feel guilty when you have one.
Perhaps best of all, REIZE ships right to your door for around $1 per drink, including shipping.
That’s amazing value for money.
Try REIZE Energy Drink today, and you might find that it’s the best energy drink for cramps.
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