Energy Drinks VS Alcohol (warning: don’t mix them)

Among party goers and young adults, it’s become a trend to mix alcohol with energy drinks.

The appeal is that energy drinks, with their content of caffeine, make you feel more awake and less drunk than you really are, encouraging you to drink more and stay up longer.

Personally, I’m against mixing alcohol with energy drinks.

By mixing alcohol with energy drinks, you’re often inviting trouble.

In this article, I’ll go into depth how alcohol and energy drinks affect your body, exactly what the differences are between energy drinks and alcohol and why it’s bad to mix both of these beverages.

If you’re just looking for the short answer, energy drinks almost never contain alcohol in most parts of the world and the two drinks are quite different from each other.

But, there’s quite a bit more to it.

Let’s get started…

What are energy drinks?

Energy drinks boost your energy, improve your mental alertness and enhance physical performance.

There are many types of energy drinks that are available in the market. Some energy drinks are sold in cans or bottles like soft drinks, while others can be found as ‘energy shots’, concentrated liquid containing a dose of caffeine.

In addition, you can also find energy drinks in powder form, or ‘drink mixes’, that come in sachets or tubes.

What is alcohol?

A variety of alcoholic spirits in a bar
A selection of spirits – certainly not the same thing as energy drinks.

Classified as a depressant, alcohol affects your central nervous system and distorts your judgement and ability to think rationally. Most people consume alcohol for its stimulating effects, as it’s said to help them ‘loosen up’. Alcohol is a drug, although its use is widely accepted in many parts of the world.

Alcoholic drinks contain a type of alcohol called ethanol or grain alcohol. It’s produced through the fermentation of sugars and yeast, and is commonly used in liquor, beer and wine.

Different kinds of alcoholic drinks contain different amounts of alcohol:

Types of alcoholic beveragesTypical Alcohol Percentage (%)
Beer2 – 6
Wine8 – 20
Tequila40
Rum40 or more
Brandy40 or more
Gin40 – 47
Whiskey40 – 50
Vodka40 – 50
Liqueurs15 – 60
Types of alcoholic drinks and their alcohol content.

Then there’s inedible alcohol which can be found in everyday items like perfume, hand sanitizers, stain removal products and nail polish removers. They are beyond the scope of this conversation though.

What ingredients do energy drinks usually contain?

Energy drinks usually contain caffeine, guarana, taurine, ginseng, sugar, B vitamins, and other ingredients. Energy drinks also contain preservatives, artificial flavors and colors.

I’ll go into some detail about a few of the key ingredients that make up a regular energy drink below.

Caffeine

The key ingredient in energy drinks that provides the body with a burst of energy is caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that can be found in certain plants. Many people drink caffeinated beverages to stimulate wakefulness and alertness, decrease fatigue and enhance their mental focus and concentration.

You can find caffeine in a lot of the drinks you consume every day. Remember you favourite cup of coffee? Yeah, that has caffeine.

Tea, chocolate and any chocolate-flavoured goods contain caffeine. Certain companies have even created caffeinated jelly beans, marshmallows and waffles to give their consumers an extra kick of energy.

I personally don’t mind trying new things, but I stick to my caffeinated drinks because I find them easier to consume and more convenient to carry around.

When it comes to energy drinks, you need to pay attention to the caffeine content before buying them. Caffeine levels in energy drinks can range from as low as around 50mg to a whopping 300mg.

There are some incredibly strong energy drinks out there.

The FDA states that adults should limit their caffeine intake to no more than 400mg per day.

I usually prefer 50mg – 100mg of caffeine per drink. If I exceed this amount, I’ll often get restless and won’t be able to concentrate. However, everyone has a different caffeine tolerance, so things might be different for you.

A wide selection of different brands of energy drinks, all of which are alcohol-free
None of these brands of energy drink contain any alcohol.

Guarana

Guarana is another important ingredient in many energy drinks. Guarana originally comes from a particular type of plant native to Brazil and some regions in the Amazon. Once turned into paste, syrup or extract, it’s added to drinks to give it energy-boosting traits.

Basically, guarana multiplies the effects of caffeine as guarana seeds itself contains caffeine. The seeds from the guarana plant contain about three times the amount of caffeine compared to coffee beans.

Taurine

Taurine can be found in many energy drinks and is generally included as an ingredient due to its benefits on mental and physical performance. Interestingly enough, taurine reduces the effects of caffeine on the heart.

Yet when combined together, the mixture of caffeine and taurine could significantly improve cognitive functions and mental performance.

Sugar

Sugar is what makes your energy drink taste sweet. After all, who doesn’t love something sweet when you’re parched?

Sugar doesn’t just make your energy drinks delicious, but it also provides your body with glucose that will turn into energy. Unfortunately, most energy drinks contain too much sugar and that isn’t healthy for you in the long run.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the daily consumption of sugar should be:

MenLess than 9 teaspoons (150 calories)
WomenLess than 6 teaspoons (100 calories)
Maximum recommended daily sugar intake.

I guess you could consider yourself lucky that sugar-free energy drinks are sold in almost all stores nowadays.

What do alcoholic beverages usually contain?

Alcoholic beverages usually contain ethanol, a kind of alcohol that can made by fermenting grains, fruits or vegetables. Once yeast or bacteria reacts with the sugar in these foods, it will produce ethanol and carbon dioxide.

Furthermore, most alcoholic beverages contain water and sometimes sugar. Though in sweeter alcoholic drinks the amount of sugar can be higher than the amount of ethanol.

Are energy drinks beneficial?

Energy drinks can be beneficial to you if consumed in moderation. If you consume too many energy drinks, you may end up with some nasty side effects. But if you’re careful with your consumption, you’ll get to reap the benefits.

Energy drinks are affordable and supply your body with a boost of energy when you need it. You’ll feel more mentally alert and aware after having one. Energy drinks are such effective pick-me-ups that they can even keep you awake for hours while you’re driving.

In a study conducted on 24 volunteers, it was found that drinking Red Bull could reduce drowsiness and enhance driving performance for long periods of time.

Energy drinks are also known to improve cognitive performance.

A regular 8.4 fl.oz can of Red Bull
Energy drinks such as Red Bull can be beneficial in moderation.

Studies have shown that consuming energy drinks could boost several aspects of brain functions like memory, concentration and reaction time. Energy drinks can also improve mood and help you to stay focused and motivated.

Aside from this, energy drinks have a positive impact on athletic performance.

Research has proven that taurine in energy drinks could enhance performance in exercises involving muscle strength, endurance and jumping.

When a study was performed 15 cyclists, it was discovered that using energy drinks as pre-exercise supplement boosted cycling time-trial performance.

You can enjoy these benefits if you keep to less than 400mg of caffeine per day.

Consuming more energy drinks doesn’t mean you’ll gain more positive benefits. Drinking too many may leave you feeling worse than before you started.

Are alcoholic beverages beneficial?

Alcoholic beverages might be beneficial to you if you maintain moderate consumption. However, there’s also a lot of evidence to support the argument that alcohol causes a lot of harm and damage in many parts of society.

If you think alcohol is only good for drowning your sorrows and getting you drunk, think again.

Alcohol can actually be beneficial to you if consumed in the right amount. For older people, low to moderate alcohol intake can reduce the risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s.

If you’re planning to lose a couple of pounds, alcohol – specifically wine – can help with that. Studies have shown that while consumption of beer can cause weigh gain, drinking wine moderately can help with weight loss.

Light to moderate alcohol consumption might reduce heart diseases. It could help in lowering blood pressure, decreasing the risk of diabetes and reduce stress as these conditions typically contribute toward stroke and other heart-related illnesses.

You have to remember you can only enjoy these benefits if you consume low to moderate amounts of alcohol. Once you start drinking heavily or too frequently, you’ll likely experience the opposite instead.

Despite the potential benefits outlined above, alcohol is the cause of lots of pain and suffering in the world. Don’t overdo it.

What are the side effects of energy drinks?

The common side effects of too many energy drinks are restlessness, jitters, increased heart rate, flushes and sugar crashes. Side effects vary depending on your personal tolerance to caffeine and other ingredients and on the amount of these ingredients that you consume.

The more serious and long-term effects of overconsumption of energy drinks include:

  • Caffeine overdose
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Effects on the heart and nervous system (particularly in children and adolescents)
  • Poor dental health
  • Obesity

I strongly advise that pregnant women or those who’re planning to have a child should stay away from energy drinks. Energy drinks often contain high levels of caffeine that are unsafe for nursing mothers.

What are the side effects of alcohol?

Too much alcohol can cause blurred vision
Too much alcohol can affect your vision and thinking.

Consuming too many alcoholic beverages can result in blackouts, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach aches, and drowsiness.

If you drink a lot of alcohol at one time, you’re probably going to experience a hangover and wake up feeling horrible and unable to remember much the next day. I know it’s hard for you to control yourself when alcohol helps you release stress, but you might want to think twice about having that extra drink next time you’re out on the town.

Excessive drinking and alcohol abuse can lead to adverse consequences including:

  • Diabetes
  • Cirrhosis
  • Damage to your central nervous system and brain
  • Alcohol addiction
  • Weak immune system
  • Poor digestive system
  • Heart diseases like high blood pressure and stroke

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans states that men can consume up two drinks in a day while women can have up to one drink daily. 

Interestingly, alcohol manufacturers never print anything like “max two drinks per day” on their packaging, whereas this is mandated to be printed on energy drink packaging.

I’ve always found that somewhat amusing because I think the risks associated with drinking too much alcohol are far greater than the risks associated with having too many energy drinks.

Why is it bad to mix energy drinks with alcohol?

It’s bad to mix energy drinks with alcoholic drinks because the caffeine in energy drinks masks how drunk you are which makes you feel more alert and may encourage further alcohol consumption. This results in being ‘wide-awake drunk’.

The CDC has cautioned against mixing energy drinks with alcoholic beverages. People who do this have a higher risk of binge drinking, drunk driving, alcohol dependence and other risky behaviors.

Despite mixing energy drinks with alcohol being a trend among younger party goers, I don’t endorse it.

Consuming alcohol with energy drinks doesn’t benefit you in any way, instead, it amplifies the side effects of both energy drinks and alcohol.

A study demonstrated that the consumption of alcohol mixed with energy drinks leads to decreased perceived drunkenness. It also enhanced the desire to drink more and increased stimulation.

Caffeine and alcohol should never be mixed.

When you don’t realize you’re drunk due to the caffeine, you’ll underestimate how much you’ve drunk and may decide to drink more alcohol than you should.

But what you don’t realize is that your body is still under the influence of alcohol. So when you drink more, your judgment will become more impaired and you’ll lose the ability to make rational decisions.

A 2006 study of college students found that those who consumed alcohol mixed with energy drinks developed a likeliness to get involved in alcohol-related consequences, including taking advantage of one another sexually, drunk driving, and becoming physically injured.

In addition, you also don’t realize you’re actually consuming more sugar and calories than you want to when you drink a mixture of alcohol and energy drinks. Instead of reaping the benefits of alcohol or energy drinks, you’ll be experiencing the short-term and long-term negative side effects of both.

Is Red Bull Alcoholic?

Red Bull doesn’t contain any alcohol. If you want to learn more about the ingredients in Red Bull, you can check out my article where I cover absolutely everything you need to know about all the Red Bull ingredients.

Red Bull is completely alcohol-free, so you can drink it without worrying about consuming any alcohol.

Is it alright to mix Red Bull with vodka?

Some people mix Red Bull with vodka, but I don’t recommend it. Mixing alcohol with energy drinks leads to excessive drinking, impaired judgement, and perception.

I suggest choosing either one – Red Bull or vodka – instead of mixing both together. You won’t be able to drive and think properly, which might lead to accidents and other unwanted injuries.

Are caffeinated alcoholic drinks banned?

Caffeinated alcoholic drinks are banned in the US. In 2010, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned four manufacturers that the caffeine levels in their malt alcoholic beverages were considered unsafe and they needed to take action if they didn’t want their products to be seized.

It’s best that alcoholic energy drinks stay off the market in my opinion. Not only do these types of drinks encourage alcohol abuse, but overconsumption can lead to serious injury or even death.

Energy Drinks you Can Have Instead of Alcohol

Monster Energy Drink

Two cans of regular Monster
Monster Energy Drink doesn’t contain any alcohol.

Monster is one of the most well-known brands of energy drinks in the world. The company, Monster Beverage Corporation, is known for sponsoring athletes in a range of extreme sports.

A 16 fl.oz can of Monster Energy Drink contains:

Ingredients Amount
Calories190
Sugar179mg
Caffeine54g
Nutrition facts in a regular 16 fl.oz can of Monster.

The high levels of caffeine in one can of Monster has earned the brand a place among the strongest energy drinks out there. Monster also contains a lot of calories and sugar, which I’m not a big fan of.

I’ll be more worried about getting a crash after one can. That’s why I prefer sugar-free energy drinks.

If you’re wondering if Monster is bad for you, check out my other article where I cover everything in a lot more detail than I have here.

A can of Monster usually costs around $3, which seems pretty expensive to me.

I’ve written a comprehensive explanation of all the differences between Monster and Red Bull in another article in case you’re wondering how the two leading brands differ.

Zip Fizz Energy Drink

A variety of Zip Fizz flavors
Zip Fizz is a powdered energy drink – it’s also free of alcohol.

Zip Fizz is a powdered energy drink that you can mix with water. This energy drink mix comes in many flavors in single-serving tubes.

For more on Zip Fizz and its ingredients, I’ve written extensively about it in my other article.

A tube of Zip Fizz contains:

Ingredients Quantity
Calories20
Sugar0g
Caffeine100mg
Zip Fizz nutrition information.

If you have a low tolerance for caffeine and prefer drinks without sugar, Zip Fizz might be the energy drink for you. It only has 100mg of caffeine and zero sugar. The calorie content is also quite low.

Zip Fizz is also a non-alcoholic energy drink.

However, personally, I feel the price for one tube is pretty pricey. The usual cost for one tube is around $2.25, which in my opinion, isn’t great value.

But if you have extra cash to spend, Zip Fizz might be the energy drink for you.

REIZE Energy Drink (10 out of 10)

A fresh glass of REIZE Energy Drink with the packaging beside it
REIZE doesn’t contain any alcohol.

REIZE Energy Drink is my number one pick when it comes to energy drinks. Let me show you why:

Ingredients Quantity
Calories11
Sugar0g
Caffeine50mg
REIZE Nutritional Information.

First, REIZE is a non-alcoholic energy drink.

It contains a sensible amount of caffeine, so you won’t need to worry about overdosing or caffeine crashes. Besides that, REIZE is sugar-free and has very few calories, so it won’t add much to your waistline.

REIZE has a smart blend of taurine, ginseng and B vitamins that provides you with the perfect energy boost, without the crash. Drinking REIZE is a lot safer than drinking alcohol mixed with energy drinks.

REIZE is also super affordable at only around $1 per drink, including shipping right to your door.

That’s incredibly good value for money.

Try REIZE today and I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s safer and more fulfilling than drinking alcohol mixed with other energy drinks.

Marty Spargo

I started my own energy drink brand in 2014 and am passionate about educating people about energy drinks so that they can properly understand the ingredients, benefits and risks without being influenced by the marketing messages put out by some brands. You can read my full bio here.

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