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The US Army Presents – The Science Behind Why You Should Stop Chugging So Many Energy Drinks

The Army posted this article to their website and I thought it was a good share. Any readers drink Energy Drinks? I know some of you guys swear by Rip-Its.

Spc. Kyle Lauth, assigned to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, sips an energy drink before a dismounted patrol through the Hussainiyah town of the Istaqlal Qada district northeast of Baghdad, Dec. 29, 2008. (Photo Credit: Sgt. 1st Class JB Jaso)

We’ve all seen them before: the cans, small shots and uniquely packaged drinks that promise to give you an energy boost during the most important parts of your day. At first glance, it seems like a great idea: chug it down and get reinvigorated. But, if you go beyond wanting simply to stay alert and you begin to overindulge, you could wind up doing some serious harm to your body.

Energy drinks became the beverage of choice for many service members during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research analyzed data collected during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2010 and found that nearly 45 percent of deployed service members consumed at least one energy drink daily. Nearly 14 percent reported drinking three or more per day.

Many of the most popular energy drinks are heavily marketed to young people, including military members. The marketing is sexy; the packaging is slick; the flavors are sweet like the fruit drinks that children crave; and the beverages are readily available on military bases and downrange.

But, there are good reasons to avoid overusing energy drinks.


Energy drinks are loaded with caffeine, and too much of it isn’t good for you. Dr. Patricia Deuster, professor and director of the Consortium for Health and Military Performance at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, warns service members to avoid consuming more than 200 milligrams of caffeine every four hours.

“If it’s got more than 200 milligrams of caffeine, don’t use it,” Deuster cautions.

Deuster also warns female service members to exercise caution, noting that the amount of caffeine you ingest relative to your body weight can be an issue for women. “Women get a higher concentration [of caffeine], since they tend to be smaller,” she said.

“Doctors don’t know what the effects of [energy drink] ingredients are in larger doses,” Deuster noted. “I don’t think anybody has an answer to the long-term effects question.”

High amounts of caffeine can lead to increased blood pressure, panic attacks, heart palpitations, anxiety, dehydration, insomnia and even bowel irritability when energy drinks are mixed with alcohol.

What is clear, when it comes to energy drinks, is that consumers need to be more aware of what they’re putting in their bodies.


Energy drinks are loaded with sugar. Some cans pack a punch of 27 grams of sugar, two-thirds of the recommended daily maximum for men, and 2 grams more than the maximum doctors recommend for women. Some service members can double or even triple that if they drink more than one energy drink per day.

The Human Performance Resource Center cautions energy drink users to be aware of the drink’s ingredients. (Photo Credit: Operation Supplement Safety graphic)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends keeping your intake of added sugars to less than 10 percent of your total daily calories.

Extra sugar can cause your blood sugar to increase, but even the sugar-free versions of energy drinks can lead to weight gain, as research suggests artificial sweeteners may raise blood sugar, too.


Energy drinks have become popular mixers for alcohol, raising other concerns for health experts.

“A lot of the young people mix energy drinks with alcoholic beverages, then you’ve got a wide-awake drunk,” Deuster says.

The CDC warns that when alcoholic beverages are mixed with energy drinks, the caffeine stimulant can mask the effects of the alcohol, which is a depressant. Often, the person drinking might not even realize that he or she is actually drunk.

According to the CDC, that means people who mix alcohol with energy drinks are three times more likely to binge drink than those who don’t mix alcohol with energy drinks. Experts warn motor skills can be affected and some people engage in riskier behaviors while under the influence of alcohol and energy drinks. Additionally, both caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, which can cause dehydration if you’re not careful.

Some companies sell pre-mixed alcoholic energy drinks that have the same sweet or tart flavors as standard energy drinks. As the Army notes, the alcohol content in these beverages can be significantly higher than what’s found in beer.

These energy drinks with alcohol may appeal to underage drinkers because they’re cheaper than hard liquor and they’re marketed with a message that the drinker can last all day or all night long. The sugary nature of the beverages also can lead drinkers to feel like they can imbibe longer than if they were consuming harder alcohol.


Deuster raises concerns about a problem in the military with energy drinks and sleep. The data back up her concerns. While service members may initially use energy drinks to make up for a lack of sleep, they can easily overuse the drinks, leading lead to a harmful cycle. Excess consumption of energy drinks can cause sleep problems and hamper performance.

Dr. Nancy J. Wesensten, from the Center for Military Psychiatry and Neurosciences Research, tells Army Medicine that research on caffeine shows that it can be effective if used properly.

However, Wesensten notes, “because caffeine impairs sleep, individuals should stop all caffeine consumption at least six hours prior to scheduled sleep. Otherwise, sleep could be impaired without the person even being aware of it.”

The CDC reports that service members who drink three or more energy drinks per day were significantly more likely to report sleeping fewer than four hours per night. They were also more likely to report disrupted sleep.

Lack of sleep can impact memory and a service member’s ability to pay attention. Research indicates service members who consumed three or more energy drinks each day also had difficulty staying awake during briefings or on guard duty.

The Army’s Performance Triad offers tips on how to get a better night’s sleep, including controlling light and temperature, and recommends that leaders ensure service members have enough time for quality sleep.


Energy drinks are not regulated as dietary supplements. While the cans have nutrition labels, many do not list supplement information.

One area that’s concerning to Deuster is the ingredient taurine. The chemical compound is an amino acid found in animal tissue. Many energy drink makers purport the ingredient will enhance mental and physical performance, but researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center report that little is actually known about taurine’s neuroendocrine effects.


So what should service members look to for a healthy substitute for energy drinks? Deuster keeps it simple: “Good old water.”

Appealing to service members’ frugality, she adds, “If you want to save money, drink water.”

35 Responses to “The US Army Presents – The Science Behind Why You Should Stop Chugging So Many Energy Drinks”

  1. mike says:

    It was even more simple for me. Two words: kidney stones.

    • Dellis says:


      I had 6 kidney stones over several years. I was a soda fiend. Never had another stone in over 12 years now.

      Even better than plain water is lemon water. Slice up a few and drop them in a jug with fresh water.

      • Fritzthedog says:

        I’m on stone #9…. These drinks and iced tea are tools of the devil…I know this because while I was dropping stone#8 God and I had an intense conversation about it.

        • Dellis says:

          My last stone episode the guy next to me was on his fricken 15th stone!! Right then I knew I was not gonna go thru that hell another 9 times, let alone once more.

          So I said screw the doctors, went to a nutritionist and he told me to triple my calcium intake, drink lemon water. Stop all soda, ease back on teas and coffee.

          Not a stone since. Turns out caffeine was also triggering panic attacks so I remedied 2 issues by drinking as clean as possible. I’d never make it doing guard duty if you guys have to pump caffeine into your systems to stqy awake.

  2. Jon says:

    Well obviously! I don’t want to generalize for all MOSes but pretty much everything an Infantryman does is bad for themselves! That’s the whole point. It seems the best part of going out of your own battlespace in early OEF was stopping at a random COP to try and find ripits. Like mad max and fuel.

  3. Gavin says:

    “Deuster also warns female service members to exercise caution, noting that the amount of caffeine you ingest relative to your body weight can be an issue for women. “Women get a higher concentration [of caffeine], since they tend to be smaller,” she said.”

    Not a problem, I just sat through the required training for leaders on integrating transgender personnel into the ranks, and how much stronger we will as a fighting force. I learned that a soldier can be whatever gender they prefer. Female soldiers only need to change their preferred gender to male prior to slamming a few Rip Its and heading out to tear up the bad guys (or the gym). Problem solved.

  4. Chuck says:

    The Army: Don’t drink this it’s bad for you.

    Proceeds to stock them at every MCT yard in northern Iraq.

  5. Hubb says:

    I prefer my caffeine cold!

  6. Disco says:

    Monster and Marlboro Reds are the very source of my secret and arcane powers.

    I’ve furthermore had to advise people that my hair is the source of my Samson-like super strength

  7. Roy Woodall says:

    I saw this written on the wall of a shitter in Afghanistan…

    “Two Rip-Its + Nyquil + Sudafed = LSD”

  8. JKifer says:

    I find this BS and hypocritical. what about the old salty dog vets that used to get x2 lucky strikes in their C-rats? like previously mentioned; back to back missions, 24 hr duty, QRF….. and don’t you dare fall asleep on a boring ass fucking guard post… or use tobacco or energy drinks, its a joke… when you’re AO is a two way range no one cares about shit like how bad for you energy drinks are..

  9. Tech says:

    just do what my old CSM did (probably still does): mainline pre-workout all day. I’d love to see how the army starts reacting to that.

    scary man, he was…

    for my part, I sustain my activities with black coffee and hate.

  10. Bad Dancer says:

    If God didn’t want us to have rip-its he wouldn’t have made them fit in cargo so well.

    Granted, yeah it’s not the best for ya but until situations or resources changes troops are gonna use what they have to make due with what is demanded of them.

    Four pounds of homemade jerky coated with equal parts espresso beans and cayenne probably aren’t good either but I’d be willing to donate my stash to anyone willing to suffer the interesting consequences of it in a cost/benefit study.

  11. Gerard says:

    Use these to wash down perscription xanx and you’ll howl at the moon

  12. ThisIsWrong says:

    Honestly, reading this makes me really angry. When I was in Afghanistan it was expected to stay awake for extended periods of time. We even had recce missions were a US Sergeant was handing out “Go Pills”. I wasnt even serving in the US armed forces and got some. This was most likely meth aphetamine. I also know why he gave these out, he didnt want anyone not to be at their sharpest when shit went down.

    But those energy drinks, guys. Dont drink them, just ask someone else to do your job when you are tired or report to the nearest officers so he can get a replacement for you. /s

    • Alan says:

      You remember correctly. It was (most likely) “Provigil” or “Nuvigil”. I remember handing the out to several on our CAT-A and some others who ‘needed’ it.Provigil proved very useful for most,with the added benefit being that it wasn’t a ‘schedule’/narcotic drug.

      I still have a shitload that was in my IFAK when I came back. Prescribed it many times, for many Soldiers,be it Combat, or “real world” training deployments. I even ended up getting a prescription for them,because with the Morphine,Oxycodone,Lyrica,Tizanidine and 3 or 4 other meds I get REALLY tired during the day after taking them, so use Provigil to counter that.

      There ARE things other than caffeine to keep Soldiers awake,however, it seems that caffeine STILL works the best on the majority,and-sadly,is much less expensive than above meds.

      Damn expensive tho ($687.00 for 1 month supply)…very glad I have insurance!

  13. Marcus says:

    I joined Big Green for to good pay, good food, great working hours and the ability to catch up on my sleep, said nobody ever.

    Keeping soldiers alert over long periods of sleeplessness is as old as warfare. Command finally recognizes these drinks are bad for your health and are also the cause for the growing cardiac event epidemic, especially with younger groups. I say it’s about time.

  14. bloke_from_ohio says:

    “The CDC reports that service members who drink three or more energy drinks per day were significantly more likely to report sleeping fewer than four hours per night. They were also more likely to report disrupted sleep.”

    Stateside the correlation may make sense, but in theater or during exercises they probably have this at least a little backwards. Folk who don’t sleep, or can’t sleep due to mission requirements, are likely to drink three or more energy drinks a day.

    All that said, this is about 10 years too late.

  15. Tom says:

    Those little bastards called the citrus X were the truth. There were plenty of nights sitting in a blocking position with a mouth full of Copenhagen and putting the citrus X’s away. ??

  16. Buckaroomedic says:

    And yet one can still purchase this stuff at every Exchange, Shoppette and Class-6 in the world . . .

  17. G1E says:

    A few years ago I read a couple of accounts from some MWTC SERE instructors who noticed an increasing amount of the seemingly fittest were dropping out of training after a few days. With their regular doses of supplements no longer available to them during training they were having issues.

  18. Robby D says:

    Those of you whining about the hypocrisy of the Army simultaneously telling you not to go overboard on energy drinks while providing them for free need to exercise some not-so-critical thinking.

    Yeah, when you have to be up for 24 or 36 hours straight, you do what you have to do, which may mean downing a lot of rip-its.

    But does that mean you should drink three Monster tall boys during the day when you are back at garrison? No but lots of Joes do.

    Don’t know why you guys don’t understand this

  19. DJ POLO says:

    You know what else is bad for soldiers, burn pits.

  20. Alan says:

    Jesus,next thing you know, the Army is going to tell me eating lead paint is bad for me.
    Or getting shot by a teeny,tiny little ol’ bullet or something.

    But seriously, as was mentioned, Soldiers need to use common sense. UNFORTUNATELY, common sense is not so common,ESPECIALLY in the Military.

  21. Sean says:

    White monsters and sugar free red bull are the elixir of life.

  22. Bill says:

    As a cop, I’m amazed by the number of people I deal with who are doing various and sundry energy drinks no doubt shoplifted from the nearest stop and rob. Kids these days are too lazy to work out and develop the stamina or strength to pull a strong-arm robbery. Plus it takes a lot of energy to get up at 3:00 PM and wander out to score some heroin.

    I’m eating a Clif Bar while writing this and once twisted my ankle slipping on a mostly empty packet of Gu some rider had thrown on the ground at a bicycle race.

  23. Otto von Remfmeister says:

    Back in the day, we had to make do with X112s bought in Germany, and field coffee made by throwing a tied off green Army sock full of coffee into a giant pot of boiling water. We hoped the sock was new, but would have settled for clean.

    • ALAN says:

      Otto…THAT story was just plain awesome!

      I have never been “Stationed” in Germany, just there for training, but the story itself was pure gold.
      This is one of the few stories I have remembered to check back on after commenting,and I am glad I did.

      Thanks for the laugh!

  24. MixMyOwn says:

    I mean coffee is generally the best. I mix caffeine tablets with water. 100 servings of 200mg caffeine anhydrous tablets are about $6 online. This gives you the ability to cut out the sugar, guarana, and taurine. It also gives you the flexibility to dilute to the appropriate concentration. Only want 100mg, cut the tablet in half. Mix one with powdered gatorade and toss it into a 2L camelbak. Good to go.