Are sugar free energy drinks OK to drink?

Energy drinks have become incredibly popular over the last two decades, with many people turning to them for an energy boost. Sugar free versions of popular energy drinks have emerged as an alternative for those looking to reduce their sugar intake. But are sugar free energy drinks actually OK to drink on a regular basis? Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common questions around sugar free energy drinks.

What are sugar free energy drinks?

Sugar free energy drinks have the same basic ingredients as regular energy drinks – caffeine, vitamins, amino acids, and other stimulants and additives. The main difference is that they contain artificial sweeteners rather than sugar. Common artificial sweeteners used in sugar free energy drinks include aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame potassium (ace-K), and erythritol.

Popular sugar free energy drink options include:

  • Sugar free Red Bull
  • Sugar free Monster
  • Sugar free Rockstar
  • Sugar free NOS
  • Sugar free Amp
  • Sugar free 5-hour Energy

These provide the energy boost and other effects of regular energy drinks without the sugar and calories. But are they actually healthier and safer to consume than the high-sugar versions?

Are sugar free energy drinks healthier than regular energy drinks?

Generally speaking, sugar free energy drinks are seen as a healthier alternative to regular energy drinks when consumed in moderation. Here’s why:

  • They have 0 calories and sugar compared to a regular energy drink’s 27-200+ calories and 25-70+ grams of sugar.
  • The lack of sugar means they do not provide an unhealthy “sugar crash” later on.
  • Non-nutritive sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame have been deemed safe in moderation by health authorities like the FDA and EFSA.

However, sugar free energy drinks still contain caffeine and other stimulants that can affect health in other ways if over-consumed. They are not calorie-free and should not be seen as healthy hydration options.

Do sugar free energy drinks cause weight gain?

There is no direct evidence that sugar free energy drinks cause weight gain. In fact, they are unlikely to affect weight significantly since they contain zero calories and sugar. However, some people theorize that artificial sweeteners may indirectly cause weight gain in various ways, such as:

  • Confusing appetite cues – The sweet taste of artificial sweeteners may make your body expect an accompanying influx of calories. When those calories fail to arrive, it could lead to overeating later.
  • Altering gut bacteria – Artificial sweeteners may feed unhealthy gut bacteria linked to weight gain and other issues.
  • Increasing cravings – The sweet flavor could increase appetite and cravings for sugary foods.

However, these indirect effects are not confirmed and plenty of people consume artificial sweeteners without any weight gain issues. Overall, sugar free energy drinks are very unlikely to directly cause weight gain due to their lack of calories.

Do sugar free energy drinks cause diabetes?

There is no good evidence that sugar free energy drinks can cause diabetes, either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Some key points:

  • They do not contain sugar and therefore do not directly raise blood sugar levels.
  • They do not appear to reduce insulin production or directly damage insulin-producing cells, so are unlikely to contribute to developing type 1 diabetes.
  • Artificial sweeteners have been deemed safe for diabetics in moderation by health authorities.

The American Diabetes Association has stated that using artificial sweeteners like those found in sugar free energy drinks can reduce calorie and carbohydrate intake for diabetics. However, moderation is still important.

Do sugar free energy drinks cause cancer?

Despite lingering health concerns, there is no good evidence that artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose can cause cancer in humans. Health authorities like the National Cancer Institute have evaluated large studies on artificial sweeteners and found no clear link to cancer risk.

A few key points:

  • Animal studies finding a cancer risk with very high artificial sweetener intake do not necessarily translate to humans.
  • Long-term human studies have observed no clear association between consuming common artificial sweeteners and cancer.
  • The FDA and other regulators have evaluated artificial sweetener safety and allow their use.

While more research is welcome, the current evidence does not establish a clear link between artificial sweeteners and higher cancer risk in humans at normal intake levels.

Do sugar free energy drinks cause anxiety?

Sugar free energy drinks can cause anxiety in some people, largely due to their caffeine content. Caffeine is a stimulant that can activate the “fight or flight” response if consumed in excess, causing symptoms like:

  • Nervousness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Shaking

People with anxiety disorders can be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine. Panic attacks or heightened anxiety may be triggered after consuming very high amounts of caffeine from sources like sugar free energy drinks.

Do sugar free energy drinks cause insomnia?

Yes, drinking sugar free energy drinks too late in the day can contribute to insomnia in some people. The main reasons are:

  • Caffeine is a stimulant that can lengthen the time it takes to fall asleep.
  • Caffeine blocks adenosine, a sleep-inducing substance in the brain.
  • Sugar free energy drinks contain high levels of caffeine, often 75-200mg per serving.
  • It can take 6+ hours to metabolize and eliminate all the caffeine from one energy drink serving.

Sensitive individuals may experience sleep disturbances when consuming caffeine within 6 hours of their normal bedtime. Limiting sugar free energy drink intake to the morning and early afternoon is prudent.

Do sugar free energy drinks cause crashes?

Sugar free energy drinks are less likely to cause an energy crash compared to high-sugar energy drinks. However, the caffeine in sugar free energy drinks can still lead to a crash when it wears off. Signs of a caffeine crash can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating

To minimize caffeine crashes, avoid overdoing your intake from sugar free energy drinks and other caffeinated beverages. Limit yourself to 200-300mg of caffeine per day from all sources.

Are sugar free energy drinks hydrating?

No, sugar free energy drinks are not effective for hydrating the body. They have little electrolyte content and contain caffeine, which is a mild diuretic causing increased urine output. Proper hydrating fluids include:

  • Water
  • Unsweetened coconut water
  • Diluted fruit juice
  • Diluted sports drinks
  • Decaf tea
  • Low-fat milk

Sugar free energy drinks may contain up to 200mg of caffeine per serving. Relying on them for hydration could lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances from excessive caffeine-induced urination.

Can children drink sugar free energy drinks?

Health authorities generally recommend against children consuming any energy drinks, whether they contain sugar or are sugar free. The main reasons are:

  • Sensitivity to caffeine – Children are more affected by caffeine’s stimulant properties.
  • Effects on behavior – Sugar free energy drinks may cause hyperactivity, irritability, and trouble concentrating in children.
  • Unknown long-term health effects – Little research exists on energy drinks’ health effects in children.

Giving children sugar free energy drinks to help them focus is not recommended. Caffeine intake should be very minimal for children under 12 years old.

Are sugar free energy drinks safe during pregnancy?

Health authorities like the FDA recommend pregnant women consume no more than 200mg of caffeine per day – an amount easily exceeded with just one sugar free energy drink. Limiting intake is advised because caffeine crosses the placenta and can:

  • Increase heart rate in the fetus
  • Increase cell production in the fetus
  • Affect fetal growth

High caffeine intake during pregnancy may also increase the risk of miscarriage and low birth weight infants. For these reasons, sugar free energy drinks should be avoided or consumed sparingly during pregnancy.

Do sugar free energy drinks damage your teeth?

Unlike high-sugar energy drinks, sugar free varieties are not a significant source of tooth decay and dental damage. However, they are still acidic beverages that could degrade tooth enamel over time with excessive consumption. Potential signs of enamel damage from acidic drinks include:

  • Increased dental sensitivity
  • Yellowing of teeth
  • Cracked or chipped teeth
  • Tooth pain or soreness

Drinking sugar free energy drinks through a straw and limiting contact time with teeth can help minimize acidic effects on enamel. Proper dental hygiene like brushing and flossing also helps counteract tooth damage from any acidic drinks.

Do sugar free energy drinks cause fatty liver?

There is no evidence that sugar free energy drinks alone can directly cause fatty liver disease. However, heavy intake has been theorized to potentially contribute to fatty liver in some indirect ways:

  • Caffeine could increase release of lipids into the bloodstream.
  • Ingredients may dysregulate liver fat metabolism long-term.
  • Artificial sweeteners may alter gut bacteria tied to liver fat accumulation in mice.

However, human studies have not confirmed these indirect links. Overall, heavy sugar free energy drink intake alone is unlikely to directly cause fatty liver disease without other contributing dietary and health factors.

Should people with heart problems drink sugar free energy drinks?

People with heart disease or hypertension should be cautious about consuming sugar free energy drinks regularly due to the high caffeine content. Potential heart-related effects of excessive caffeine intake include:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Altered heart rhythm
  • Increased urination leading to electrolyte imbalances
  • Anxiety triggering heart rhythm changes

Those with heart disease should likely limit caffeine intake to 200mg per day at most. High or excessive use of sugar free energy drinks is not recommended for this population due to caffeine-related effects on the cardiovascular system.

Do sugar free energy drinks affect kidney function?

High intake of sugar free energy drinks may negatively impact the kidneys in those with existing kidney disease. Potential effects include:

  • Increased urination and fluid loss from caffeine.
  • Harmful accumulation of additives like taurine and B vitamins when kidneys are impaired.
  • Increased calcium kidney stone risk from some artificial sweeteners.

However, sugar free energy drinks are unlikely to directly damage healthy kidneys in those without pre-existing renal conditions. But moderation is still advised, along with staying hydrated to dilute caffeine’s effects.

Is it safe to mix alcohol with sugar free energy drinks?

No, combining sugar free energy drinks with alcohol is generally not considered safe. While sugar free versions avoid a dangerous spike in blood sugar, the addition of caffeine can still lead to hazardous effects when mixed with alcohol.

Potential risks include:

  • Masking alcohol impairment effects
  • Increased drinking due to perceived energy boost
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Higher risk of alcohol poisoning
  • Dehydration from urination effects

Both caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, so combining them increases fluid loss. For this reason, health authorities warn against mixing alcohol and energy drinks, whether sugar-filled or sugar free.


When consumed in moderation, sugar free energy drinks can provide an energy boost without unwanted sugar and calories. But excessive intake can cause problems like anxiety, trouble sleeping, caffeine crashes, and other effects from stimulant ingredients.

Sugar free energy drinks are generally healthier than regular high-sugar varieties, but should not be viewed as healthy hydrating beverages. Those sensitive to caffeine or with certain health conditions may want to avoid heavy use.

Overall, sugar free energy drinks are an OK beverage choice for healthy adults in moderation. But restraint is advised, like limiting intake to 1 serving per day and avoiding use late in the day or before bedtime.

Leave a Comment