Caffeine is mainly used in sports supplements and energy drinks. Energy drinks provide instant energy along with mental and physical stimulation and contain caffeine per definition. Sports supplements replace electrolytes, nutrients, support mental and physical performance as well as recovery. Caffeine is one of the frequently used ingredient in sports nutrition.

The global energy drink market is indicated to grow at a CAGR of 7.2%, reaching $86 billion by 2026 (Ref 1). The global sports supplement market is said to grow at a CAGR of 5%, reaching $10.6 billion by 2026 (Ref 2).

Both markets follow comparable trends:

  • Lifestyle user: Consumers are looking for nutritional support to boost physical and mental performance as well as emotional wellbeing. Some buy sports nutrition products others try energy drinks. The party drink image of energy drink, as alcoholic night drink for teenagers, is shifting to performance enhancing drinks for adults. Increased income levels and living standards lead to significant more consumers in China and India.
  • Gamer – esports: The gaming industry is a lucrative space, for energy drinks and sports nutrition products. Boost focus, fast reaction, demolish stress and good vision are important for gamer, which are mainly millennial and gen Z consumers. Key markets are the U.S., China, South Korea, France, Russia, and Brazil. 80% of gamers consume food and drinks while playing. 26% of gamers in APAC consume energy drinks regularly. China and India being the biggest market.
  • Caffeine reduction: Caffeine benefits are as known as the health risk related to excessive caffeine-use, due to media reports and governmental policies. Consequently, consumers are looking for products providing effects, based on healthy caffeine levels plus natural booster ingredients, caffeine synergizer.
  • Health effects & appealing formats: Both markets are shifting to innovative delivery formats. Energy gels and gummies to boost endurance are on high demand. Sports nutrition brands launch cookies with high nutritional value. The markets are merging. There are e.g. energy drinks to boost immune and mental benefits or RTD energy powder for muscle recovery.


Caffeine: Caffeine is probably the most commonly used psychoactive substance in the world. It has immediate effects on performance and alertness, campaigned by rising heart beat and breathing – some love the feeling, called caffeine rush, some are afraid of getting a heart attack.

Caffeine consumption: Caffeine is a naturally occurring chemical compound found in plant constituents such as coffee or tea leaves, and has a long history of human consumption. It is added to a variety of foods, such as baked pastries, ice creams, sweets, and cola drinks. In Europe coffee is the predominant source of caffeine for adults, contributing between 40% and 94% of total intake. A typical cup of black coffee contains approximately 80-100mg caffeine. In addition, chocolate and chocolate drinks are the predominant sources of caffeine for children aged 3 to 10 years, followed by tea and cola drinks (Ref 3).

EFSA reported the following ranges of caffeine intake within member states:

  • Very elderly (75 years and above): 22-417 mg
  • Elderly (65-75 years): 23-362 mg
  • Adults (18-65 years): 37-319 mg

The intake in the US is in average lower, reaching highest average daily intake at an age of 50-64 years of 225mg (Ref 4).

Caffeine Regulation: Moderate intake defined by European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in Europe as well as by Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S. means approx. 400 mg Caffeine per day (Ref 3). This amount includes all different sources and a single serving should not exceed 200 mg. By drinking several cups of coffee every day, caffeinated teas, energy drinks, eating chocolates and maybe taking pain medications, it is easy to hit the maximum recommended amount without realizing it. To protect consumers, label requirements and limits for caffeine depending on food matrix and positioning were set. In Australia energy drinks need to contain minimum 145 mg/L and maximum 329 mg/L. A typical canned energy drink of 250 ml has 80 mg caffeine, which is equivalent to an average cup of instant coffee (Ref 5).



The international society of sports nutrition published a review paper about caffeine & exercise performance(Ref 6). The key findings are that energy drinks and pre-workout products, containing caffeine, have been demonstrated to enhance both anaerobic and aerobic performance. Caffeine may be ergogenic for cognitive function, including attention and vigilance. Caffeine supplementation is commonly taken 60 min pre-exercise. Sleep disturbance and anxiety, associated with caffeine ingestion, are dose-dependent. The effective dosage for caffeine to be ergogenic is 3–6 mg/kg body mass.

The given minimum dosage is in line with the EFSA panel which considered that in order to obtain the claimed effect, caffeine should be consumed at doses of 3 mg/kg body weight one hour prior to exercise (Ref 7). Approved EFSA claims for caffeine are, “improves or increases endurance performance”, “improves strength performance”, or “improves short-term performance”. However, 3 mg/kg body weight calculates to a dosage of 210 mg/serving for a human having an average weight of 70 kg, which is already slightly out of the recommended safe dosage of 200 mg per serving.

Recently, a group of researchers in Spain published an article in Molecules about caffeine health claims on sports supplement labeling. A descriptive cross-sectional study of a 42 samples of caffeine supplements was carried out. In order to assess correctness of the health claims, the guidelines of reference established by EFSA were compared to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, International Olympic Committee, and Australian Institute of Sport guidelines. They found out that less than 3% of the products followed the health claim directive and the recommendations quantity of caffeine (Ref 8).


Consumers take energy drinks to give them an extra boost of power. Sports nutrition products, particularly pre-workout supplements, contain also stimulants, as people want to “feel” the energy right before their workout. Most consumers may not be able to differentiate if the product provides a physical or a mental boost. In fact, different mode of action may lift the feeling of energy, including mental aspects like alertness and physical aspects like endurance.

Caffeine, for example, improves mental performance and also increases sympatric nerve activity and blood pressure, given the physical aspect and the so called rush. Besides natural caffeine alternatives, like guarana extract, so-called caffeine-synergizer or caffeine-amplifier (Ref 9, 10) provide quick mental performance, via modulating neurotransmitter supporting focus and fast-reaction. They provides perceptible effects within one hour after intake, which are still measurable after some hours. For physical power, they are best combined with natural ingredients supporting NO release. NO (nitric oxide) is a simple molecule, which dilates blood vessels and functions oxygen flow in our body, which we recognized as feeling more powerful and active. NO can be triggered by natural supply of NO, e.g. with beets powder, NO donators, like e.g. amino acids as L-Arginine, or NO release supporter like mango or cacoa powder (Ref 11, 12, 13).


Caffeine is an important lifestyle ingredient, which has been consumed for centuries and who wants to give up the morning coffee. Nevertheless, it is good to recall, that we should be careful monitoring our consumption and select products which naturally boost the caffeine-like effects.