What to Know About Mixing Caffeine and Alcohol
Here's why you may feel a boost of energy after an espresso martini.
On a recent trip to Mexico City for work, I suggested that my colleagues and I grab some espressos after a long day. I stopped drinking alcohol a while ago, so I had a double espresso while everyone else had espresso with a liquor that our host swore would keep them going for the rest of the day. They all reported being jolted with energy after just one. Our host claimed that if you really wanted to have a good time you would drink three of those liquor infused coffees and be set for the next two days.
Espresso martinis, Red Bull vodka, and having a coffee after a glass of wine with dinner are all common. However, many of us don’t consider the effects of consuming alcohol and caffeine together. Sure, you may feel an energy boost, but it’s not the same kind of boost you would get from drinking caffeine on its own. So, is drinking alcohol and caffeine together safe?
I gave up alcohol because it caused palpitations, and induced panic attacks for me, so the thought of combining coffee and alcohol seems like something my most supreme nightmare would be made of. As I started reading labels on some of these commercially marketed caffeinated alcoholic drinks upon my arrival back to the U.S, I decided to do some research in order to find out if these drinks are a safe way to enjoy a boost of energy before partying or something to be avoided altogether. Spoiler: Caffeinated alcoholic drinks are not for everyone. Keep reading to find out more.
You May Feel More Energized
Alcohol is a depressant, which is why the day after a night of heavy drinking many people are hungover, stuck in their feelings and potentially pondering the meaning of life. Caffeine, however, has a stimulating effect that leads to increased energy and alertness, even for short periods of time. Many of these commercially caffeinated alcoholic beverages not only had caffeine, but other stimulants in pretty high amounts, suggesting that you would likely feel energized after drinking one.
It May Lead to Heightened Anxiety
While there isn’t much research on consuming alcohol and caffeine together, we do know that both alcohol and caffeine can raise your blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to increased risk of stroke, heart attacks, and irregular heartbeats. People who are sensitive to stimulants might want to think twice before mixing caffeine and alcohol. Alcohol immediately relaxes you, but your body works hard to metabolize it and the aftermath can be anxiety-inducing. Couple that with copious amounts of caffeine, which can heighten anxiety, and you could be asking for trouble.
It Can Lead to Binge Drinking
Even though a Red Bull vodka appears to be giving you more energy, these caffeinated alcoholic drinks actually just mask the depressant effects of alcohol. These drinks usually contain higher amounts of alcohol than other beverages, and because you don’t feel sluggish right away, many people end up binge drinking after consuming them. (Binge drinking can also lead to binge eating due to lowered inhibitions.)
Want to have an espresso after having some wine? No problem. But proceed with caution if you’re mixing alcohol and caffeine and having more than one caffeinated alcoholic drink.
Vanessa Rissetto received her MS in Marketing at NYU and completed her Dietetic Internship at Mount Sinai Hospital where she worked as a Senior Dietitian for five years. She is the co-founder of Culina Health and is certified in Adult Weight Management (Levels I & II) by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the founder of Culina Health. Her work in private practice also includes treatment of GI disorders, bariatric surgery, weight management, PCOS, and family nutrition. She loves helping clients take an active role in their health journey, motivating them and ensuring that they always achieve success. Vanessa was named by one of the top 5 black nutritionists that will change the way you think about food by Essence magazine. Vanessa lives in Hoboken NJ with her husband, two kids and their new goldendoodle Freddie. An exercise enthusiast, she is always up for a class as long as it's after she rides her Peloton.
*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.