BACKGROUND There are popular reports on the combined use of alcohol and energy drinks (such as Red Bull and similar beverages, which contain caffeine, taurine, carbohydrates, etc.) to reduce the depressant effects of alcohol on central nervous system, but no controlled studies have been performed. The main purpose of this study was to verify the effects of alcohol, and alcohol combined with energy drink, on the performance of volunteers in a maximal effort test (cycle ergometer) and also on physiological indicators (oxygen uptake, ventilatory threshold, respiratory exchange rate, heart rate, and blood pressure), biochemical variables (glucose, lactate, insulin, cortisol, ACTH, dopamine, noradrenaline, and adrenaline), and blood alcohol levels. METHODS Fourteen healthy subjects completed a double-blind protocol made up of four sessions: control (water), alcohol (1.0 g/kg), energy drink (3.57 ml/kg Red Bull), and alcohol + energy drink, each 1 week apart. The effort test began 60 min after drug or control ingestion, and the dependent variables were measured until 60 min after the test. RESULTS Heart rate at the ventilatory threshold was higher in the alcohol and alcohol + energy drink sessions in comparison with control and energy drink sessions. Although in comparison to the control session, the peak oxygen uptake was 5.0% smaller after alcohol ingestion, 1.4% smaller after energy drink, and 2.7% smaller after the combined ingestion, no significant differences were detected. Lactate levels (30 min after drug ingestion, 30 and 60 min after the effort test) and noradrenaline levels (30 min after the effort test) were higher in the alcohol and alcohol + energy drink sessions compared with the control session. CONCLUSIONS The performance in the maximal effort test observed after alcohol + energy drink ingestion was similar to that observed after alcohol only. No significant differences between alcohol and alcohol + energy drink were detected in the physiological and biochemical parameters analyzed. Our findings suggest that energy drinks, at least in the tested doses, did not improve performance or reduce alterations induced by acute alcohol ingestion.