Turbulent wall-bounded flows exhibit a wide range of regimes with significant interaction between scales. The fluid dynamics associated with single-phase channel flows is predominantly characterized by the Reynolds number. Meanwhile, vastly different behaviour exists in particle-laden channel flows, even at a fixed Reynolds number. Vertical turbulent channel flows seeded with a low concentration of inertial particles are known to exhibit segregation in the particle distribution without significant modification to the underlying turbulent kinetic energy (TKE). At moderate (but still low) concentrations, enhancement or attenuation of fluid-phase TKE results from increased dissipation and wakes past individual particles. Recent studies have shown that denser suspensions significantly alter the two-phase dynamics, where the majority of TKE is generated by interphase coupling (i.e. drag) between the carrier gas and clusters of particles that fall near the channel wall. In the present study, a series of simulations of vertical particle-laden channel flows with increasing mass loading is conducted to analyse the transition from the dilute limit where classical mean-shear production is primarily responsible for generating fluid-phase TKE to high-mass-loading suspensions dominated by drag production. Eulerian–Lagrangian simulations are performed for a wide range of particle loadings at two values of the Stokes number, and the corresponding two-phase energy balances are reported to identify the mechanisms responsible for the observed transition.