Energy drinks are often stimulant beverages that provide short term bursts of energy to enhance performance, concentration, mood and brain function. Red Bull and Bang, in particular, have become part of trends and for some individuals, a go-to pick-me-up.
Research indicates a variety of energy drink benefits, such as improvements in energy, performance, mood, and more. Further, some energy drinks prove to be superior health-wise, such as sugar-free, water-based, and vitamin varieties.
Best Energy Drinks
1. VPX Bang Energy Drink
Band Energy boasts 25% of the DRV for vitamin B12, 25% of the DRV for niacin, 50% of the DRV for vitamin C, 25% of the DRV for Vitamin B6, and 2% of the DRV for magnesium as well as being sugar-free and water-based.
Marketed as an energy stimulator and a fat loss aid, Bang Energy Drinks may help users lower their body fat percentage and increase the intensity of their workouts. At 300 milligrams of caffeine per 16 fluid ounce can, the Bang Energy drink delivers a powerful caffeine punch.
2. 5-Hour Energy
This popular energy drink comes in a variety of flavors and caffeine strengths. However, at 200 milligrams of caffeine per 2-ounce shot, the original 5-Hour Energy gives users a quick, effective, crash-free energy boost.
With the caffeine boost of a strong cup of coffee and flavor options like Pink Lemonade and Citrus-Lime, it’s an effective option for individuals seeking their daily hit of caffeine.
3. X-Mode Energy Shots On Tap
X-Mode Energy Shots On Tap give consumers an efficient way to get their caffeine boost. While X-Mode Energy Shots only come in a cherry flavor and lack vitamin content, X-Mode Energy Shots come in an easy-to-use box with a built-in tap akin to boxed wine. The pre-measured bottles allow users to take one- or two-ounce servings, with one ounce offering 150 milligrams of caffeine.
It’s highly recommended that individuals with a caffeine sensitivity stay away from the X-Mode Energy Shots, as it would be easy to consume too much caffeine by accident.
4. Red Bull Original Energy Drink
Red Bull is one of the oldest and best-selling energy drinks to date. Created over 30 years ago in Austria, Red Bull contains 80 milligrams of caffeine–a bit more than the average shot of espresso–and 27 grams of sugar per 8.46 fluid ounce can.
All of the flavor options that have arrived in the years since Red Bull’s beginning have the same amount of caffeine per ounce; but different can sizes will have varying amounts of sugar and caffeine.
5. Rockstar Sugar-Free
Rockstar Sugar-Free provides a potent 160 milligrams of caffeine per 16 fluid ounce can, giving consumers all of the benefits of an energy boost without the drawbacks associated with excessive sugar consumption.
As a water-based and sugar-free energy drink, it is a more health-conscious choice than many brands on the market.
6. Optimum Nutrition Essential AMIN.O. Energy
This is more than a caffeine drink. The O.N. Essential AMIN.O. Energy drink brings the user 160 milligrams of green tea-based caffeine, a tailored amino acid blend to support exercise performance and recovery, and only 10 calories per serving.
Simply mix two scoops with water or with a smoothie to enjoy all of the benefits.
7. Monster Energy
Monster Energy is now the number 2 best-selling energy drink worldwide, second only to Red Bull.
At 160 milligrams of caffeine, the Original flavor 16 fluid ounce serving gives users a satisfying boost, but not so extreme that consuming a Monster Energy drink entails a high risk of caffeine side-effects. However, its sugar content of 54 grams of sugar per 16 fluid ounces is a bit on the hefty side.
8. Redline VPX
This is one of the most powerful energy drinks on the market. Simultaneously, it also has a reputation as a dangerous energy drink option. At a whopping 316 milligrams of caffeine per 8 fluid ounce can, it packs a powerful burst of energy.
If you know your caffeine limits and sensitivity, Redline VPX can be a powerful tool for when you need it most. However, individuals who may be sensitive to caffeine should steer clear of Redline VPX.
9. Nos High-Performance Energy Drink
The Nos High-Performance Energy Drink comes packed with caffeine. Each original Nos High-Performance Energy Drink 22-ounce can boasts 220 milligrams of caffeine and comes in a tasty citrus flavor.
However, the original Nos drink also features a very high sugar content. At 54 grams of sugar per 16 ounces, it definitely gives a sugar rush in addition to the caffeine boost. While it provides an effective caffeine boost, it simply isn’t as health-conscious as other options.
10. V8 Fusion Energy
V8’s Fusion Energy drink provides a juice-based alternative to other popular energy drink options. While it only has 80 milligrams of caffeine per 8 fluid ounce can, it also packs a full serving of fruit and vegetables while only containing 50 calories and no added sugars.
It’s an excellent option for individuals who want a bit of a caffeine boost and who also want to enjoy the health benefits of a plant-based drink.
How We Rank
To rank the energy drinks, we examined several factors. The first and perhaps the most obvious factor is the caffeine content relative to sugar content in these drinks. While caffeine can provide a boost in mood, performance, and energy, a sugar rush is often followed by an energy crash.
For this reason, otherwise effective energy drink options ranked lower on the list due to sugar content. Some options, like Red Bull, have a high ratio of sugar to fluid, but due to serving size, they manage to stay within a healthier range of sugar servings. Thus, while ounce-per-ounce Red Bull has more sugar than Monster Energy, it ranks higher because it supplies less sugar–and less of a sugar crash–per serving.
Another factor we took into consideration was the safety of caffeine. Brands that came with health warnings about their higher caffeine content tended to rank lower on our list.
However, as this is a review of energy drinks, many high-caffeine options found a spot towards the top of the list. This is because of their effectiveness in producing an energy boost. We tried to shy away from ranking products that came with health warnings or had a reputation for causing health problems while giving safe, high-energy products a chance to shine.
When we were deciding on the rank of different energy drinks with high caffeine content, we took other factors into consideration. For example, the VPX Bang Energy Drink placed high on the list, due to its low sugar and relatively high vitamin content. While the X-Mode Energy Shots on tap comes with a warning to consume wisely, the shots’ cost-effective and easy-to-use nature earned X-Mode another high-ranking place on the list.
We also considered the presence of other health benefits. For instance, O.N. Essential AMIN.O. Energy provides benefits to health, exercise, performance, and recovery that go above and beyond the requirements of an average energy drink. Additionally, V8 Fusion Energy gives consumers a plant-based option that boasts a full serving of fruits and vegetables. VPX Bang Energy’s high vitamin content gave it a higher place on the list, as well.
After all this, we determined the top 10 best energy drinks on the market.
1. Energy drinks may temporarily enhance performance and mood. A 2001 review looked at these properties, specifically in Red Bull, one of the most popular energy drinks worldwide. 3 studies observed 6 volunteers and measured their improvements based on “psychomotor performance, subjective alertness, and physical endurance.” Reaction time, immediate memory recall, and concentration variables all improved. In fact, memory and concentration abilities in participants increased by 24% (1).
Another study published in 2004 explored how glucose and caffeine combined in energy drinks contributed to cognitive functioning. 20 participants in the study were instructed to fast overnight. Researchers, then, gave them 250 milliliter energy drinks containing 37.5 grams of glucose and 75 milligrams of caffeine. Assessments were done right before the participants drank the energy drink and were performed 30 minutes after the drink was consumed. Researchers noted significant improvements in secondary memory and speed of attention (2).
A second 2004 study had similar parameters and set-ups to the other two studies above. Participants improved in a rapid visual information processing task. However, the study saw issues with extended mental demand and saw participants fatigue in the long-term (3).
2. Energy drinks may also help reduce feelings of tiredness. A 2011 study looked at Red Bull as an aid for combating sleepiness and impairments when driving from feeling tired. The study involved 24 volunteers. They drove on the highway for 2 hours, and then had a 15-minute break. Within the 15-minute break, participants consumed Red Bull containing caffeine and other anti-fatigue substances or Red Bull without these substances.
They, then, drove another 2 hours. Researchers assessed the weaving of the car, speed, subjective driving quality, and sleepiness. The results showed that Red Bull substantially improved driving performance and decreased driver sleepiness during the long hours of highway driving (4).
A 2002 study conducted a similar test. 12 healthy adults participated in the study. These participants had a sleep restriction of 5 hours the night before to increase their fatigue. After 30 minutes of driving, one group was given the energy drink and the other group was given a control drink. The energy drink group had reduced sleepiness in the first hour and a half of driving. Thus, researchers concluded that energy drinks may reduce sleep-related driving accidents (5).
3. Energy drinks containing high B vitamin content may have various benefits to overall health. Vitamin B12, found in many popular energy drinks, is critical in cell metabolism and energy. It is also useful in DNA synthesis in the body. Vitamin B12 is further thought to help prevent against an array of chronic diseases (6).
Thiamine is crucial for converting carbohydrates to energy (7).
Riboflavin is another common B vitamin found in energy drinks. It is involved in a variety of processes in the body. It further helps with cell function and growth (8).
The body needs B vitamins obtained via the diet for normal and optimal functioning and processes. Energy drinks may offer benefits from these specific vitamins.
4. Sugar, or glucose, in an energy drink may contribute to increased alertness and energy. In a 2007 study in the Nutrition Journal, cited the use of energy drinks by college students for the increase in alertness and energy. However, the study did not indicate whether these effects were coming from sugar or caffeine, although both are thought to play a significant role (9).
However, it is well-known that sugar is the body’s primary source of energy. Therefore, the impact of the high sugar content in energy drinks is very much contributing to the increase in energy and alertness (10).
5. Energy drinks may improve attention and athletic performance. A 2014 article showed significant improvements in upper body strength, endurance, and lower body strength. Yet, other studies outlined in the article also showed no differences in endurance or strength factors (11).
In addition to B vitamins, many energy drinks are loaded with various other nutrients and vitamins. It is thought that these vitamins and nutrients contribute to their positive effects, such as performance and an elevated mood. Many energy drinks also contain taurine, glucuronolactone, and ginseng.
6. Taurine in energy drinks as shown to help with cardiovascular disease. Various literature and research supports the fact that taurine helps prevent cardiovascular disease or problems, it may have antioxidant effects, and it may further have antiatherogenic effects (12)
A 2001 study further explored taurine and its antioxidant properties. Researchers found that taurine may be a viable treatment strategy for oxidative stress, such as that seen in lead poisoning (13).
A 2012 scientific study examined taurine as a protective property against mitochondrial damage. The study also found it was useful in mitochondrial protein synthesis (14).
7. Ginseng found in energy drinks may further improve hyperglycemic conditions in individuals, combat stress, help with the immune response, and provide antioxidative effects. A 2001 observed ginseng supplementation and its link to exercise performance and recovery. 24 healthy female participants were assigned to two different groups, the ginseng receiving group or the placebo group. They took the supplement or placebo once a day for 8 weeks. But this study didn’t find any benefits to ginseng supplementation in exercise performance, indicating that it likely does not have these benefits in energy drink form (15).
Another 2004 study found that ginseng may moderately improve fatigue in some, but not all, individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome (16).
In fact, this may add another ‘energy’ factor to the energy drinks’ overall impact on alertness, sleepiness, and fatigue.
8. Taurine, found in energy drinks, may benefit people with diabetes, potentially lowering blood sugar levels and improving various risk factors for heart disease. Long-term supplementing decreased fasting blood sugar levels in diabetic rats — without any changes in diet or exercise (17).
Interestingly, people with diabetes tend to have lower levels of taurine — another indicator that it may play a role in this disease (22).
In one human study, 12% of participants supplementing with taurine completely eliminated ringing in their ears, which is associated with hearing loss (25).
Taurine is also present in large quantities in your eyes, with research showing that eye problems may occur when these levels start to decline. Increased concentrations are believed to optimize eyesight and eye health (26, 27, 28).
10. Creatine found in energy drinks increases brain function. Research demonstrates that your brain requires a significant amount of ATP when performing difficult tasks (29).
For older individuals, two weeks of supplementing with creatine significantly improved memory and recall ability (31).
In older adults, creatine may boost brain function, protect against neurological diseases and reduce age-related loss of muscle and strength (32).
11. Creatine found in energy drinks increases energy production. Creatine supplements increase your phosphocreatine stores, allowing you to produce more ATP energy to fuel your muscles during high-intensity exercise (33).
During exercise, ATP is broken down to produce energy.
The rate of ATP resynthesis limits your ability to continually perform at maximum intensity — you use ATP faster than you reproduce it.
12. Creatine found in energy drinks reduces fatigue. One study determined that creatine led to reduced fatigue and increased energy levels during sleep deprivation (34).
Creatine can also reduce fatigue in athletes taking a cycling test and has been used to decrease fatigue when exercising in high heat (35).
13 .Caffeine found in energy drinks can help reduce the rate of cognitive failures, diminish depressive symptoms, and lower the risk of suicide.
While it is not beneficial for all who suffer from mental health conditions, some research suggests that it may improve the symptoms of some OCD patients.
14. Caffeine found in energy drinks may help improve memory and memory consolidation (36).
15. Caffeine found in energy drinks is associated with successful weight loss maintenance (37).
16. Caffeine found in energy drinks can promote quicker workout recovery. When athletes ingest both carbohydrates and caffeine after a strenuous workout, their glycogen stores replenished more quickly and effectively than those of athletes who only ingested carbohydrates after a workout (38).
17. Caffeine found in energy drinks can help reduce chronic inflammation (39). Inflammation has been associated with a variety of problems, including chronic pain, autoimmune disease, and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Caffeine is on Harvard Health’s list of foods that fight inflammation and reduce the risks associated with chronic inflammation.
18. Caffeine found in energy drinks can help your post-workout aches and pains. Aссording to a study conducted by the University of Georgia, a moderate dose of caffeine can relieve post-workout muscle pain by up to 48% (40).
19. Caffeine found in energy drinks may stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Some studies suggest that caffeine might help to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s, but further studies are needed (41).
These studies posit that caffeine may help enhance memory consolidation. Caffeine’s association with lowering inflammation may also play an important role in preventing and treating dementia.
1. May experience fatigue in extended time periods requiring high cognitive demand (42).
2. One 2006 study concluded that while energy drinks may help initially in shift workers, it can negatively affect worker performance and cognitive functioning over longer durations, such as their next shift or later in the week (43).
3. A 2014 study suggested that some types of energy drinks may increase the risk of heart problems and disease. As such, youth and younger adults are cautioned when it comes to energy drink consumption, with or without drug and alcohol use (44).
4. Energy drink consumption may cause insomnia, headaches, a fast heart rate, nervousness, and seizures.
5. Energy drinks may also interact with specific prescription medication, alcohol, and drugs. If you are on prescribed medication, it’s advised to not consume energy drinks (45).
Some caffeine interacts with medications such as ephedrine (major interaction), antibiotics (moderate interaction), stimulant drugs (moderate interaction), cimetidine (moderate interaction), adenosine (moderate interaction), estrogens (moderate interaction), and anticoagulant and antiplatelet medications (moderate interaction). This is not an exhaustive list, but it goes to show how much caffeine can affect your body.
6. Energy drinks may cause blood sugar spikes. Therefore, it is cautioned against taking them if you have blood sugar problems or diabetes. These blood sugar spikes may lead to increased oxidative stress, as well as inflammation. Consequently, they may contribute to various life-threatening diseases (46).
To counteract this effect, either stick with low-sugar energy drinks or be sure to balance energy drink consumption with protein, high-fiber foods, and low-glycemic, whole-grain foods for a sustained energy source.
7. Drinking certain high-sugar containing energy drinks may increase your risk of diabetes. Energy drinks have been linked to high sugar intake and BMI among teens (47). Additionally, high-sugar drinks are processed through the body in a manner different from high-sugar or high-carbohydrate foods. While some sugar in foods is fine, the human body does not perceive calories in drinks in the same way it perceives and gauges calories in solid food.
This means that calories consumed in energy drinks can fly under the radar. While every individual has their own, individual caloric needs, and while energy drinks can be part of a balanced lifestyle, it’s important to eat solid foods that give the body a natural feeling of fullness and satiety (48).
8. Caffeine toxicity and other adverse effects may also occur when consuming energy drinks regularly (49).
9. Some energy drinks may dehydrate the body. Make sure you rehydrate with water when consuming.
Symptoms of mild-to-moderate caffeine toxicity include irritability, fever, headache, nausea, increased thirst, insomnia, dizziness, and diarrhea. Severe symptoms that warrant immediate, emergency medical attention include hallucinations, difficulty breathing, vomiting, confusion, chest pain, a fast or irregular heartbeat, convulsions, or uncontrollable muscle movements (50).
10. Excessive caffeine consumption may cause a rapid heartbeat, diarrhea, fever, and more. Monitor your caffeine intake and try not to exceed 400 milligrams per day.
11. Some experts claim in may increase your risk of cancer (51).
12. It has also been put forth that energy drinks may possibly contribute to male infertility issues.
Contrary to popular belief, caffeine does not “sober you up,” nor does it change how the liver metabolizes alcohol. On the contrary, as a diuretic, caffeine can compound the dehydrating effects of alcohol, leading to greater health risks and intoxication (52).
13. Mixing energy drinks and alcohol has serious health risks.
14. The stimulating effects of caffeine in energy drinks can override the depressive effects of alcohol. This can leave you feeling less intoxicated while still experiencing alcohol-related impairments. This combination can be very troubling. People who ingest energy drinks with alcohol tend to report heavier alcohol consumption. They’re also more likely to drink and drive, and suffer from alcohol-related injuries (53).
Furthermore, one study of 403 young Australian adults showed that people were nearly six times more likely to experience heart palpitations when they drank energy drinks mixed with alcohol compared to when they drank alcohol alone (54).
The recommended daily intake (RDI) for vitamin B12 for people over 14 is 2.4 mcg (55).
However, you may want to take more or less, depending on your age, lifestyle and specific situation. Note that the percent of vitamin B12 your body can absorb from supplements is not very high. It’s estimated that your body only absorbs 10 mcg of a 500-mcg B12 supplement.
Most of the health concerns involving energy drinks center on their caffeine content. Importantly, it is generally recommended that adults consume no more than 400 mg of caffeine per day – which usually equals to about 2 or 3 energy drinks maximum in 24 hours.
The most common dosages of taurine are 500–2,000 mg per day. However, the upper limit for toxicity is much higher — even doses above 2,000 mg seem to be well tolerated. While some studies may use a higher dose for short periods, 3,000 mg per day will help you maximize the benefits while staying within a safe range (56).
Creatine dosing is usually set at around 5g/day for most people. However, most use a short-term “loading dose” followed by a long-term maintenance dose of 5g. Loading doses are typically 20 grams daily for 4-7 days.
Any type of energy drink should not be consumed by children or teenagers (57).
What do energy drinks do to your body? For healthy adults, caffeine consumption is generally safe. However, for vulnerable populations, caffeine may cause health problems or exacerbate existing health conditions. Large amounts of caffeine may cause serious heart and blood vessel problems such as heart rhythm disturbances and increases in heart rate and blood pressure. Some individuals tolerate caffeine better than others, so be sure to speak with your doctor about any concerns you may have.
Is caffeine considered a drug? Caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive drug in the world. It’s found in chocolate, tea, coffee, and, of course, energy drinks (58).
Does caffeine relieve pain? Caffeine is a common ingredient in many over-the-counter pain medications. This is due to its anti-inflammatory, vasoconstricting effects, which in turn complement analgesics. It has several other medical applications, including enhancing electroconvulsive therapy, treating respiratory depression in neonates, enhancing low blood pressure medication, and complementing weight loss supplements.
Which groups are the most vulnerable to caffeine side effects? Children, adolescents, young adults, individuals with heart problems, individuals with mental illness, pregnant women, and lactating women are the most vulnerable to the effects of caffeine (59).
Do energy drinks contain bull sperm? Many people bet it comes from some delicate parts of the strongest and most potent bulls in the world, but the truth is that the taurine in Red Bull is produced synthetically by pharmaceutical companies, which guarantees highest quality standards.
How do you treat low energy? To keep your energy levels more stable and reduce fatigue, try avoiding foods high in added sugar. You can improve the quality of your diet by eating whole and fiber-rich foods such as whole grains, vegetables and legumes.
These foods are nutrient-dense and can help slow the absorption of your food, giving you a slower, more sustained release of energy. Additionally, try to get enough sleep each night. The average adult requires 6-8 hours of sleep each night, with adolescents requiring even more.
Why is my energy so low? Many men feel tired and overwhelmed each day, especially with the busy lives that many people lead. Lifestyle factors can cause low energy levels, such as sleep patterns, exercise, and diet. Medical conditions, such as low testosterone and sleep apnea, can also cause low energy levels in men.
Why do I feel so tired all the time? Iron deficiency is thought to be a contributor to chronic fatigue. When you have too little hemoglobin or not enough red blood cells, your body doesn’t get enough oxygen so you feel tired or weak.
Caffeine may help improve focus and performance, but it’s crucial to balance caffeine intake with a healthy lifestyle and regular physical check-ups. If you find that your fatigue persists, seek the advice of a medical professional.
Do energy drinks contain bull sperm? Many people believe the myth that the energy components in energy drinks come from some delicate parts of the strongest and most potent bulls in the world. The truth is that the taurine in Red Bull is produced synthetically by pharmaceutical companies, which guarantees the highest quality standards.
Does b12 help with energy? Vitamin B12 may benefit your body in impressive ways, such as boosting your energy, improving your memory and helping prevent heart disease.
Why am I sleeping all the time? While there are many possible causes of extreme daytime sleepiness including dietary deficiencies, depression, diabetes, anemia, or thyroid problems, chronic daytime fatigue can very likely be caused by a sleep disorder.
In rare cases, some people are diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Consult with your doctor if you are experiencing severe fatigue throughout your day.
Are energy drinks healthy? Energy drinks can deliver on some of their promised benefits by increasing brain function and helping you function when you’re tired or sleep-deprived. However, there are a number of health concerns with energy drinks, particularly related to excessive caffeine intake, sugar content and mixing them with alcohol.
Are v8 energy drinks healthy? V8 Energy Drink is V8’s attempt at a healthy, juice-based energy drink. They have a few different variations, but all flavors have the same amount of caffeine per can. This energy drink provides a full serving of fruit and vegetables while having just 50 calories.
What happens when you drink energy drinks every day? One serious side effect of the daily consumption of energy drinks is caffeine overdose. More serious symptoms of acute caffeine toxicity include tremors, tachycardia or rapid heart rate, psychomotor agitation, high blood pressure, heart palpitations, dizziness, numbness and fainting. In rare cases, death has resulted from drinking too much caffeine.
What happens when you mix alcohol and energy drinks? This can lead to over-intoxication and risk for alcohol poisoning. Mixing energy drinks with alcohol also lead to increase rates of drunk driving. A recent study found that those who consumed both caffeine and alcohol were more likely to still get behind the wheel than those who just consumed alcohol alone.
Are energy drinks worse than alcohol? Science finds drinking alcohol and energy drinks has the same effect as taking cocaine. Mixing energy drinks like Red Bull with spirits may cause permanent damage to adolescent brains. Energy drinks, like Red Bull and Monster, contain as much as ten times the caffeine as soft drinks and are often marketed to teenagers.
Are caffeinated alcoholic beverages illegal? Yes, pre-mixed energy alcohol drinks are effectively banned by the FDA as they are deemed unsafe.
Energy drinks have various benefits as explored above. However, long-term consumption is not recommended due to the risks and side effects associated with many of them. But drinking one energy drink on occasion is unlikely to cause harm or damage.
It should be noted that there are more healthy energy drinks containing fewer additives or chemicals and more all-natural ingredients. Sugar-free options also exist.
Before consuming, make sure you know the health risks involved. Pregnant, breastfeeding women, children, and teens are advised to avoid consuming these drinks. If you’re concerned about interactions with medications, make sure to ask your doctor about your individual risk factors.
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