Energy drinks have been with us for a while now and, to the surprise of many, have proven to be much more than just a trendy flash in the pan. They’re here to stay and are produced by an ever growing number of companies to appeal to an ever growing number of energy-deprived consumers.
Below we take a look at the 10 best energy drinks for 2020 then follow up with a review of the various issues that continue to swirl around energy drinks in spite of (or perhaps because of) their popularity.
- VPX Bang, Blue Razz
VPX Bang contains no harmful chemicals or colors and most of all, no sugar. Unlike most energy drinks that provide pop by jacking blood sugar levels VPX Bang harnesses the power of creatine, branched chain amino acids and caffeine to get you up and at it without sending you into diabetic shock. The thoughtful combination of natural ingredients and hyper effective compounds creates a drink that’s more than the sum of its parts and more effective than any sugar free energy drink has a right to be.
- Street King 6 Hours of Energy Drink
SK Energy Drink Shots provide 6 hours of power for the energetically inclined. It’s not your daddy’s energy drink as it contains a proprietary combination of green tea extracts, amino acids, caffeine, B vitamins and more. Like a lot of the more health-aware energy drinks today this one eschew sugar in favor of an artificial sweetener. In this case sucralose. You’re certain to get that much needed energy boost but chances are it’s going to slowly envelope you, rather than knocking you out of your chair like sugar heavy energy drinks can.
- NOS High Performance Energy Drink – Grape
NOS makes no bones about the fact that they intend to keep you awake and alert. And by gum they do just that like few other energy drinks on the market. If you’re a long haul trucker on a tight schedule don’t risk falling asleep behind the wheel, try NOS instead. You can sleep after you unload. NOS achieve their incredible energy boost by way of the 260 mg of caffeine. They also include plenty of sugar. All in all it’s like grape soda infused with lightning and will keep you on task until the task is done.
- Red Bull Energy Drink 24 Pack
Everybody on earth knows Red Bull by now but fortunately the company has not been spoiled by success. They continue to produce one of the all-time great energy drinks using a simple formula that includes caffeine, sugar, taurine and an assortment of B-vitamins. Each can provides about as much caffeine as a cup of coffee with considerably more sugar than you probably put in your joe. Not to worry though, for the health conscious there’s also a sugar free version that will still get you going, but perhaps not to the degree as their proven original formula.
- Rockstar Sugar Free Energy Drink
Rockstar Sugar Free employs a powerful combination of caffeine, B vitamins, Guarana, Ginkgo, Ginseng and more to motivate your motor neurons in the healthiest possible way. Rockstar isn’t going to cause you to leap from your seat like some sugar based energy drinks but you’ll notice that once you engage in a task your energy levels don’t seem to wane the way they used to. You’ll stay awake and alert in a non-jittery way that’s pleasant instead of overbearing.
- Monster Energy Drink Original
Monster has been around almost as long as Red Bull and is almost as well-known. Although it’s also available in sugar free formulations these days the original formula is hard to beat. If you’re balling with your buds and need something to see you through Monster’s for you. If you’re studying for a final however, Monster will still help, but you’d be wise to drink it at a more measured pace. Monster contains sugar, B-vitamins, caffeine, ginseng and amino acids and will drop more than 200 calories on you. So it’s also good to have some way to burn those off.
- Zipfizz Healthy Energy Drink Mix
Zipfizz combines the kick of the best energy drinks with the rejuvenating qualities of electrolytes. As such it will get you going and keep you from cramping as you go about your chosen activity. There are the usual energy drink suspects involved here in the form of caffeine (about 100mg), amino acids, B-vitamins, Vitamin C and more along with the aforementioned electrolytes so it’s going to get you up and keep you up. All without a nasty sugar buzz, because it’s also sugar free.
- Living Essentials 5-Hour Energy
This 5 hour energy boost from Living Essentials doesn’t mess around. Instead of the energy slowly building you get hooked up straight to the jumper cables. These 2 oz energy shots are actually a cut above in the taste department, and that’s good news for those who need the occasional shot in the arm but hesitate because they don’t like the taste. Make no mistake though, you’re going to get a heapin’ helpin’ of caffeine, nutrients and B-vitamins in every shot. What you won’t get is sugar. One good reason to consider Living Essentials over other shots.
- CytoSport Fast Twitch RTD
If you need a serious shot of energy look no further than CytoSport Fast Twitch RTD. Fast Twitch contains an impressive 200 mg of caffeine. Enough to get you properly pumped before you hit the weights, (CytoSport is known for their weightlifting-related products like Muscle Milk). Fast Twitch contains the usual energy drink suspects but adds L-citrulline, L-arginine and other oxide boosting ingredients that lifters find useful. With so much caffeine on tap however the wise exercise moderation when consuming Fast Twitch.
- AMP Energy Boost Original
Our final entry on this list of best energy drinks for 2018 is AMP Energy Boost Original. If you’re looking for an energy drink with low calories and caffeine levels this isn’t it. AMP Energy Original contain 150 mg of caffeine and enough sugar to get you rockin’ and rollin’. Which is great if you’re heading up the mountain pass on your bicycle. Curiously, AMP Energy Original is light on the B-Vitamins. We’re not sure why but that doesn’t take away from the fact that this energy drink will likely provide all the energy you need for whatever the task at hand.
A Closer Look at the Issues Surrounding Energy Drinks
If you’ve ever felt exhausted only to pop open a can of energy and breeze through the next couple of hours you know what I mean.
However, are we really trading our souls, and our health, for a simple short term boost of energy?
With a good majority of Americans and others worldwide now regularly drinking energy drinks, it’s time to review the literature on the subject once and for all. If you regularly drink energy drinks and depend on them to power through your busy day, we suggest you put down your can of Red Bull (or whatever energy drink you choose) until you read fact 23!
1. Energy drinks and alcohol don’t get you “more drunk”
There’s a growing trend of consuming energy drinks with alcohol, Vodka Redbull anyone? One study researched the effects of drinking these two beverages in combination. The study found that drinking energy drinks with alcohol can influence the side effects of drinking alcohol (1).
Many of the adverse symptoms stemming from alcohol consumption were significantly reduced by pairing booze with energy drinks.
However, blood alcohol content was not affected. This is bittersweet though because if you drink responsibly you’ll be able to enjoy your buzz without any clumsiness. However, if you over-do it you might drink too much and make poor food choices, be hung over, and suffer other detrimental effects of excessive alcohol intake.
2. Energy drinks seem to have MORE side effects for Caucasians
One study examining the effects of energy drinks noticed that the adverse side effects of energy drinks are disproportionately felt by races (2). The study concluded that whites are much more likely to see the harmful effects of energy drinks on their health when compared to other races.
However, this may come with a caveat, as the study didn’t mention if this were due to race or if it were due to a higher percentage of energy drink consumers among whites. Whatever the reason, the correlation between the two bears further examining and should raise a few flags.
3. Caffeine toxicity is a real issue
Energy drinks aren’t known for being healthy and here’s why:
The high amounts of caffeine in energy drinks lead to several health problems and complications, one of which is caffeine toxicity.
Caffeine toxicity is basically an overdose on caffeine and can lead to a variety of very serious health problems such as increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, twitching, and more. Just imagine chugging a coffee cup of expresso! Here’s the scary part: one study found that the rate of caffeine toxicity is increasing (3).
4. Energy drinks can be your one-way ticket to the emergency room
Getting to the meat of the matter in an argument against energy drinks, it must be noted that several studies have indicated a link between energy drinks and serious and sometimes-fatal health complications arising from the consumption of them.
A study of energy drinkers in Australia over the past seven years found that at least 128 people required hospitalization from energy drink use, and that twenty-one showed signs of serious cardiac and neurological problems. (4). Other studies have shown that children are especially at risk of being negatively affected by energy drink consumption (5). According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) emergency room visits due to energy drinks doubled for both men AND women from 2007 to 2011 (6).
5. Energy drinks are addictive
Because most cases of adverse side effects from energy drinks come from those who consume them regularly, it’s alarming that the rate of dependence on energy drinks is rising (7). With increasing dependence on energy drinks, we can expect to see a rise in the harmful effects of energy-drink consumption, leading to great concerns for consumer health. Because most people are not aware of how dangerous energy drinks really are, this is disconcerting, as they are likely to not associate their health problems with energy drinks. As a result, we have a growing group of energy drink addicts!
6. Energy drink claims often go unregulated.
Because of their harmful nature, energy drinks are regulated and do come with warning labels in some countries (8). However, this is not the case in the United States—where the energy-drink market remains largely unregulated.
This lack of regulation has seen caffeine content in energy drinks reach a staggering 505 mg of caffeine per can or bottle. This contributes to the dangers of energy-drink consumption, as consumers are not made aware of the dangerous amounts of caffeine that they are ingesting. Though we are not arguing one way or the other for the regulation of energy drinks, we are noting that other products that cause similar health problems (alcohol, tobacco products, etc.) do warn consumers about what they’re actually getting.
7. Energy drinks can act as a gateway stimulant.
One of the other major concerns with energy drinks is that they have been identified as a gateway to other kinds of substances and even drugs (9).
Though this may seem like a stretch, it’s worth noting that caffeine dependence is an addiction like any other and that increases in caffeine consumption can lead to risky behavior. Because of all of this, energy drinks may be seen as a gateway between a “non-serious” drink to prohibited drugs. In fact, in 2011 42% of trips to the Emergency Room due to energy drinks involved other drugs as well (10).
8. Energy Drinks ironically reduce blood flow in the body
Studies have found that the consumption of energy drinks negatively influences endothelial function (11). Never heard of your endothelial?
That’s okay. Here’s what you need to know: your endothelial plays an important role in your blood vessels and in your cardiovascular system, and by harming it with energy drinks, you place yourself at risk for other cardiac troubles. This makes energy drinks dangerous even for healthy individuals but especially for those who are at greater risk of heart disease or who are already suffering from heart disease.
9. Alcohol and energy drinks greatly influence poor decision making.
We talked briefly about how consuming energy drinks and alcohol together seems to alter one’s state and response to alcohol. And, while that may sound like a good thing, studies suggest that it’s not. With fewer signs of drunkenness you’re likely to drink MORE alcohol and do some damage.
In fact, one study suggests that it increases the probability of engaging in risky behavior and is a major downside of drinking the two beverages in combination (12). This makes consuming the two together not a smart choice, despite a growing trend in college students to mix energy drinks and alcohol.
10. Energy drinks seem to affect males more.
Not surprisingly, the consumption of energy drinks is split along gender lines, with males being more likely to consume them (13). In fact, males were more than twice as likely to have consumed an energy drink than females. This places males at an increased risk of being affected by energy drinks and of shouldering serious health consequences because of it. Male readers, in particular, should take steps to curb not only their consumption of energy drinks but to also spread the word for others so that the rates of consumption by males falls.
11. Energy drinks fuel risky alpha behaviour in men.
This same study links the consumption of energy drinks to perceptions of masculinity (14). The study references “toxic jock identity” and its tendency to make males engage in risky behavior in order to maintain their masculine image.
This includes taking risks in sports and in other areas so that they don’t have to suffer a blow to their masculine pride.
The author of the study includes the consumption of energy drinks in with the increased risks that males take in order to look more “manly.” This intricately ties energy drink consumption to the male identity and a male’s likelihood to take risks. Even if you don’t buy this link, it’s important to note that energy drinks can cause an increase in risky behavior—for males and females—and that this is higher in men than in women.
12. Energy drinks enhance mental focus.
Despite all of this, it’s worth checking to see if energy drinks are effective at doing what they claim they do: waking you up, giving you energy, and allowing you to get done what you need to get done. In this regard, one study found that energy drinks may have value (15).
The study noted that those who consumed energy drinks exhibited greater mental performance than those who did not. Mental performance, according to the study, was defined and measured by categories such as memory, reaction time, and concentration.
With significant improvements seen in these categories, energy drinks appear to have some value in doing what they claim; however, one should always be aware of the addictive nature of energy drinks and of the dangers of consuming so much caffeine.
13. Energy drinks increase your stamina.
The same study also found that those who consume energy drinks benefit from increased stamina (16). This was measured by both anaerobic and aerobic endurance tests, with both tests finding a significant increase in endurance, with heart rates peaking at 65-75%. This reflects an energy drink’s ability to drastically affect the body even with just one can and can give an indication of just how dangerous they can be if consumed often.
Long-term use of energy drinks exposes the body to frightening physical conditions on a repeated basis, eroding health, and making users more likely to experience the negative side effects associated with energy drinks.
14. Energy drinks are mostly sugar and caffeine.
So, how do energy drinks work anyway?
What makes them kick, and what makes them so dangerous? Though there are multiple ingredients in energy drinks, one study suggests that most of the punch of energy drinks comes from two main ingredients: caffeine and sugar (17).
This comes as no surprise, as we have seen that some energy drinks carry an astronomically high amount of caffeine per can. With doses of caffeine that are well-above the recommended level, it’s no surprise that caffeine has the largest effect on consumers.
Additionally, the side effects of sugar consumption are also under research, with recent revelations in the health community suggesting that the harmful nature of excessive sugar consumption being hidden by academics for decades.
15. Energy drinks with herbs drastically boost mental health and immune function.
The above study also takes into account some of the other ingredients found in energy drinks. Some aren’t all that bad. One of these is ginseng, a popular ingredient in many Asian medicines (18).
Ginseng has been linked to several health benefits, including increased mental performance and immune health. With these properties in mind, it’s clear as to why ginseng appears as an ingredient in so many energy drinks; however, the study indicates that the concentration of ginger is so low as to have a negligible effect upon consumers.
16. Taurine mixed with caffeine leads to chronic dehydration.
Another common ingredient in energy drinks is taurine. Taurine and caffeine have both been linked to diuretic effects in men and rats (19). In other words, these two ingredients have been linked to the increased passing of urines in rats and men.
This means that energy-drink users may be subject to increased urination over their peers. Because both of these ingredients have this effect in isolation, one would expect for this to be increased when in combination. Being chronically dehydrated leads you to feel tired. In turn, you’re more likely to grab ANOTHER energy drink or other convenient sugary foods. Instead of boosting your energy, you end up even MORE tired and gain more fat.
17. Taurine helps balance out caffeine.
This led researchers to discover more about the effects of taurine in energy drinks. The study set out to find if these two ingredients had the same properties when put together in energy drinks, and the results may come as no surprise. (20).
In fact, taurine, in it’s natural form, helps reduce anxiety and symptoms of stimulants (21). This furthers the trend of caffeine being the dominant ingredient in all energy drinks and of the negative side effects caused by them.
18. Energy drinks must be used responsibly.
Ultimately, one study concluded that there are definite adverse health effects experienced by energy drink users, but that the verdict is still out (22). This means that further research needs to be done on energy drinks in order to fully understand how to best deal with energy drinks and their side effects. While the study didn’t suggest that consuming energy drinks is good for one’s health, it did suggest that there is a better way to deal with the problem than we have currently.
19. Claims of B vitamins boosting your energy are false.
Many energy drinks claim to provide energy by filling you with B vitamin complexes. Unfortunately, B vitamins don’t increase your energy and focus unless you’re deficient (23). Otherwise, B vitamins are in charge of supporting your natural metabolic functions and won’t lead to any increase in fat burning, focus, or energy.
20. Energy drinks reduce restful sleep.
Energy drinks can increase your focus, however having too much caffeine comes with side effects. Even if you’re not rushing to the Emergency Room, too much caffeine leads to tension, nervousness, and insomnia (24).
Depending on your sensitivity to caffeine, you may have trouble relaxing or sleeping at night if you have an energy drink after 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon (25). Unfortunately, poor sleep is linked with weight gain, irritability, and depression, so maybe skip the energy drinks later in the day.
21. B vitamins can help prevent Alzheimer’s.
B vitamins also work to improve the health and connection of neurons in your nervous system. One study looked specifically at treating patients above 70 with vitamin B 12 and folic acid to see the effect these vitamins have on cognition (26). The results showed that the treatment slowed down cognitive decline and stabilized the subjects.
22. L-Carnitine in energy drinks can increase heart disease.
Energy drinks raise another red flag when they include L-carnitine. L-carnitine is an amino acid that’s abundant in red meat. When L-carnitine is isolated and consumed in higher amounts than you’d find naturally in a rib-eye there’s a significant increase in atherosclerosis (27).
Be sure to avoid energy drinks that use L-carnitine to make sure that if you do consume energy drinks you consume ones that boost your health instead of reducing your health.
23. Energy drinks can improve athletic performance.
Energy drinks, full of sugar and caffeine, actually do help to increase your energy. However, you have to be careful for the crash in blood sugar that follows. In one study, athletes were given energy drinks an hour before exercise and significantly improved their performance by 13% (28)! That’s the difference between benching 100 pounds and 113 pounds – not too shabby. However, there were side effects such as anxiety, insomnia, and twitchiness (29).
The consumption of energy drinks has been linked to the increased risk of developing serious and sometimes fatal side effects, as well as increased caffeine dependency and dependency on other drugs. For these reasons, it’s best to avoid these drinks. The biggest factor contributing to the harmful nature of energy drinks is its caffeine content. The caffeine content of energy drinks ranges well above the suggested norm and leaves many users, mostly male, with caffeine intoxication. If you regularly consume energy drinks, it’s time to reconsider your choice.