Choosing the Best Energy Drinks – Top 10 Brands

Best Energy Drink Brands

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Despite our best intentions, sometimes we all need a little boost to help us power through our day, study for our exams or simply perform at a higher mental capacity than we currently have available. More often than not, due to the demands of life, we don’t get enough sleep and tend to run out of energy earlier in our day.

A great energy drink can be a great solution to this dilemma. Energy drinks carry a variety of ingredients that are designed to boost our mental performance and conquer the day. In this article, we’ll break down exactly what energy drinks are and what they do, who and when they are best suited for, and the best products on the market today.

What Are Energy Drinks?

Energy drinks are drink combinations that use a variety of ingredients to help you feel more energetic, achieve more mental clarity and improve performance, and overall feel more awake and energized, at least temporarily. Traditionally, people have looked to age-old options such as coffee or tea for energy, and that is because they contain one of the primary compounds that delivers that effect, caffeine.

While caffeine is an effective product for increasing energy and mental performance, the difference between energy drinks and coffee or tea is the additional compounds and ingredients energy drinks use, such as amino acids and b-vitamins, both of which increase our energy, but in different ways than caffeine does for a more balanced and long-lasting effect.

Energy drinks come in a variety of formats, with some replicating carbonated drinks such as sodas with high sugar content, while others may include only the essentials and be more of a gel or shot, a small serving with no superfluous ingredients.  In addition, the potency and effect of energy drinks can vary, with some being incredibly potent while others are much milder or deliver a longer lasting yet less intense effect.

Benefits of Energy Drinks

The primary benefits of energy drinks are, of course, improved energy! More specifically, energy drinks can improve focus, mental clarity, and physical energy as well. Their specific benefits can vary depending on their specific ingredients, but in general energy drinks are ideal for a boost in energy, such as in the morning after getting a small amount of sleep.

They are also ideal for tasks that require a great deal of focus or attention to tedium and nuance, which can be tiring for the brain. For example, energy drinks tend to be a popular choice for students who have to study over night or take a challenging test.

Are Energy Drinks Right for You?

Energy drinks are certainly not for everyone, and should be used temporarily rather than indefinitely. They are not a good choice for someone who is overly sensitive to caffeine, has high blood pressure or cardiac issues, as energy drinks cause the pulse to increase and can overload the system in those with a predication for high blood pressure cardiac related issues. Depending on the product, some energy drinks have a very high amount of sugar, thus they may not be ideal for those with diabetes or who need to restrict their sugars.

Energy drinks are ideal for people who need a boost in the morning, as they can be an alternative to coffee. They also make an ideal choice if you are in a situation where you may be temporarily without sleep, such as driving or studying overnight. They can be helpful for anyone doing intensive intellectual work or for those doing boring or tedious tasks, as energy drinks can improve mental focus and acuity. Finally, in some circumstances they can be helpful for athletes, though in sports with a high degree of cardiovascular function needed they may be too stimulating.

Side Effects of Energy Drinks

The side effects of energy drinks are usually not an issue if you follow the basic recommended dosage from a given product, and are the right population or situation for an energy drink to be used. However, if you increase the dosage, use them with the wrong population or at the wrong time, you may experience some side effects.

The most common side effects include a tingling sensation, headaches, dehydration, jitters or nervousness and anxiety, trouble sleeping, and more. Most side effects associated with energy drinks stem from their properties as stimulants, thus they are not an ideal choice before bed, for those overly sensitive to caffeine, or with high blood pressure.

In addition, many energy drink products come with additional ingredients or may be paired with other compounds for additional effects, thus side effects related to those ingredients can come up as well. When in doubt or if you are new to energy drinks, make sure to consult with your medical professional for advice on the best product. The most common side effect will generally result from taking an energy drink that has stimulant ingredients with it, such as caffeine, in which case the side effects associated with overuse of stimulants can occur, such as an upset stomach or dehydration. Most energy drink products when taken in moderation however, will have minimal to no side effects at all.

How to Pick a Good Energy Drink

When choosing an energy drink, there are a variety of factors to take into account. Your personal preferences will play a major part in finding the right selection for you, for example if you prefer a full can, similar to a soda, as compared to a smaller gel or shot style.

Some energy drinks will skew towards a specific demographic or training goal, such as mental energy for studying versus endurance; your personal goals will need to align with the stated purpose of the product in order to see the best results.

Flavor is of course important and not all energy drinks are particularly tasty, you’ll want to search for an option with a flavor you generally like to make the supplement more palatable and easier to use, or if you prefer not to worry about taste then possibly a gel or shot option may be best.

Finally, price and budget are a factor as well. When cross-referenced with your other needs, the best option will need to fit into your budget, and while you generally may get what you pay for, there are some very effective energy drinks that won’t break the bank.

Top 10 Energy Drinks

We have put together a list of our top 10 recommended energy drinks. Each one has a short breakdown of its highlights, primary ingredients and usages, as well as a brief profile for the company who makes the product.

Check out all 10, and look for the best option that not only comes highly recommended but fits your individual needs and desires for an energy drink. We hope you enjoy and find the best product for you!

1. Red Bull Energy Drink

Red Bull Energy Drink

Red Bull is arguably the most famous and well-known energy drink, and largely responsible for their popularity. It also continues to be one of the best on the market, and aside from its massive marketing and commercial appeal, it delivers excellent ingredients such as caffeine taurine, B-vitamins and more for an excellent energy blend that, as Red Bull would say, can “give you wings”.

Product Highlights:

  • The most popular energy drink on the market, with $4.5 billion in sales in 2015
  • Includes 80mg of caffeine, enough for energy without the excess jitters
  • Also includes taurine, b-vitamins and more.
  • Comes in several flavors
  • Affordable and an excellent value
  • Well-known and reputable brand

Key Ingredients: (per 1 serving)

  • Energy blend, which consists of caffeine (80mg), taurine, B-vitamins, sucrose and glucose.

Company Profile:

Red Bull is manufactured by Austrian beverage manufacturer and parent company Red Bull GmbH. Founded in 1987, Red Bull has steadily grown into one of the largest beverage companies and brands in the world.

Why We Recommend It:

Sometimes the classics remain the best, and that is certainly the case in this instance. Red Bull’s winning blend continues to offer the best mix of energy, affordability and taste on the market. Combined with their unparalleled branding and marketing, they are still the top product on the energy drink market.

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2. Monster Energy Drink

Monster Energy Drink

After Red Bull, Monster Energy Drink is one of the original and most popular energy drinks on the market to this day. Monster Energy Drinks are larger than Red Bull and consequently offer double the caffeine, at 160mg per serving. Their energy blend also includes a variety of other components such as glucose and taurine, and it is one of the best tasting options on the market, making it a good option for a potent dose of energy that tastes good.

Product Highlights:

  • One of the most popular energy drinks on the market
  • Has a strong 160mg of caffeine per serving
  • Includes other ingredients in their energy blend as well, including taurine and ginseng.
  • One of the best tasting energy drinks
  • Has a very high amount of sugar
  • Not expensive, very affordable

Key Ingredients: (per serving)

  • Energy blend, consisting of caffeine (160mg), ginseng, taurine, glucose, L-carnitine, guarana and more.

Company Profile:

Founded in 2002, Monster Energy Drinks are manufactured by Monster Beverage, one of the larger beverage manufacturers in the U.S. They are known for their trademark Monster Energy Drink, and remain an active sponsor and brand in the extreme sports community, among others.

Why We Recommend It:

Monster is one of the original energy drinks, and has lasted for this long as a top choice for good reason. Their potent energy blend continues to deliver results, and they remain one of the best tasting options on the market. This particular energy drink does contain a heavy dose of sugar and caffeine; thus moderation is crucial, but when you are in need of energy it is a great option.

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3. Rockstar Zero Carb Energy Drink

Rockstar Zero Carb Energy Drink

The Rockstar energy drinks are one of the original and most popular options on the market, yet this zero-calorie and low-carb version is an improved version that delivers lots of energy with minimal extras. Enhanced with herbal ingredients such as guarana, ginseng, gingko, and milk thistle, it also delivers one of the strongest caffeine amounts on the market. With zero sugar, it is one of the purest forms of energy available.

Product Highlights:

  • Has zero carbs, zero sugar and is low calorie
  • 240mg caffeine per can, a high amount
  • Also contains herbal ingredients like guarana, ginseng, gingko, and more
  • Has b-vitamins as well for an extra boost
  • Each can is 16 fl oz
  • Well-known brand

Key Ingredients: (per serving, exact ingredient amounts not specified)

  • 240mg Caffeine
  • Energy blend, with taurine, green tea extractives, L-carnitine, yerba mate extract and more.
  • Vitamins B3, B5, B6, and B12

Company Profile:

Rockstar Energy, the maker of Rockstar Zero Carb, is one of the largest energy drink manufacturers on the market today. With more than 20 flavors in over 30 countries, they are a global brand and continue to grow.

Why We Recommend It:

Rockstar Zero Carb is a great choice for pure energy without the extra sugar and carbs that tend to associate more traditional energy drink choices. It also contains one of the strongest caffeine amounts per can on the market, making it a good choice for pure energy, though it is not suitable if taste or a moderate caffeine amount is a priority for you.

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4. Zipfizz Energy Drink

Zipfizz Energy Drink

Zipfizz is a unique product in the energy drink field, as it is a powder that mixes with water rather than a pre-blended can. It is an ideal choice for athletes, as it has a relatively moderate caffeine count of 100mg but also includes electrolytes, which when mixed with water make it a great choice for hydration. With additional vitamins and minerals, it is a great choice for moderate energy and superior hydration.

Product Highlights:

  • Powdered drink mix, best mixed with water
  • 100mg caffeine, lower than many traditional energy drinks
  • Includes electrolytes for improved hydration
  • Also includes a variety of micronutrients such as antioxidants, vitamins, and green tea extract
  • Minimal calories, only 10 per serving
  • Zero sugar
  • Has several tasty flavors

Key Ingredients: (per serving)

  • 205mg Botanical Antioxidant Blend, including green tea leaf extract, green coffee bean extract, grape seed extract and more
  • 100mg caffeine
  • Vitamins C, E, B6, B12 and more.
  • Electrolytes such as potassium, sodium and calcium.

Company Profile:

Zipfizz was founded in 2003, with a goal to create a healthy and simple energy drink formula that could provide healthy energy and hydration as well. Available in-store and online, Zipfizz has continued to grow and expand into one of the most popular energy drinks on the market.

Why We Recommend It:

This is an option for those looking for energy without superfluous ingredients or excess sugars. With zero sugar, only 10 calories and a host of vitamins and minerals, this is an excellent choice. Coupled with water, the electrolytes in this mix make it ideal for hydration, and the low caffeine content as compared to competitors makes it ideal for active people who need a boost without the jitters.

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5. VPX Redline Xtreme RTD

Vpx Redline Xtreme Rtd

VPX Redline Xtreme RTD (ready-to-drink) is one of the stronger energy drink options available. It comes in a small, concentrated size, but don’t let it fool you as it is one of the most potent options available. It combines BCAA’s, electrolytes, caffeine and more to deliver a high dose of energy in a single 4 oz bottle.

Product Highlights:

  • Originally designed with athletes in mind
  • Only 4 oz per serving, with 2 servings per bottle
  • Contains BCAA’s and electrolytes
  • Also has caffeine, yerba mate and green tea extract for energy

Key Ingredients: (per serving)

  • 726mg proprietary blend of 158mg caffeine, BCAA’s, tyrosine, green tea extract, and more.
  • Electrolyte matrix, including calcium, magnesium and potassium.

Company Profile:

VPX is also known as Redline Sports Nutrition and Performance Beverages. They were founded in 1993 and have continued their mission of high-quality sports supplements created based on science and maintaining affordable prices.

Why We Recommend It:

Redline Extreme RTD is one of the best options on the market for athletes, with its included BCAA’s and electrolytes in addition to caffeine and other natural stimulants. With such a small serving size, it eliminates much of the unnecessary ingredients, making it a pure and effective boost.

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6. Starbucks Refreshers

Starbucks Refreshers

For those looking for light and refreshing energy boost as opposed to the hardcore or frenetic energy from stronger options, Starbucks Refreshers are an excellent choice. At only 50mg caffeine that is naturally obtained from green coffee extract and mixed with juice, it is one of the tastiest and most refreshing options on the market.

Product Highlights:

  • Uses natural caffeine as opposed to synthetic
  • Has 25% fruit juice
  • Also includes panax ginseng and B-vitamins for added energy
  • Only 90 calories per serving
  • Comes in 3 tasty flavors and is very affordable

Key Ingredients: (per serving, exact quantities not listed)

  • 50mg caffeine from green coffee extract
  • 50mg panax ginseng
  • B-vitamins

Company Profile:

Starbucks Refreshers are of course mad by global beverage icon Starbucks, best known of course for their trademark coffee shops. While they were originally only coffee shops, they have grown into a global brand and are now manufacturers of a variety of products.

Why We Recommend It:

Starbucks Refreshers accomplish their goal as a refreshing and tasty energy boost. Their caffeine content is rather low as compared to more potent energy drinks, thus they are less a choice for pulling an all-night study session and more so a great option for a quick pick-me-up during the day.

7. Living Essentials 5-Hour Energy

Living Essentials 5 Hour Energy 1

One of the most recognizable brands in the energy drink and supplement marketplace, 5-Hour Energy is a very small yet equally powerful energy shot, with a potent dose of caffeine and vitamins. At only 2 ounces, with zero sugar and only 4 calories, it is the ideal choice for pure energy on the go.

Product Highlights:

  • 200mg caffeine per serving
  • Each bottle is only 2 oz
  • Also includes B-vitamins, taurine, glucuronic acid, tyrosine and more
  • Zero sugar and only 4 calories
  • One of the most convenient energy options on the market

Key Ingredients: (per serving, exact amounts for all ingredients not listed)

  • 1870mg Energy Blend, which includes 200mg of caffeine, taurine, glucuronic acid, malic acid, L-tyrosine, L-phenylalanine, and citicoline
  • Niacin
  • B6 and B12
  • Folic Acid

Company Profile:

The iconic 5-hour energy is made by Living Essentials. Based in Michigan, Living Essentials is a manufacturer of a variety of health products and energy drinks, and were the first to put out the micro energy drink, a la 5-Hour Energy. They have continued to grow and are one of the larger companies in their product market.

Why We Recommend It:

5-Hour Energy continues to be one of the best products on the market and it delivers all the ingredients you want and none that you don’t. With a potent amount of caffeine, b vitamins and more for energy without sugar, carbs, and minimal calories, it is the perfect minimalist energy drink. It is also one of the most convenient at only 2 ounces per bottle.

8. CytoSport Fast Twitch RTD

Cytosport Fast Twitch Rtd

Designed with weightlifters in mind, CytoSport Fast Twitch RTD is a powerful and potent energy drink designed to help lifters achieve their maximal potential and intensity, with ingredients that back it up. It is not for the faint of heart and one of the stronger options available.

Product Highlights:

  • Designed for weightlifters and athletes
  • Has 200mg of caffeine
  • Also includes taurine, glucoronolactone and more.
  • Sugar free and less than 1g of carbs
  • Well-known brand for fitness supplements

Key Ingredients: (per serving)

  • 7g Energy Amplifying Matrix, with 200mg caffeine, taurine and glucoronolactone
  • 4g Power Nitric Oxide Matrix, with betaine anhydrous, glycocyamine, L-citrulline, and L-arginine
  • Vitamins C, E, B6, B12, Folic acid and sodium.

Company Profile:

CytoSport is one of the largest manufacturers and producers of sports and fitness supplements on the market. Founded in 1998, they are best known for their popular MuscleMilk series, but in fact have a variety of products that are both effective and affordable.

Why We Recommend It:

This particular energy drink caters to the weightlifting niche, and thus is an excellent choice for weightlifters looking for an energy boost or energy drink. It is a strong product so it is not for those looking for a casual refresher or boost, but is an excellent product for getting the most out of a workout session.

9. Xyience Xenergy Drink

Xyience Xenergy Drink

Xenergy Drink, most popularly known as the official energy drink of the UFC, delivers a strong energy boost without any calories, carbs or sugars. It delivers pure energy with no additives, and is an ideal choice for a strong energy boost without the extra sugars often found in competing products.

Product Highlights:

  • 176mg caffeine
  • Has zero calories, carbs or sugars
  • Includes taurine, guarana, panax ginseng and more
  • Official energy drink of the UFC

Key Ingredients: (per serving)

  • 7g proprietary blend, consisting of 176mg caffeine, taurine, glucoronolactone, guarana extract, panax ginseng and more.

Company Profile:

Xyience is based out of Texas, and is a popular producer of energy drinks and other health products. Their most popular and well-known product is their Xenergy drink line due to their partnership with the UFC, though they have a supplement division as well.

Why We Recommend It:

Though it is more expensive than some competitors, Xenergy from Xyience is one of the most effective energy drinks for pure energy without the added sugars, carbs or calories, making it ideal for athletes and weight loss.

10. SAMBAZON Organic Amazon Energy Drink

Sambazon Organic Amazon Energy Drink

SAMBAZON Organic Amazon Energy Drink is one of the best energy drink options for an all-natural choice that incorporates natural ingredients such as acai berry juice. It offers a moderate 80mg of caffeine per serving, combined with herbal stimulants like guarana for an effective yet refreshing energy boost.

Product Highlights:

  • Uses an organic formula
  • All natural, vegan, and gluten free
  • Has 80mg of caffeine per serving, from yerba mate, green tea and guarana
  • Uses real fruit juice from acai berry

Key Ingredients: (per serving, exact amounts for all ingredients not listed)

  • 80mg Caffeine, from yerba mate, green tea extract and guarana
  • Organic acai berry juice

Company Profile:

SAMBAZON Organic Amazon Energy Drink is made by SAMBAZON, based out of California. One of the larger manufacturers of health foods and drinks, their primary ingredient is the acai berry, a superfood traditionally found in the Amazon.

Why We Recommend It:

SAMBAZON Organic Amazon Energy Drink is an effective and all-natural energy drink, that is a great option for an all-natural and refreshing pick-me-up. It does not have the same level of caffeine as stronger or more potent energy drinks, thus it is ideal for a light boost of energy during your day!

Carl Putman

Written by Carl Putman

Carl Putman is a strength and conditioning coach at the collegiate level and writer on fitness, health and supplements. Over the past decade, he has worked with a wide variety of clients ranging from professional athletes and world champions to youth and general population, as well as tactical practitioners. He is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Organizational Leadership. Based in Florida, he continues to train and coach as well as write with a passion for making a positive impact for his clients and readers.

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