3 Types Of Energy Drinks And How Effective They Are

Modern living makes us tired, stressed out, and overwhelmed with work. That pushes us to look for a quick energy fix during a busy day. While the best way to restore your energy is to get adequate sleep, manage stress better, and ensure your nutrition is on point, we know that it’s not always possible. Here, we take a look at one popular way of getting an energy boost quickly by consuming energy drinks.

There are many different options available today:

  • Vitamin-fortified nutritional beverages like the Boost energy drink by Nestle
  • Mainstream brands like Monster and Red Bull that you can find in any store
  • Healthy and natural energizing sips without added sugars or artificial sweeteners and colors

The good news is that downing a can of caffeine-infused beverage may actually give you the pep in your step you so desperately need early in the morning or during the afternoon slump! But are all types of energy drinks equally effective? And are they good for you?

I have prepared an in-depth guide to compare the different energy drinks available. I’ll talk about how they can provide us with energy, how effective they are, what health benefits you can expect (or health problems) from them, and share a couple of good options to try at the end.

Read on to find out which energy drink is best for you!

A Brief History of Energy Drinks

Overworked and chronically stressed Americans have been using energy drinks for a quick pick-me-up for the last 30 years. However, as an active subset of major soft drink brands like Coca-Cola and Pepsi, they have been present on the market for a lot longer.

Energy drinks come packed with high amounts of stimulant compounds—mostly caffeine—and should boost our energy levels, strength, and improve focus. If you don’t feel like knocking back a full bottle, energy drinks also come in concentrated shots that are low in calories and easy to consume. They come in many variants and are marketed as healthy concoctions that will do miracles for your performance.

The question remains: do we really benefit from consuming them?

The Science Behind Energy Drinks

Here’s a short rundown of the most common ‘energizers’ used in your favorite power drinks.

1. Caffeine

Caffeine is a natural stimulant for the brain and central nervous system. It helps you stay alert and boost productivity, prevents the onset of tiredness, and may help improve your mood.[1][2] Most energy drinks contain about 70 to 400 mg of caffeine in 16 ounces.

2. Guarana

This plant that is native to the Amazon forests is full of antioxidants that fight the free radicals in the human body. With an antioxidant profile close to green tea, guarana is a powerful source of caffeine. It helps keep your mind sharp and focused and may help relieve muscle pain and soreness.[3] Its presence in energy drinks can vary between 1.4 mg to 300 mg.

3. Taurine

Taurine is an amino acid that plays an important role in controlling several of the body’s metabolic processes. Although there is a lot more that we’ve yet to learn about taurine, some researchers suggest that, in combination with caffeine, it improves athletic and mental performance.[4] An average 16-ounce energy drink contains between 20 and 2,000 mg of taurine.

4. L-Theanine

An amino acid that promotes anxiety relief and relaxation without drowsiness, L-theanine is most commonly found in tea leaves. Research shows that it can help boost alertness, improve focus, and reduce tiredness when combined with small doses of caffeine.[5] Its presence in energy drinks can vary between 50 and 200 mg in 16 ounces.

5. B-Vitamins

B6 and B12 vitamins are the two types of B-complex vitamins that are most commonly present in energy drinks. They play an important role in energy metabolism, helping the body transform the food you eat into energy and absorb it.[6]

6. Ginseng

Ginseng is an extract made from the ginseng plant. While studies suggest that it doesn’t really improve physical performance, they do state that it can give you a boost in brainpower and increase intellectual work capacity.[7] A typical dose of ginseng is between 8 and 400 mg per can.

What Types of Energy Drinks Are Available?

As I mentioned at the beginning, there are three different types of energy-boosting drinks available on the market:

  • Vitamin-fortified nutritional beverages like the Boost energy drink by Nestle
  • Mainstream brands like Monster and Red Bull
  • Healthy and natural energizing sips without added sugars or artificial sweeteners and colors

1. Vitamin-Fortified Nutritional Beverages

Unlike standard energy drinks, the Boost energy drink and other similar products are considered nutritional supplements designed to support your diet whenever your standard menu fails to provide your body with all the nutrients it needs for optimal performance.

Regarding their micronutrient content, these beverages are rich in vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D3, E, as well as zinc, iron, magnesium, and folate. All of these are either directly or indirectly responsible for turning calories into energy.

2. Mainstream Drinks

It’s almost inevitable to miss brands like RedBull or Monster when shopping the shelves for an energy-boosting drink. They come in different sizes and flavors, but their main objective is to give you a quick energy fix. They contain stimulants such as caffeine (70 to 400 mg per serving) and guarana, vitamins B5, B6, B12, and a fair amount of sugars to boost your energy levels.

Most drinks are available in standard 16oz cans or bottles, or you can find them as concentrated shots for faster and more convenient use.

3. Healthy and Natural Drinks

Fortunately, the healthy food industry has stepped up with a variety of healthier substitutes that can give you the much-needed energy boost from energy drinks without the side effects.

Natural energy drinks contain less than 200 mg of caffeine per serving, and their caffeine is derived from plant-based extracts of the coffee fruit, guayusa tea, green and black tea, and matcha.

They are also flavored with extracts of hibiscus, ginger, lemon, lime, and many others known for their brain-boosting and stress-reducing benefits. And the best part—naturally-derived energy drinks contain zero calories, added sugars, or artificial coloring.

How Effective Are the Different Types?

When it comes to the effectiveness of energy drinks, values vary from drink to drink depending on what you are looking to achieve.

1. Vitamin-Fortified Nutritional Beverages

Nutritional beverages as sources of macro and micronutrients can come in handy in cases of loss of appetite, malnourishment, or needing a special diet. However, they are far from being nutritional magic bullets.

People with specific nutritional problems like vitamin and calorie deficiency are more likely to benefit from vitamin-fortified energy drinks than a healthy and active person who practices healthy sleeping and eating habits.

2. Mainstream Drinks

The high caffeine and sugar levels present in mainstream energy drinks provide a fast and substantial energy boost, enhance alertness, and improve reaction time. Keep in mind, though, that these effects are short-lived, and a sugar high is quickly followed by a sugar crash.

Most mainstream brands are also available as 50 ml energy shots. While they contain similar ingredients to full-size drinks, they are not necessarily more efficient. They may just be a healthier choice since they contain fewer calories and added sugars.

3. Healthy and Natural Drinks

With under 200 mg of caffeine per serving (research shows we only need about 100 mg to stay awake)[8] and no added sugars, natural energy drinks are just as effective as caffeine and sugar-loaded ones. The difference is that you won’t feel your energy levels drop within an hour!

Besides the safe amounts of caffeine derived from natural sources, healthy energy drinks are also packed with antioxidants and a wide variety of vitamins that help with energy transformation and absorption.

The Problem With Most Energy Drinks

While they may offer you a quick and effortless energy boost when you need to study or survive the last few hours at work, not all energy drinks are healthy. As a matter of fact, most of these beverages are full of sugars, additives, artificial flavors, and high doses of caffeine.

Studies have shown that caffeine is the reason behind increased blood pressure and heart rate in subjects who consumed energy drinks. Caffeine is also related to heightened alertness, anxiety, and interruption of sleep patterns. In addition, most energy drinks are overloaded with sugars and artificial sweeteners. Regular consumption may lead to diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular complications.

On top of it, all the effects of energy drinks are temporary, and the benefits are short-lived. So, despite being marketed as muscle strength and power boosters, there is no viable evidence that energy drinks provide you with anything more permanent than a strong but brief energy kick.

Which Energy Drink Is the Best for You?

When shopping for a drink that will satisfy your daily energy needs, always have in mind that there is nothing more important than your health. So, natural energy drinks are the best choice for most people. They contain less sugar, less caffeine, less artificial ingredients, plus they can have lots of healthy ingredients like:

  • Natural fruit juices, which are a source of many essential antioxidants and polyphenols
  • A ton of vitamins and minerals
  • L-theanine
  • Green and black tea extract

Nutritional beverages like the Boost energy drink are also worth a try since they may help improve your nutrition and increase energy levels naturally over time.

How to Choose a Healthy Energizing Drink

If there is one piece of advice that I could give you, it would be, “think before you drink.” Make sure you understand what’s written on the labels and how those ingredients may or may not affect your overall well-being.

Here’s what to pay attention to when choosing your energy drink:

  • Caffeine: Keep your caffeine intake under 400 mg a day and, if possible, choose a drink with less than 200 mg. Consuming more than this amount may result in heart palpitations, increased blood pressure, and jitters.
  • Added Sugars and artificial sweeteners: Choose drinks that contain no added sugars or that come with natural sweeteners like stevia.[9] If you do reach for an energy booster with added sugars, it’s best to take it before exercising or going to the gym. Sugars are famous for providing an instant energy rush that, unfortunately, goes away as fast as it comes.
  • “Energizing” vitamins: B vitamins play a key role in converting food into energy. While you won’t feel much of a difference energy-wise after downing one, they help the body absorb the energy already stored in your food.

3 Best Options Without the Extra Jitters

To help you on your search for the best energy drink, here are a few products that are rich in healthy nutrients:

  1. Mati Unsweetened Sparkling Organic Energy Drink—made with brewed guayusa tea, it’s the elixir of the Amazonian tribes that contains safe amounts of caffeine and antioxidants.
  2. Toro Matcha Sparkling Ginger—ginger and lime infused, it’s perfect for people sensitive to high caffeine levels as it only contains 60 mg per serving.
  3. Guayaki Unsweetened Yerba Maté—this South American drink is said to be as potent as a coffee, as healthy as a tea, and as satisfying as chocolate.


The stress of everyday living forces many adults to rely on caffeine and sugar to get them through the day—and energy drinks are a great source of both.

For your health, stick to natural drinks that contain up to 200 mg of caffeine and no added sugars. You’ll still get the pick-me-up you need without the potential health issues. And most importantly, be mindful of the underlying reasons that keep you tired and unable to focus.

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Featured photo credit: Jonathan Cooper via unsplash.com


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