If you're like many busy Americans, you may feel the need for an extra boost of energy to stay focused and perform at your best throughout the day. Whether you experience the age-old 3 p.m. slump at your desk or you need an extra jolt to power through a morning workout, you may be looking for healthy energy drinks.
Caffeine happens to be the most-consumed energy booster in the world. From coffee to tea to chocolate, about 90% of Americans consume caffeine in some form every day. And increasingly, people are turning to energy drinks to satisfy their energy needs.
Energy drink consumption is especially high among young adults. In a 2016 survey, over one-third of 18- to 29-year-old respondents said they consumed energy drinks on a regular basis.
There are dozens of energy and sports drink companies out there to meet this growing demand for a regular energy boost. From flashy cans packed with bold flavors to all-natural alternatives, it can be difficult to cut through the noise and choose the right healthy energy drink for you.
That's why we're reviewing the top five healthy energy drinks that will give you a moderate level of caffeine without added sugars and artificial ingredients.
The Downside of Mainstream Energy Drinks
Step into most gas stations, and you'll find a fantastically colorful, shiny, and attention-grabbing display of canned energy drinks slapped with powerful names like "Rockstar" and "Red Bull." But often, hidden behind the neon graffiti-scribbled cans are ingredients best avoided for the sake of your health.
Most mainstream energy drinks are packed with high amounts of caffeine as well as heaps of sugar and other undesirable ingredients. According to the Mayo Clinic, adults should aim to consume no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day.
To put that into perspective, a 1-ounce shot of espresso contains about 64 milligrams of caffeine. A regular cup of coffee has about 70 to 100 milligrams. Some energy shots contain more than 400 milligrams of caffeine in a single serving.
Overdoing your caffeine intake can have negative impacts on your health. The extent to which you experience side effects will depend on your tolerance for the drug, your age, and your genes. Signs of too much caffeine include headaches, anxiety, an elevated heart rate, muscle jitters, irritability, and frequent urination.
Added sugar is another common unhealthy ingredient in mainstream energy drinks. The American Heart Association recommends that adult men consume no more than 36 grams of sugar per day and women consume no more than 25 grams. However, a single serving of many mainstream energy drinks can easily contain 27 or more grams of added sugars per serving.
Studies show that consuming excess added sugars (those that aren't naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables) can have serious health implications. For most Americans, these added sugars come from flavored drinks, cereals, baked goods, and other processed foods, including energy drinks.
All of this sugar adds up to an increased risk for obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. In one 15-year Harvard study, participants who consumed 17-21% of their daily calories from added sugars increased their risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 38% compared to individuals who consumed 8% of their calories from added sugar.
Obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease are all leading causes of death in the U.S. By choosing no- to low-sugar healthy energy drinks without large amounts of caffeine, you can reduce your intake of added sugars and avoid overdoing your caffeine intake.
What to Look for in a "Healthy" Energy Drink
So how can you be sure your daily pick-me-up is a healthier option that will still sustain your energy levels? Start by reviewing the caffeine and sugar content. Many natural energy drinks on the market are sugar-free and made with natural caffeine sources. For example, matcha green tea is an herbal source of caffeine that has other nutritional benefits for overall wellness like antioxidants.
In addition to the caffeine and sugar content, many healthy energy drinks are fortified with essential nutrients that have positive health effects. You may get the added benefit of antioxidants from black tea, for example.
As always, be sure to read the label of any energy drink carefully and with an eye on added sugars, preservatives, and other artificial ingredients. And remember that caffeine is a natural diuretic, so it's important to watch your hydration and drink plenty of water.
Best Healthy Energy Drinks
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Proper Wild's natural energy shots are 100% plant-based and offer a nice alternative to more sugar-heavy energy shots. They contain no preservatives, artificial sweeteners, or artificial flavors. Proper Wild also manufactures their shots in the USA following Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standards. The caffeine in the product is organically sourced from green tea and L-theanine, making it one of the best healthy energy drinks for those who just want a quick shot.
Strength: 180mg of caffeine per shot + 180 mg L-theanine
Why Buy: Gluten-free; Vegan; Wheat-free; Lactose-free; Dairy-free
We love that Sambazon Organic Amazon Energy Drinks are both low in calories and sugar (with only 6 grams per serving) while providing other important vitamins. The green tea and yerba mate that give each can its 120 milligrams of caffeine come with potent antioxidants and vitamin C. This is another slightly more caffeinated option if you're looking for a stronger jolt from your healthy energy drink without the excess sugars and artificial ingredients you'll find in mainstream high-caffeine options. With fruity Amazon-inspired flavors like acai berry and pomegranate, Sambazon ensures every sip is delicious and refreshing.
Strength: 120mg per can
Why Buy: Made with guarana, yerba mate and green tea; USDA-Certified Organic; Non-GMO; Vegan; Gluten-free; Kosher
This brightly colored can is not only enticing, but it's also good for you. Sunshine Good Energy Drinks have a moderate amount of caffeine (about the same amount as a cup of coffee) for a light buzz that won't cause a crash. This low-calorie option (60 calories per can) is especially great for plant-based diets, which can often lack essential B vitamins, especially vitamin B12. These healthy energy drinks are fortified with B12, and the clementine flavor also offers 100% of your daily Vitamin C requirements.
Strength: 70mg caffeine per can
Why Buy: Made with organic green coffee beans; Added B12; Contains electrolytes; 100% of your daily Vitamin C
GURU's Lite Energy drink is brewed with antioxidant-packed green tea and hydrating carbonated water. This vegan energy drink includes the added bonus of natural sweeteners and vitamin sources. Every can is made with ginseng, echinacea, guarana, and sweetened with stevia and monk fruit for a lightly sweet, nutrient-packed sip. Plus, GURU has an environmentally friendly commitment to using natural, organic ingredients in this low-sugar, caffeinated energy drink.
Strength: 100mg caffeine per can
Why Buy: Non-GMO; Vegan; No artificial sweeteners; Organic
Last on our list of best healthy energy drinks is the Clean Clause Sparkling Yerba Mate. Clean Cause donates 50% of its profits from sales of this USDA Certified Organic energy drink to support addiction recovery. The company's mission is to support recovery from alcohol and drug addiction through sustainable funding. Clean Cause brews its energy drinks from the dried leaves of yerba mate, a vitamin-rich South American plant that is naturally high in caffeine and antioxidants. Every serving offers plant-based polyphenols, a group of antioxidants shown to reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of many chronic diseases.
Strength: 160mg per can (two servings)
Why Buy: USDA Certified Organic; Natural caffeine from yerba mate; Four fruity, sparkling flavors
- What Nutritionists Think About Starbucks' Three New Plant-Based ... ›
- 8 Healthy Drinks Rich in Electrolytes - EcoWatch ›
- 8 Healthy Swaps for Everyday Food and Drinks - EcoWatch ›
- 5 Reasons to Stop Drinking Energy Drinks - EcoWatch ›
- Construction Begins on Keystone XL Pipeline in Montana - EcoWatch ›
- Trump Approves Keystone XL Pipeline, Groups Vow 'The Fight Is ... ›
- Keystone XL Pipeline Construction to Forge Ahead During ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Monir Ghaedi
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep most of Europe on pause, the EU aims for a breakthrough in its space program. The continent is seeking more than just a self-sufficient space industry competitive with China and the U.S.; the industry must also fit into the European Green Deal.
European satellites continue to provide data on climate change.
In 2018, a team of researchers went to West Africa's Nimba Mountains in search of one critically endangered species of bat. Along the way, they ended up discovering another.
- Eek! Bat Populations Are Shrinking. Here Are A Few Ways to Help ... ›
- First Bat Removed From U.S. Endangered Species List Helps ... ›
- What We've Lost: The Species Declared Extinct in 2020 - EcoWatch ›
By Jim Palardy
As 2021 dawns, people, ecosystems, and wildlife worldwide are facing a panoply of environmental issues. In an effort to help experts and policymakers determine where they might focus research, a panel of 25 scientists and practitioners — including me — from around the globe held discussions in the fall to identify emerging issues that deserve increased attention.
Ask a Scientist: What Should the Biden Administration and Congress Do to Address the Climate Crisis?
By Elliott Negin
What a difference an election makes. Thanks to the Biden-Harris victory in November, the next administration is poised to make a 180-degree turn to again address the climate crisis.
- Biden Reaffirms Commitment to Rejoining Paris Agreement ... ›
- Joe Biden Appoints Climate Crisis Team - EcoWatch ›
- Biden Plans to Fight Climate Change in a New Way - EcoWatch ›