The real secret to improved stamina and energy over the long run is quality sleep, optimal hydration (with good old H2O) and a balanced diet. But many turn to caffeine and energy drinks for a quick boost. For most, moderate intake — that’s a maximum of 400 mg of caffeine per day, according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration — should be okay. But most energy drinks are also laden with food colorings, additives and exorbitant amounts of added sugar.
If you’re looking for a healthier option, the experts in the Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Lab rounded up an energy drinks list of some of the better picks that focus on low added sugar counts and prioritize natural sources of caffeine (as opposed to synthetic caffeine). Our experts say it’s important to check the caffeine content on the label so you can avoid more than 200 mg of caffeine per drink (the equivalent of two cups of coffee), especially if you are consuming other caffeinated beverages and foods during the day. Options fortified with B vitamins can provide an additional natural boost.
Our top picks:
You can read more about how we evaluate energy drinks in our Lab, as well as the difference between natural and synthetic caffeine and who should avoid energy drinks, at the end of this guide.
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Best Stevia Energy Drink
Zero Calorie Energy Drink
Zevia, known for its tasty stevia-based soda alternatives, has brought its same sugar-free mentality to the energy drink space. ThisNon-GMO Project-verified pick has zero grams of sugar and offers 120 mg of organic caffeine per can. Each tropical flavor is refreshing, and the sweetness comes from organic stevia leaf extract. Free from artificial colors and preservatives, this health-conscious pick is one of our top choices.
Nutrition Facts (1 can): 0 calories, 0 g total fat, 0 mg sodium, 0 g total carbs, 0 g sugar, 0 g protein, 120 mg caffeine
Best Energy Drink Tablets
Our pros love the convenience of Nuun Energy, which are dissolvable drink tablets that deliver a powerful blend of organic green tea, ginseng, B vitamins and electrolytes for a quick energy boost. With 80 mg of caffeine and 20 mg of adaptogens, these tablets give fast-acting, sustained energy and focus. Flavors include Berry Blast, Tropical Punch, Ginger Lime Zing and Watermelon Burst.
Nutrition Facts (1 tablet): 15 calories, 4 g total carb, 2 g total sugars, 2 g added sugars, 100 mg sodium, 80 mg caffeine
Best Organic Energy Drink
Amazon Energy Drink
This antioxidant-rich energy drink comes in at just under 40 calories and 6 grams of sugar, but packs in 140% of your daily vitamin C needs. Our nutrition experts love the nourishing combo of acai berry and pomegranate and that this choice is USDA Organic. The 120 mg of caffeine come from green tea and yerba mate sources.
Nutrition Facts (1 can): 35 calories, 0 g total fat, 5 mg sodium, 17 g total carbohydrate, 6 g total sugars, 6 g added sugars, 1 g protein, 120 mg caffeine
Best Energy Drink for Focus
FOCUSAID Clean Energy
This refreshing pick comes complete with a dose of energizing B vitamins. The boost of 10o mg of natural caffeine comes from green tea and yerba mate. The certified gluten-free option is certified vegan, too, and low in calories. Free from sucralose, this popular pick uses organic agave nectar and organic stevia leaf extract for the perfect amount of sweetness.
Nutrition Facts (1 can): 40 calories, 9 g total carbohydrates, 7 g total sugars, 7 g added sugars, 0 g protein, 100 mg caffeine
Best Energy Drink for Workouts
Zero Sugar Health Warrior Energy Drink
Created by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, this energy drink with 160 mg caffeine from all-natural sources like green tea extract comes in a variety of tasty flavors. The completely sugar-free choice has only 15 calories and packs in 250 mg of branched chain amino acids. One can meets 100% of your daily vitamin C, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 needs too.
Nutrition Facts (1 can): 15 calories, 0 g total fat, 200 mg sodium, 3 g total carbohydrate, 0 g total sugars, 0 g added sugars, 0 g protein, 160 mg caffeine
Best Tasting Energy Drink
Rowdy Energy Drink
Rowdy boasts 160 mg of caffeine from green tea per can and comes in a variety of unique flavors like blue raspberry, strawberry lemonade, cherry limeade and more. The sugar-free offering utilizes allulose, erythritol, monk fruit and stevia for sweetness. Plus, you’ll find L-Theanine, vitamin C and a variety of other electrolytes and minerals in each can.
Nutrition Facts (1 can): 5 calories, 0 g total fat, 50 mg sodium, 2 g total carb, 0 g total sugar, 9 g erythritol, 0 g protein, 160 mg caffeine
Best Low-Calorie Energy Drink
Essential Energy Drink
This popular brand offers a variety of energy drinks, from still to sparkling, and has on-the-go packets too. The standard Celsius essential energy drink has only 10 calories and is free from high fructose corn syrup and aspartame. Our nutrition experts like that it also doesn’t have any preservatives or artificial colors. Flavors include raspberry acai, peach mango green tea and more.
Nutrition Facts (1 can): 10 calories, 0 g total fat, 2 g total carbohydrate, 0 g total sugars, 0 g protein, 200 mg caffeine
Best Sugar-Free Energy Drink
Sugar-Free Energy Drink
You’ll find a hefty dose of 200 mg of caffeine in each can of Alani Nu for only 15 calories. Our dietitians like that it has 0 grams of sugar and is boosted with a variety of B vitamins including biotin. The sugar-free product gets a dose of sweetness from erythritol and comes in unique flavors like Cosmic Stardust and Electric Tye Dye.
Nutrition Facts (1 can): 15 calories, 0 g total fat, 6 g total carb, 0 g total sugar, 0 g added sugar, 0 g protein, 200 mg caffeine
Who should avoid energy drinks?
First and foremost, energy drinks are not recommended for children and adolescents and should be avoided as per the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Adults with caffeine sensitivity should avoid the consumption of energy drinks as well.
Since high doses of caffeine may exacerbate cardiac conditions, individuals with a known history of heart disease should avoid energy drinks. Pregnant and breastfeeding woman should limit energy drink usage as well.
What is the difference between natural and synthetic caffeine?
Natural and synthetic versions of caffeine are almost identical, chemistry-wise. The natural variety is found in the leaves and seeds of many plants and shows up in coffee, tea and chocolate. Some companies add caffeine sourced from coffee or cacao beans or Yerba mate leaves to their products.
The synthetic kind is made in a lab or pharmaceutical plant and is often added to beverages like soda and energy drinks to enhance the stimulant effects. There is nothing wrong with either version of caffeine itself, but typically products with synthetic caffeine contain a lot of other additives and sugar.
How we tested energy drinks
Our registered dietitians evaluated dozens of energy drinks, zoning in on added-sugar content, ingredient lists and caffeine sources. We selected picks with lower added-sugar counts and prioritized options with natural sources of caffeine as opposed to synthetic caffeine. Our pros say to limit consumption to no more than one can a day. Try to cap added-sugar counts at 8 grams (the equivalent of two teaspoons of sugar) per can and do not mix energy drinks with alcohol.
Ultimately, energy drinks provide only a temporary burst of energy. Instead, our experts recommend prioritizing a balanced diet, adequate hydration and regular physical activity to optimize energy levels in the long term.
Why trust Good Housekeeping?
As deputy director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Lab for the past two years, Stefani Sassos handles all nutrition content, product testing and evaluation. She stays up-to-date on the latest research to provide evidence-based reporting on all things diet and nutrition, and she also runs large-scale tests and analysis for products ranging from protein bars to supplements. She has a master’s degree in clinical nutrition from New York University and has been a registered dietitian for six years, working in the clinical setting prior to Good Housekeeping and obtaining advanced credentials and board certifications in the nutrition field. Stefani also has expertise in the fitness industry for the last 10 years as a cycling instructor and NASM-Certified Personal Trainer. She oversees all fitness content for Good Housekeeping.
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