Experts Reveal The Top-Rated and Bottom-Ranked Energy Drink Brands

Energy drinks have an odd position in modern society. On the one hand, they often attract alarm and suspicion as an unhealthy and overstimulating drink to consume, with concerns typically centering around their implications for the heart.

On the other hand, they also pack a punch that students and those working in high-pressure sectors often don't feel like they can live without. No matter how much people balk at energy drinks, they're here to stay. With that in mind, there's serious value in figuring out which ones will do the least damage.

BEST: Sound's Sparkling Yerba Maté

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According to Health Digest, the Sound company's brand of yerba maté is primarily made of white tea, green tea, and the namesake South American herbal tea, yerba maté. Yerba maté is responsible for the drink's energy boost, as the tea contains both caffeine and theobromine. However, its other ingredients are as welcome to the body as those stimulants are to a sluggish day.

That's because it's rich in antioxidants called polyphenols and saponins. According to a 2023 study in Medicinal Chemistry of Chemotherapeutic Agents, the latter compounds are known to have anti-inflammatory effects. Together, these ingredients may lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, and bolster the immune system.

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WORST: Red Bull

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As Dr. Jacques Carter from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center told Boston Magazine, Red Bull's biggest issue for the health of its users is its staggering caffeine content. Just an eight-ounce can have about 80 milligrams of caffeine, which is almost a third of the maximum daily recommended intake for adults (30 milligrams) and 80% of a child's recommended dose of 100 milligrams.

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Dr. Carter also shared concerns about the effects that other stimulants in Red Bull, like taurine, ephedra, ginseng, and B vitamins, could have when combined with this intense caffeine load. That's because excessive consumption of Red Bull is likely to induce tachycardia or an elevated heart rate. This can prove fatal for people with arrhythmia.

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BEST: Celsius

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In a comprehensive review of energy drinks, Jen Glantz of Business Insider extolled Celsius for having drinks with no added sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or Aspartame. While it made her a little more jittery than an iced coffee, it also didn't make her crash once it wore off.

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Although the experience of drinking it may have felt more pleasant than other energy drinks, it's still worth noting that one 12-ounce can has about 200 milligrams of caffeine. That means children should not drink this, and adults shouldn't have more than one per day.

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WORST: Full Throttle

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Although Full Throttle contains about 160 milligrams of caffeine per can, that wasn't the main problem that registered dietitian Trista Best had with the energy drink. Instead, the caloric and sugar content inside one can rivals even the most excessive soda products.

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As best explained, Full Throttle loads customers with 220 calories per can and a staggering 58 grams of sugar. This content alone led her to declare it the most unhealthy energy drink she's seen on the market yet.

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BEST: Bai Bubbles

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According to Health Digest, Bai Bubbles takes a gentler approach to its energy drinks than many other companies. In addition to featuring no artificial preservatives, each drink has just one gram of sugar and 45 milligrams of caffeine in it. It's also loaded with vitamin C.

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To make up the difference, Bai Bubbles supplements its drinks with chlorogenic acid, a plant compound with a less harsh stimulant effect than coffee. That acid works with the polyphenols in the compound to reduce inflammation, blood pressure, and the risk of type 2 diabetes.

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WORST: Rockstar

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According to The Los Angeles Times, one 16-ounce can of Rockstar energy drink contains 240 milligrams of caffeine, 2,000 milligrams of taurine, and some other stimulants such as milk thistle extracts, guarana seed, and ginseng root.

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The newspaper also cited research from the Mayo Clinic that found healthy study participants saw their systolic and diastolic blood pressure respectively spike by 6% and 7% after just one can of Rockstar. By comparison, those who drank a placebo saw a 3% rise in systolic blood pressure and no significant change in diastolic blood pressure.

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BEST: Ghost

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As registered dietitian Jamie Nadeau mentioned on her blog, Ghost energy drink is often marketed as a healthier energy drink due to its lack of sugar and artificial coloring. The company also includes a range of B vitamins in its drinks, as well as nootropics intended to boost cognitive function.

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However, Nadeau noted that the effects of nootropics remain inconclusive and that each can of Ghost contains about 200 milligrams of caffeine. That led her to recommend limiting intake to one per day, but she ultimately concluded that it's healthier than a high-sugar energy drink like Monster.

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WORST: Mountain Dew Rise

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On paper, Mountain Dew Rise sounds like it would be one of the healthier energy drinks on the market because each 16-ounce can only has four grams of sugar. The 180 milligrams of caffeine in it is also slightly lower than some other drinks of its size.

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However, that still amounts to more caffeine than most people should have at once. Yet, the biggest issue with this drink concerns the presence of artificial flavors and colors in it. In particular, Health Digest cited research that linked the yellow 5 dye present in Rise to hyperactivity.

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BEST: Guayakí Yerba Maté

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It's perhaps a little more well-known than Sound's take on yerba maté, but Guayakí's powerful South American herbal tea has similar implications for a person's health. As Eat This, Not That noted, the drink's caffeine content of 180 milligrams per 16-ounce can isn't to be taken lightly.

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However, the fact that the tea's stimulation was derived from the Ilex paraguariensis plant means it has potential anti-inflammatory properties that can encourage weight loss. It also only has three grams of sugar, 20 calories, and 15 milligrams of sodium.

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WORST: C4

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According to Eat This, Not That, C4's primary Carnosyn Beta-Alanine ingredient is supposed to help relieve muscle fatigue and build strength. However, it's also proprietary, so it's completely unclear what's actually in this part of the formula.

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However, the markers that exist for its quality aren't promising, as the drink otherwise contains cheap, artificial ingredients. Although the drink contains citric acid, it also features sucralose, a preservative called potassium sorbate, and an artificial sweetener called acesulfame potassium. It's not the highest quality drink.

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BEST: Nuun Energy

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Unlike most energy drinks, Nuun offers a line of tablets that turn an ordinary glass of water into one. Although worse energy drinks are also known to mix caffeine with other stimulants, Nuun's 80 milligrams are derived from green tea, and those other stimulants are limited to vitamin B12, B6, and 20 milligrams of ginseng root.

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Although further research into the benefits of ginseng remains forthcoming, Health Digest explained that it has the potential to reduce inflammation, bolster cognitive function, and prevent infections. The B12 content is also supposed to improve concentration.

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WORST: NOS

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According to Health Digest, NOS once contained 260 milligrams of caffeine per 16-ounce can, but this number has since been reduced to 160 milligrams. Although this is still a lot, NOS has also attracted concerns that it has too much carnitine and vitamin B6.

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Although vitamin B6 has clear benefits, too much of it can cause pain and difficulty walking. Meanwhile, the carnitine in NOS has the potential to trigger diarrhea and other digestive issues. Law firm Schmidt & Clark LLP is also investigating claims that the caffeine content in NOS induced near-fatal seizures in a Missouri teenager.

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BEST: Moment

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As Eat This, Not That explained, Moment's drinks aren't quite stylized as energy drinks but rather "adaptogen" drinks. That means they're intended to help the body adapt to life's stresses and use natural ingredients to achieve this effect without any artificial flavors.

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One of the main ingredients is ginseng, which is supposed to help alleviate fatigue and fight inflammation within the body. Furthermore, the L-theanine content within the drink is supposed to help with focus. Moment's drinks also have no caffeine and just 20 calories and two grams of sugar.

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WORST: Alani Nu

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According to CTV News, Alani Nu drinks are typically promoted by fitness influencers due to their low calorie content and lack of sugar. However, any health benefits of the trendy beverage are a case of being close but not close enough to avoid the ire of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

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Although part of their beef with the brand has to do with a lack of bilingual labels, the drink's high caffeine content has led the agency top conclude it should not be consumed, served, or distributed in the nation. That's because each can has 200 milligrams of caffeine, which is equivalent to two Red Bulls.

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BEST: FocusAid

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According to Eat This, Not That, FocusAid's combination of yerba maté and green tea as caffeine sources makes the 100 milligrams of caffeine activate slower than it otherwise would, preventing jitters. It's also only about 40 calories with just seven grams of sugar.

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It's otherwise sweetened with Stevia, so be aware of that before tasting it. However, it also contains significant vitamin C, biotin, vitamin B12, and vitamin D3 content, among others. The latter vitamin is considered essential to bone health.

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WORST: Bang Energy

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According to Mashed, Bang Energy makes a lot of hay out of the fact that its drinks don't contain sugar and claims that they're also enhanced by super creatine. Yet, while there can be some side effects to an abundance of this peptide, the company has also been sued for allegedly not having any creatine in its products.

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More concerning is the staggering 300-milligram caffeine content of each 16-ounce can, as well as the presence of other ingredients like sodium benzoate, potassium phosphate, calcium chloride, and calcium disodium. To varying degrees, these are linked to digestive problems, renal problems, nutritional deficiencies, and inflammation.

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BEST: Zevia

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According to Good Housekeeping's team of nutritionists, Zevia brought their zero-sugar philosophy from sodas to the energy drink market. As the name would suggest, the sugar has been replaced with Stevia. Although each 12-ounce can contains 120 milligrams of caffeine, that caffeine is derived from organic green tea leaves.

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While it's true that Stevia is an artificial flavor that can leave a bit of an aftertaste, Zevia does not contain any additional artificial colors or preservatives in its wide variety of tropical flavors.

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WORST: 5-Hour Energy

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Although these incidents were under FDA investigation at the time, Forbes noted that 5-Hour Energy had potential links to 11 different fatalities since 2009. If the drink does have any responsibility for them, a potential source of trouble is its exceedingly concentrated caffeine content, which amounts to 215 milligrams in a two-ounce bottle.

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As for the extra strength version shown here, it apparently has 242 milligrams. The concentrations of vitamins and amino acids are also potential concerns, as some of those vitamins far exceed the recommended daily intake. It also contains the amino acid phenylalanine, which can cause seizures in people with phenylketonuria.

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BEST: ToroMatcha

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According to Health Digest, ToroMatcha's promise of providing hours of energy without crashes or jitters comes from its relatively low caffeine content at 60 milligrams per can and lack of sugar. It also uses Japanese Uji matcha tea as its energy source.

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In particular, the company's sparkling ginger drink is one to watch, as ginger can prevent the growth of oral bacteria, soothe an upset stomach, and even has potential anti-inflammatory properties. That said, fresh ginger juice is likely a better source for its benefits.

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WORST: ZOA

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Although Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's ZOA brand arose as a healthier energy drink that derived its caffeine from natural sources and contained an array of essential vitamins, dietitian Dana Angelo White shared her skepticism with the Food Network. Although Johnson touted the drink as containing Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin B, and various amino acids and antioxidants, it was unclear how much of each was in the drink.

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Indeed, White added that even the amino acids and antioxidants weren't specifically named. She also noted that ZOA contains acerola, which has a range of potential side effects and adverse reactions to medications. Also found is camu camu, which hasn't been sufficiently safety tested yet.

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BEST: Proper Wild

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A healthier alternative to 5-Hour Energy, Proper Wild takes a similar energy shot approach with more care taken in sourcing its ingredients. As Eat This, Not That explained, this is partially because it has no artificial colors or sweeteners and no added sugar.

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All told, each 2.5-ounce bottle contains 45 calories and nine grams of sugar, but this sugar is entirely derived from fruit juices. It also has 15 times more L-Theanine than a cup of green tea, which is supposed to help with stress and anxiety control. It's not so jittery that way.

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WORST: AMP

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According to the Schmidt & Clark LLP law firm, Pepsi's AMP energy drink is currently the subject of a significant lawsuit concerning claims that it's linked to insomnia, tremors, and potentially fatal heart attacks and strokes.

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Part of the suspected problem is that AMP makes a 24-ounce can available, as just one of these can contain up to 214 milligrams or caffeine. However, researchers also suspect that the "proprietary blend" that makes up the drink's other ingredients are keeping that caffeine in the body longer while potentially adding their own stimulating effects.

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BEST: MatchaBar Hustle

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According to Health Digest, MatchaBar Hustle's name comes from the matcha powder derived from green tea leaves, which gives the drink about 80 milligrams of caffeine per can with no artificial additives. MatchaBar Hustle also doesn't have any sugar in it.

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As for what it does have, the drink is rich in the amino acid L-theanine, which is supposed to help with focus. However, its presence is also welcome in an energy drink because it's supposed to reduce anxiety, which is a likely factor when people get too wired. The amino acid also has the potential to bolster the immune system and regulate blood pressure.

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WORST: Reign

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As Health Digest explained, Reign talks a big game about the health benefits of its drinks. Since it has no sugar and boasts zero calories, zero artificial flavors and colors, and the presence of amino acids, electrolytes and vitamins B3, B6 and B12, its spot on the worst list appears undeserved.

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However, Health Digest cautioned that its vague description of "natural flavors" doesn't mean the brand didn't sneak artificial components in, as the term is essentially unregulated. Moreover, Reign's caffeine content is staggering even for an energy drink, as just one can has about 300 milligrams.

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BEST: Clean Cause

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According to Good Housekeeping, Clean Cause is an energy-infused sparkling water brand with no calories, carbs, or sugar and only five milligrams of sodium. Although it also has 160 milligrams of caffeine, that component is sourced from yerba maté tea leaves.

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It's sweetened with stevia leaf extract, but loses some points for also containing erythritol, which is known to cause digestive problems. However, 50% of the brand's profits go drug and alcohol recovery programs, so it's not just good for the person drinking it.

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WORST: Monster

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According to PBS SoCal, Monster is similar to Red Bull in that each eight-ounce can has about 80 milligrams of caffeine in it. But while that doesn't typically impress doctors, there's more in a can of Monster than this caffeine loadout and the inclusion of vitamins B2, B3, B6, and B12.

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In addition to other stimulants that combine with the caffeine in concerning ways like taurine, maltodextrin, carntine, glucose, glucuronolactone, inositol, and Guarana, Monster also has twice the sodium as a bottle of Coca-Cola and 27 grams of sugar. Even for an energy drink, that's unhealthy.

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BEST: UPTIME

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According to Good Housekeeping, UPTIME's line of energy drinks don't contain any sodium or sugar and feature only five calories and two grams of carbohydrates. Although it's sweetened with Stevia, the potential sweetness of the sucralose has been mitigated, preventing the drink from being overpowering in this way.

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Although each 12-ounce bottle has 142 milligrams of caffeine, this content is derived from L-Theanine, panax ginseng root extract and angelica root extract. The only common complaint is that the metal bottles can be a little hard to open.