Best energy drink for athletes (your results will thank you)

An athlete kneeling

In the world of sports, everyone is always looking for a competitive edge. Athletes all around the world are on the lookout for supplements that can boost their performance – within regulations of course.

One of the most popular options for athletes these days is energy drinks.

But, are energy drinks actually effective at helping athletes to achieve better results?

With so many new brands of energy drinks emerging nowadays, how do you know which is the best for your athletic needs?

If you’re interested in know in the answers to these questions and to find out which energy drink is the best for athletes, you’re in the right place.

I’ve previously written about the best energy drink for football players and the best energy drinks for a half marathon.

But today, we’re focussing on the best energy drink for athletes.

Let’s get started!

Do energy drinks improve athletic performance?

Yes, energy drinks do help to improve your athletic performance.

Studies have shown that caffeine (which is a common ingredient in energy drinks) can help to improve your alertness and short-term athletic performance.

In fact, just minutes after drink an energy drink you’ll start to feel more alert and energized.

In fact, caffeine has such a profound impact on physical AND mental performance that many of the world’s militaries give caffeine to their service men and women.

Are energy drinks bad for athletes?

Personally, I don’t think energy drinks are bad for athletes.

There are certainly some positives that come from drinking energy drinks in moderation, but there may also be some negatives too.

Energy drinks, especially in large amounts, may cause possible side effects such as:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Insomnia
  • Dehydration
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness

As mentioned before, the main energy-boosting ingredient in energy drinks is caffeine. Caffeine can be great in moderation, but in high doses it can be dangerous.

Also, if you’re drinking energy drinks every day, the more energy drinks you drink, the more your body gets used to the caffeine content. As time progresses your body will not experience the same energizing effects as the body is used to the caffeine in your bloodstream.

Therefore, as long as you keep your intake of energy drinks in check, you should be totally fine and won’t experience any side-effects or negative impacts on your health.

Like most things in life, moderation is key.

Drinking too much water can kill you too.

Don’t overdo it on the energy drinks and you’ll be fine.

How do you know which energy drink is best for athletes?

When it comes to energy drinks there are a few criteria that you should at to compare them:

• Caffeine

Caffeine is what keeps you energized and alert during those intense training sessions.

You can check out my article on how caffeine metabolism works to see how it relates to energy drinks.

I consider energy drinks that contain somewhere between 50-100mg of caffeine to be perfect for athletes.

More than 100mg of caffeine might give you a huge energy boost, but it can also cause you to feel jittery which disturbs your focus and increases restlessness.

Consuming high doses of caffeine through energy drinks everyday may also come with other long term health consequences.

However, I should point out that more caffeine doesn’t always mean a bigger energy boost. I’ve certainly been disappointed by that in the past.

Keep in mind that the recommended daily limit for caffeine is no more than 400mg per day. 

That’s what the FDA recommends.

If you overdo it on the caffeine, you might experience some unwanted side effects. Dizziness, headaches, nausea and hot flushes are not things you want to have to deal with in the middle of a training session or on competition day.

I recommend you check out my article if you think you have a caffeine addiction. It may help you to identify whether you are addicted to caffeine and take steps to overcome it.

Based on my own experience, I usually find that energy drinks with less caffeine are better, as I don’t feel hyperactive, but rather energized and focussed on the task at hand.

In addition, energy drinks that contain some other energy-boosting ingredients such as taurine, ginseng and b vitamins can give a much better overall energy boost than taking pure caffeine on its own.

• Sugar

Sugar is one of the ingredients that gives you a quick energy boost, but its effects are short lived.

Healthiest energy drink too much sugar is bad
Sugar, if used strategically can help to improve short term performance.

For athletes that engage in high-intensity training, sugar is a great source of energy. This is because sugar is a quick-burning carb. What this means is that it takes a shorter time for your body to convert it to energy.

During your training sessions and competitions, especially ones that involve high-intensity training, you burn lots of energy.

This, in turn, can cause a drop in your blood sugar levels. Sugar in this sense is great at restoring your glycogen level back to normal as it will take less time for your body to digest sugar (glucose) and hit your bloodstream.

However, that doesn’t mean that sugar is good for you.

In fact, I’ll go a step further and say that sugar is definitely not good for you.

This is especially true if it’s consumed in a large amounts. Consuming sugar in excess can increase your risk of developing diabetes and cause other serious health complications such as premature ageing and obesity.

Furthermore, excess sugar in your system might cause you to experience a sugar-crash.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 37.5g of sugar per day for men and 25g per day for women.

So, it’s best to choose an energy drink that contains a sensible amount of sugar or none at all.

• Calories

Athlete have an active lifestyle where strength and endurance play a key part.

Therefore, you need to train and push your body to the limits to meet the performance requirements. In order to push your body, you need to ensure that you’re getting the required amount of calories and other nutrients to provide the required energy.

In general, you need to replace the number of calories you burn each day. Calories measure the energy you get from food.

Every individual has different energy needs. Most people require between 1500 to 2000 calories per day. However, for an athlete, this may rise to 3000 calories per day or more in some cases.

Every Athlete’s needs are different. The amount of food you need depends on your age, height, weight, and sport that you’re involved with.

You can find your exact requirements either from your personal trainer or a medical professional.

Some energy drinks contain a lot of calories, others little or none.

Most of the calories in energy drinks are from sugar. Energy drinks that are high in sugar tend to be the same ones that are high in calories.

Low sugar content = low in calories

High sugar content = high in calories

If you’re trying to stay in shape and avoid unwanted calories, you probably want to stay away from those energy drinks.

If you think you’ll be able to efficiently burn the calories you get from consuming sugar, you may decide that energy drinks with sugar in them are right for you. But, most athletes lean towards sugar-free energy drinks with few calories and they get their calories from other food sources.

• Price

The price of an energy drink is an important factor for any athlete.

It’s always best to spend less and get more. After all, money doesn’t grow on trees and it’s not cheap to be an athlete or participate in any kind of sport.

That doesn’t mean that you should go for lower quality products. On the contrary, what I mean is that you should go for a product that gives us the best value for money.

With that out of the way, here are the few energy drinks that I consider to be the best for athletes when considering all of these factors.

In no particular order, I present to you…

The Best Energy drink for athletes

Red Bull

Caffeine content: 80mg
Sugar content: 27g
Price: about $2 per 8.4 fl.oz can
Calories: 110

Red Bull is great for athletes that don’t mind the sugar and calories.

Personally, I drink Red Bull all the time before my training sessions.

Red Bull against a background of greenery
Red Bull can be great for athletes, but did you know that it was once banned in France

Red Bull contains sugar which is great for a quick energy boost or as a post-training recovery drink to replenish the glucose lost during training. But, as already mentioned above, sugar may or may not be right for you.

Red Bull also contains a good amount of caffeine that gives you a nice energy boost and helps you to focus without overdoing it.

At around $2 per drink, Red Bull is not very expensive, but it’s far from being the most affordable option out there.

However, its calorie content is something that you should keep an eye on, especially if you’re an athlete that’s trying to stay in shape and remain fit.

If that’s the case you can go for the sugar-free version of Red Bull which contains much less calories than the regular version.

If you’re considering making Red Bull your energy drink of choice, you should definitely check out my article about how drinking Red Bull everyday affects your body.

Or you can read more about whether Red Bull is bad for you here.

Check the latest Red Bull price on Amazon.

Celsius energy drink

Caffeine content: 200mg
Sugar content: 0g
Price: about $2.25 per 12 fl.oz can
Calories: 10

Celsius is a pretty good option for athletes in my opinion.

Being sugar-free is a plus, it tastes good, but the price is a little high in my view.

Celsius also has a low-calorie content, with only 10 per can. If you’re an athlete and you’re trying to avoid unwanted calories, Celsius might be the drink for you.

At around $2.25 it’s definitely on the more expensive end of the spectrum of energy drinks and there are certainly better-value options out there.

Furthermore, it has a pretty high caffeine content with 200g per serve.

That’s half of the daily recommended amount of caffeine as per FDA guidance. Therefore, if you do choose Celsius, make sure that you closely monitor how much caffeine you’re getting from other sources each day too.

One word of caution with regard to the health claims that Celsius make. In my opinion they are misleading.

Celsius paid for 6 studies to prove the effectiveness of their drink at helping to burn fat in conjunction with exercise, which was proven in those studies.

However, they fail to mention that the studies point out the reason for these findings are due to the caffeine content. Celsius makes no mention of caffeine even being a contributing factor. Instead, they point to their proprietary formula as the reason for increased fat burning during exercise.

I think that this is a marketing tactic designed to make you think that only their special blend will help you to burn fat while you exercise. In fact, caffeine from any source in combination with exercise will have similar effects.

Do your own research on the matter, but you can read my take on all six of their university studies in this article.

Check the latest Celsius price on Amazon.

Monster Energy

Caffeine content: 160mg
Sugar content: 54g
Price: about $3.20 per 16 fl.oz can
Calories: 110

Monster is a favorite of many athletes.

If you’re a sports enthusiast, I’m sure you’ve seen many athletes promote the big, green and mean Monster.

Best energy drink for an all-nighter Monster energy
Monster is very popular for many athletes, but is it actually good for you?

So, what makes Monster so popular?

For one the tastes great. It contains quite a lot of sugar, so I guess it’s no surprise that it tastes good.

It also contains a lot of caffeine. Although there is twice as much caffeine in a Monster than there is in a Red Bull, the can is also about double the size. On a per-fluid-ounce basis they are very similar in terms of both caffeine and sugar.

If you want to fully understand all of the differences between Monster and Red Bull you can check out my other article where I cover all of the differences between the two leading brands.

The only downside of Monster is that it contains too many calories and too much sugar.

Well, that and also containing a bit more caffeine than I like to consume in one go.

One thing is for sure, that amount of sugar and caffeine is going to give you a big jolt of energy soon after drinking it. However, a couple of hours later, you may experience a sugar crash.

Depending on how long your training session usually is, Monster energy might be good or bad for you. If your training session is usually around 1 to 2 hours Monster might be great for it. However, any longer than that, I would recommend you to go for one of the other energy drinks on this list instead.

To see how it might affect you if you decided to drink Monster everyday, check out my article on that.

Check the latest Monster price on Amazon.

• Mountain Dew Kickstart

Caffeine content: 92mg
Sugar Content: 20g
Price: about $1.30 per 16 fl.oz can
Calories: 60

If you’re a fan of Mountain Dew, you’ll like the energy drink version – Kickstart.

What’s the difference between Kickstart and regular Mountain Dew?

The caffeine content. 

Mountain Dew Kickstart also contains a reasonable amount of sugar. It’s not zero, but it’s certainly less than some other energy drinks mentioned in this article.

Having said that, I prefer sugar-free energy drinks. I’m happy to get my calories from a variety of food sources instead of trying to get them from sugary energy drinks.

At around $2 per 16 fl.oz can it’s priced about middle of the road. There are more expensive and more affordable options out there, but I don’t have a significant problem with this price tag.

If you frequently drink carbonated soda’s or sports drinks to recover after exercise, I recommend that you give Mountain Dew Kickstart a try and see if it works better for you.

Check the latest price on Amazon here.

Bang Energy

Caffeine content: 300mg
Sugar content: 0g
Price: about $2.20 per 16 fl.oz can
Calories: 0

Forget about an average person, even for an elite athlete, I think 300mg of caffeine is one can is a little too much. 

Bang energy is one of the strongest energy drinks on the market. Keep in mind that the recommended limit for caffeine is no more than 400mg a day.

Just one can of this Bang Energy puts you close to the limit and you’ll need to closely monitor your caffeine intake from other sources throughout the day to stay within the FDA guidelines.

Best energy drink for an all nighter bang energy
Bang tastes good and is growing in popularity, but is it bad for you?

Price wise, I consider Bang to be reasonable value for money.

Most of the big brand energy drinks cost between $2 to $3 per can, so Bang is right in the middle there.

You can check out the best places to buy Bang here.

Bang energy doesn’t contain any sugar and in my opinion, it’s not a great post-training recovery drink for athletes. On the other hand as a pre-training drink, it’s good as the amount of caffeine in it is sure to give you a tremendous energy boost to help you get through your workouts.

But, that might not be for everyone.

Personally, it’s too much for me and I wouldn’t want to turn the intensity lever up to 100% with that much caffeine in my system. I would be legitimately worried about what might happen to my heart.

However, make sure to drink no more than one can per day and take a day off from drinking it once in a while. This is because that much caffeine can potentially cause some serious side effects, especially if consumed frequently and in excess over the long term.

I’ve written more about Bang energy ingredients here in case you’re considering grabbing some for your training.

Check the current price on Amazon.

REIZE Energy Drink

Caffeine content: 50mg
Sugar content: 0g (sugar-free)
Price: about $1 per drink
Calories: 11

After trying it for myself, I found that REIZE is a great energy drink for training.

Unlike most energy drinks, REIZE doesn’t come in the usual ready-to-drink can, instead it’s a powder that comes in a sachet. All you need to do is mix it with water and voila!

Instant fresh energy when you need it.

REIZE contains a sensible amount of caffeine with 50mg per serve. Personally, I find that amount to be just enough to keep me alert and focus without having to deal with all the negative effects of too much caffeine.

The addition of taurine, B vitamins and ginseng work in combination with the caffeine to produce a perfect energy boost, with no sugar crash.

Did I mention that it tastes great and you can mix it with just about any drink that you like?

Not mention, REIZE only costs around $1 per drink, including shipping. It’s by far the most affordable energy drink on this list and it’s ideal for athletes.

Other energy drinks that you can consider

Although they’re not my personal favorites or what I consider to be the best, these energy drinks are worth a look too:

Liquid energy drinks

Guru

XS Energy

• Rockstar

Rip It

Powdered energy drinks

GFuel

Zip Fizz

Advocare Spark

You should consider getting your hands on some powdered energy drinks for your training and competition. They tend to have lower price tags and are more convenient to carry around, as they don’t take too much space.

I’ve also written an in-depth article on the best energy drinks to boost your energy levels that you might find interesting.

But seriously, you can’t go past REIZE

If you’ve never tried REIZE before, you should!

It’s definitely one the best energy drinks that I’ve tried over the years, and I think it’s great for athletes.

REIZE Energy Drink is very convenient.
REIZE is the best energy drink for athletes in my opinion.

REIZE contains a good amount of caffeine, which doesn’t cause any of the side effects that are usually associated with caffeine.

I’ve also got confidence to crank things up to 100% with this amount of caffeine pulsing through my veins – something that I wouldn’t like to try with higher doses.

The inclusion of taurine is great for muscle recovery – something that every athlete needs to be mindful of. I also like the sodium content, which also appeals to many athletes.

For only $1 per drink, REIZE ships straight to your door.

You also have the option of choosing a monthly deliveries or a one-time purchase to best suit your needs. Talk about convenience.

Give REIZE a try today!

You might just find that REIZE is the perfect energy drink for all your athletic needs.

Marty Spargo

I started my own energy drink brand in 2014 and am passionate about educating people about energy drinks so that they can properly understand the ingredients, benefits and risks without being influenced by the marketing messages put out by some brands. You can read my full bio here.

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