a marathon runner at the finish line with Nike logo

Best energy drink for a half marathon (for the long run)

Half marathons are a good way to keep fit and healthy, whether you're running them regularly for the fun and thrill, or just as a one time thing, it's important to prepare well for your body to keep up for 13.1 miles (21.1km)

Endurance sports are gaining in popularity and with that come evolving diets and supplements to help you through your endurance sports.

From sports drinks to energy drinks to energy gels, which is most suitable for you on your half marathon? 

There's a vast difference between full and half marathons. 13.1 miles to be precise. With that comes different requirements. 

For that, energy drinks play a role, especially in endurance sports like half marathons. 

Effective ingredients in energy drinks for a half marathon

Caffeine 

Caffeine is the main energy-boosting ingredient in energy drinks and the caffeine content varies from drink to drink.

Caffeine can help you as a runner because it has performance boosting properties. It can boost your alertness, your mood and most importantly your desire to want to run and complete the half marathon. 

Caffeine also helps to induce, what some call a "runner's high". It works by increasing the levels of endorphins in your brain.  

Caffeine also increases your power and running speed over long distances by enhancing reaction time and improving neuromuscular coordination. This means you can run faster with less effort. 

If you're worried about the diuretic properties that caffeine causes, don't worry because a study found that you can safely have up to 550mg of caffeine without affecting your hydration levels. 

However, the recommended daily maximum caffeine intake is 400mg, so be wary of consuming more caffeine than you should or can tolerate. 

For running a half marathon, you probably just want a gentle boost rather than something that will blow your head off. Something in the range of 50-100mg is ideal for long distance running in my opinion. 

Sugar 

Sugar is found in many energy drinks, although nowadays there are many energy drinks that are sugar-free, so check the label of your energy drink of choice. 

If you're running a half marathon it's probably OK to consume more sugar than usual because you'll be burning it off so quickly. However, sugar is still unhealthy and should taken in moderation at all times. 

Also, you'll want to avoid an infamous "sugar crash" late in your run. So, even if you're running a half marathon, a sugar crash may still occur after you've consumed too much sugar. 

Funnily enough, runners need sugar (carbohydrates) to maintain their energy on a run, but don't take that as a green light to consume as much sugar as you like. You should remind yourself that consuming a lot of sugar can be the downfall of your health. 

Taurine

Taurine is an amino acid included in many energy drinks. It works by fighting muscle fatigue and also helps you calm your mind.

Fighting muscle fatigue and keeping a calm mind are very important during a half marathon, so taurine is probably an ingredient that you should be on the lookout to include in your energy drink.

a group of marathon runners on the road
How many half marathons have you run?

What should I drink before a half marathon?

You should drink an energy drink, a cup of coffee or an espresso shot before a half marathon.

Before the start of the run it's a good idea to consume a moderate amount of caffeine as it can naturally enhance your performance. 

If you are going to drink an energy drink, drink it 45 minutes before your run for optimum effectiveness. 

One thing to keep in mind before you start your race is that most energy drinks are carbonated. Personally, my tummy doesn't do well with a bunch of fizz bouncing around while I'm on a long run.

There are some good powder energy drinks (just add water) that contain all of the good ingredients that you need, but also are versatile enough that you can mix them with still water, instead of something fizzy. 

This is great before a half marathon because you get everything that you need to improve your performance, but you won't have a belly full of fizz before the race starts. 

What should I drink during a half marathon?

Sports drinks are a good choice during a half marathon because they replace lost fluids and electrolytes. 

Long runs requires carbs, thus sports drinks with a trifecta of water, electrolytes and carbs can help you achieve peak performance. 

Sports drinks don't improve your performance like energy drinks do, but the hydrating properties of sports drinks keeps your performance from flagging.

Did you know that 2-3% of dehydration causes 10% of degradation? 

Therefore drinking sports drinks can help you to maintain your performance at a higher level. 

Sports drinks work by supplying you with electrolytes like sodium and potassium that you lose during a long run. Electrolytes enable our cells to carry electrical impulses like nerve impulses and muscle contractions. 

Ultimately, choose a sports drink that has a good ratio of water to carbs and you're good to go. 

What should I drink after a half marathon? 

After a half marathon you should drink water, sport drinks and or energy drinks, depending on how you feel.

When you finish your run the most important thing is to make sure that you are properly hydrated and that you are replacing lost fluids. If you're certain that you've consumed enough fluid replacements and are lacking energy, you can also drink an energy drink to give you an energy boost. 

However, if you also drank an energy drink before your half marathon, keep an eye on your total daily caffeine intake and also any warning labels on your energy drink to ensure you're not going overboard. Drinking too many energy drinks in one day is something that you should avoid.

You can also try recovery drinks which have protein in them to help with muscle recovery. 

Coconut water also contains natural electrolytes like potassium and sodium that can replace what you've lost. Choose one that has little or no sugar, as some commercialised coconut waters might contain a lot sugar to make them taste sweeter. 

Do I need to drink water during a half marathon? 

Water is actually most suitable for runs less than 60 minutes. For longer runs you'll need something more potent to replenish what you've lost. 

During a half marathon you can go for sports drinks or energy gels to help you get make it to the finish line. 

However, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't drink any water during a half marathon - you absolutely should. This just means that on extended runs you will need to drink more than just water.

You can even have a few sips of an energy drink - especially if you choose one that isn't fizzy. 

a group of marathon runners training, photo in black and white
It's good to train in a group, you can also recommend your favorite energy drinks to each other.

How can I increase my running stamina? 

You can improve your running stamina through training, rest and diet.

Even beginners realize that you can't just sign up for a half marathon today and run it tomorrow. You won't even get through the first mile. 

If you know you're aiming to run a marathon, half or full, plan your training schedule in advance leading up to the day of the run. Training can build your endurance and stamina until eventually, you're ready for the big race. 

Getting enough sleep and eating a balanced diet are also important parts of building stamina. You should look to include some good carbohydrates into your diet to provide extra stamina during training and the race itself.

Energy drinks are great at providing an extra boost and improving stamina. You might choose to include an energy drink that contains taurine and has a moderate amount of caffeine into your training ritual. As mentioned above, for distance runners, I think it's smart to avoid too much carbonation before and during a long run.

It's also wise to train with food and drink items you're planning to consume on the day of your half marathon. This is too ensure that you're well acquainted with them and that you won't suffer from a stomach ache on the day of the run. 

What drinks increase stamina for a half marathon? 

Coffee, yerba mate, green tea and energy drinks are all good choices as they have a good amount of caffeine in them. As we have discussed above, caffeine can really help you during a long run. This means extra stamina and improved performance. 

Energy drinks for running stamina

Ideally, you should pick an energy drink with a good amount of caffeine, sugar, taurine and calories. It's also notable to try out the energy drinks you've picked while you're training to see if they're compatible with your needs.

Definitely don't drink an energy drink you've never tried before on the day of the marathon. That's really inadvisable. 

Continue reading, as I'll be recommending a few of the best energy drinks for a half marathon in a moment. 

Is it OK to drink high calorie drinks for a half marathon? 

Yes it is and is also advisable to do so. 

The logic is this, as you run, you burn your available carbohydrates, but when you're out of carbohydrates to burn for energy, your system starts to shut down, causing you to lose speed. 

To avoid an energy meltdown from taking place during your run, the easiest way to recharge is by consuming carbs in glucose form. Liquid carbs are actually better than solid carbs for a run as they are easily digestible. 

Sports drinks can help you quickly consume liquid carbs while also rehydrating. Consuming liquid carbs also prevents you from potentially choking while swallowing solids.

That seems like a long shot, but there's no doubt that drinking carbs is better than eating carbs in the middle of a run.

Is it OK to drink Red Bull before running? 

Yes it is OK to drink Red Bull before running a half marathon. 

A regular 8.4 fl.oz can of Red Bull contains 27g of sugar, 80mg of caffeine and 110 calories.

These numbers seem OK for marathon runners, but if you're not going to run a long race, I suggest you rethink choosing Red Bull because of all of the sugar and calories. You could opt for a sugar-free version, or one of the alternatives listed below instead.

Based on a previous study, Red Bull has been proven to increase running performance by 78% and it enabled the participants to complete their run in less time. 

That's indisputable proof that it is a good idea to drink an energy drink before a half marathon or any long run. 

Check the latest Red Bull price on Amazon.

Fun fact: did you know that Red Bull was previously banned in France?

A row of different energy drinks
There's a whole lot of energy drinks out there, so choose wisely! 

Best energy drinks for a half marathon 

Here are some suggestions that might aid you in your 13.1 mile quest.

As I previously mentioned, try out energy drinks first during your training to find which ones are suitable for you, as everyone's caffeine tolerance differs. 

Bang Energy Drink 

As the name suggest, it is a "bang" as it contains a very high amount of caffeine - 300mg. As much as caffeine is beneficial for runners, 300mg is too much for me.

Actually, Bang ranks near the top of the list of very strong energy drinks

Bang Energy Drink has zero sugar and zero calories , which I like. But, due to the high caffeine content, I would reconsider it before a half marathon and I think some of the other options below might be more suitable.

Bang Energy Drink also markets themselves as containing creatine and BCAA's, which you might be interested in, although there is no solid evidence if the contents of either are substantial. There's also a number of lawsuits against Bang for false and misleading advertising, so make of that what you will.

To read more about whether Bang energy drink is good for you, check out my other article which covers things very comprehensively.

Check the current price on Amazon.

Xyience Energy Drink

If you still want an energy drink with zero sugar and calories, but with slightly less caffeine, you can try Xyience Energy Drink with its 176mg of caffeine.

Personally, I still think 176mg of caffeine is too much before or during a long run, but perhaps give it a try and see if it works for you.

However, my main issue with Xyience Energy Drink is the really high price point. A single can often goes for north of $4. 

Xyience is a good energy drink, but I just can't justify the price on top of all of the other costs associated with running a half marathon. 

You can check the latest prices on Amazon here

XS Energy Drink 

Going down the caffeine ladder here, XS Energy Drink has a nice  80mg of caffeine . Something I personally prefer. 

I find that consuming between 50 and 100mg of caffeine to be ideal before a long run. It's enough to get all of the great benefits that caffeine has for runners, but it also won't blow your shoes off your feet or cause any unwanted problems. 

XS Energy Drink is sugar-free and has 10 calories, something that I don't mind. 

However, XS energy is also a bit of a pricey option, often selling for a similar price as Xyience does. 

Check the current price on Amazon.

REIZE Energy Drink (10 out of 10 for runners)

REIZE Energy Drink is very convenient.
REIZE is home delivered for your convenience.

My favorite energy drink, REIZE, has a lower amount of caffeine, with 50mg per serve. It's also sugar-free and has just 11 calories. 

Something else that I love is the taurine and sodium content, which I find to be great for extended runs. Also, the combination of caffeine, ginseng, B vitamins and taurine work together to provide the perfect energy boost, with no sugar crash.

I love the fact that I can mix the REIZE powder with any drink I want. Before a half marathon, still water is probably the best choice to avoid a belly full of bubbles, but still getting the good energy-boosting ingredients that you want from an energy drink. 

REIZE is definitely my energy drink of choice for a half marathon. 

REIZE ships right to your door for only around $1 per drink (including shipping). That's amazing value for money. 

Give REIZE a try today and you might just find that it will be the perfect running partner for your next half marathon.