It’s a tough tussle for the title of best energy drink, with several major players in a massive market.
Energy drinks do brisk business these days and show no signs of slowing down – much like the promises they put on their products. Sales amounted to $7.6 billion dollars in the US in 2017, and is growing at over 3% a year.
Almost 50% of respondents to one survey said they consumed energy drinks several times a week. Plenty of product varieties are available in all shapes and sizes and for all occasions.
Early-morning commute or late-night graveyard shift? High-performance athlete or hard-working mother? There’s an energy drink out there for you.
But which beverage gives you the best boost?
Table of Contents
RED BULL ENERGY DRINK
A humble Austrian with a huge dream who became a global superstar. No, not Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the most eponymous energy-boosting beverage of them all, Red Bull. Conquerors of the energy drink world with nothing but a simple silver can and a great big pair of… horns.
Red Bull aren’t so much a competitor as they are, in fact, the entire category itself. Dietrich Mateschitz sold the first can of Red Bull Energy Drink in Austria in 1987 and shook the beverage industry to its carbonated core. In one wave of a metaphorical matador’s flag, he created a brand-new product category and marketing concept.
In fact, he introduced a whole new industry to the world.
For a while, it wasn’t just the best energy drink – it was THE energy drink.
Many other great alternatives are available these days, but Red Bull still maintains its massive market share. It sells over 6 billion cans a year worldwide and is by far the best energy drink in branding terms.
RED BULL MARKETING
Let’s face it, Red Bull defines “top-of-mind” brand recognition, aligning itself with any kind of activity.
Study session? Red Bull. Before a big race? Workout, wrestling match, waterskiing? Red Bull. Jumping from the edge of space? Sure, why not. Grab a couple of cans and your astronaut gear, Mr. Baumgartner.
Red Bull has business interests and sponsored athletes in every category imaginable. soccer teams to stock car racers. Surfing to skating. E-sports to winter sports, extreme sports and Olympic sports. A music label. A Formula 1 team.
And a very cool head office.
They even sponsor the best chess player in America. (It’s getting a bit ridiculous now).
Interestingly, in the early days of energy drinks, Red Bull was actually banned in France and a couple of other countries for a period of time.
RED BULL INGREDIENTS
But what about the product itself? How does it give you these “wings” they love to talk about? To be honest, their branding alone could make us believe even pigs could fly, but let’s dig a little deeper anyway. It may be the biggest, but is it the best energy drink available?
Red Bull’s key ingredients are caffeine, taurine, B-group vitamins, sugar and fresh Alpine water. So far, so expected.
RED BULL CAFFEINE CONTENT
Caffeine is the most common concentration-boosting ingredient in the energy drink market – technically, it is the most popular drug in the world. It perks us up by imitating a naturally-occurring substance in our brains called adenosine. When adenosine levels reach a certain point, it’s time for a nap.
Caffeine has a similar molecular structure and binds to the same receptors as adenosine, so we stay awake, alert and focused for longer.
Red Bull’s caffeine content was a very contentious issue at one point. One customer’s frivolous claim turned into a huge $13 million class-action suit.
Some ballsy dude called Benjamin Careathers decided that he wasn’t happy after a decade of drinking Red Bull. Why? Not only had he not grown wings (shock), but not enhanced his athletic or mental capabilities at all.
So, he took the Bull by the horns and shook them down for a significant sum. How, we hear you cry?
The court found in his favor because of the lack of any scientific proof that a can of Red Bull was more effective energy-wise than a cup of coffee, despite the marketing promise (and pricing) of a far superior product.
These days, they’re upfront about it, stating that their 250ml beverage contains “80mg of caffeine, slightly less than a cup of coffee”.
Caffeine-wise, 50mg is REIZE’s favorite number – and price-wise, well, we’re not likely to get sued any time soon.
RED BULL TAURINE CONTENT
An urban legend once told that bona-fide bull’s sperm makes up the 1000mg of taurine in Red Bull. This myth which only added to the drink’s mystique – make of that what you will.
In fact, Red Bull’s taurine is bovine-free and completely synthetic. In any case, taurine naturally occurs in the human body. It’s an amino acid antioxidant that moves minerals through our system.
REIZE contains the same amount of taurine per serving as Red Bull – great minds, and all that…
Nobody’s perfect, though. Regular Red Bull does pack a staggering amount of sugar – 11g/100ml, 27g per 250ml can, over 10% of the total recipe. You’ll get the energy high, but are likely to feel the crash not long after.
REIZE’s sugar-free formula gets you into the zone without a heavy landing.
MONSTER ENERGY DRINK
The second-in-line to the throne with big eyes on the best energy drink top prize.
This mean green machine rolled up in 2002 and has been making a lot of loud noise ever since. Monster Energy drink prefer to refer to themselves a “lifestyle in a can”. So, their design firm created “an aggressive brand for an untapped aggressive consumer”.
Their website states that ‘anarchists’ are among Monster’s many fans. I guess you need a lot of energy to topple the system. Maybe we could award it “best energy drink… for telling the Man how you feel”.
MONSTER ENERGY DRINK SATANIC SYMBOLS?
Twitter users may have seen a video doing the rounds comparing Monster’s unmistakable logo to a Satanic-related symbol.
Let’s not go that far, but hey, these guys have had a lot of success carving out the high-octane category in a highly competitive market. You might not bet against them having done a deal with the devil.
In unrelated news (ahem), Coca-Cola is getting closer to a full takeover, after acquiring 17% of the company a few years ago.
Like Red Bull, Monster favors sponsorship ahead of traditional advertising. They support a wide range of extreme sports, from monster trucks to MMA, Speedway to skateboarding.
Monster also promotes many musical acts worldwide, including Fetty Wap and Iggy Azalea. It packs a “big bad buzz” in over 34 different drinks under the brand in North America alone.
IS MONSTER THE BEST ENERGY DRINK?
So, what makes it such a Monster? Despite second place (for now), can it claim to be the best energy drink on the market today? Is the student becoming the master?
It contains higher caffeine content than many energy drinks with 160g per 16 fl.oz can. That’s about double the amount of a regular cup of joe. Monster get around this by calling a 16 ounce can “two servings”.
Hmmm… How many people do you think actually drink exactly half, put the can in the fridge and then drink the rest later?
The larger Monster Import edition actually contains “2.5 servings” per can.
Unlike Red Bull, Monster also contains guarana, a South American natural caffeine compound to add to the energy boost. But the caffeine levels almost pale in comparison to the frightening 54 grams of glucose per can. That’s almost two full-size Snickers bars’ worth to set you up for a serious crash. The MegaMonster edition contains three servings per can.
Good thing they sponsor crash helmets.
Now, we’re not in the finger-pointing business (we’ve got our hands full with sachets of stimulant). But it’s worth mentioning energy drinks in such sizes are linked with a spike in visits to the ER over the years.
The beauty of REIZE is that you can control exactly how it’s served. Stay safe, stay sugar-free.
For a potent burst of powerful energy, Monster Energy’s caffeine and guarana combination earn it a spot on our list of best energy drinks.
For a comprehensive look at the differences between Monster and Red Bull take a look at this article.
ROCKSTAR ENERGY DRINK
Rockstar boasts a huge product range and a 14% share of the North American energy drinks market. Worldwide, it’s available in over 20 flavors in over 30 countries, fueling athletes, artists and all sorts of other active lifestyles.
For the sheer number of options it offers, Rockstar is a top contender for the best energy drink on the shelves today.
Rockstar was the first big hitter to introduce the bigger 16oz can, billing itself as “twice the size of Red Bull for the same price”. The Original version contains a comparable amount of caffeine to Monster. Or, you can opt for the shake-inducing Rockstar Punched – 360g of caffeine per 24oz. can.
A contender for the title of “best energy drink… for breaking land speed records on foot”.
In fact, Rockstar Energy Drink Original was once named Men’s Health’s Worst Energy Drink for the shriek-worthy sugar content of 67.5 grams. That’s almost 17 sugar cubes in a can.
Sure, you’ll “Party like a Rockstar”, but with the comedown to match. There are low-cal versions, but much of the range is a sure source of non-nutritive calories.
Sugar-free alternative, anyone?
On this list though, Rockstar comes in as the best energy drink for caffeine content.
ROCKSTAR ENERGY GUM
If you don’t want to chug it, you can chew it – the brand introduced Rockstar energy gum in 2010. One pack of ten pieces contains the same amount of caffeine as five 8oz. cans. Convenient and portable – like another product we can think of.
Talking of chugged, there was even an alcoholic version of Rockstar available about ten years ago – so you could really live up to the slogan. Rockstar discontinued it due to concerns of confusion amongst younger customers.
Still, another tick in the versatility column, making it one of the best energy drinks in our books.
5-HOUR ENERGY SHOT
The pioneer of the ‘energy shot’ drink and a staple at gas station counters across the country. 5-Hour Energy Shot enjoys a 75% share of the highly-concentrated caffeine market. It comes in a tiny bottle that punches well above its weight when it comes to the caffeine kick.
Each 2oz bottle of 5-hour Energy contains 207mg of caffeine – three times as much as a small can of Red Bull. Does what it says on the bottle, then.
Artificially sweetened, it’s a good option for the calorie counters, with only 4 per serving. Compared to the others on this list, it’s the best energy drink for any readers watching their waistline.
5-HOUR ENERGY B-VITAMINS
These guys boast that a single shot contains 8333% of your recommended daily dose of vitamin B12. This sounds mighty impressive – the kind of ‘above and beyond’ you’re hoping for when reaching for an energy shot. But… eight thousand percent?
Why? Seems a little overkill to us.
Besides, all B vitamins are water soluble. Our bodies absorb them all and then expel any that are surplus to requirements.
You’re gonna pee out the other 8233%.
5-Hour Energy also contains 2,000% of the recommended intake of Vitamin B6. B6 is also found in animal products as well as in beans, whole grains, and fortified cereals and breads. It helps boost the immune system and produce red blood cells.
All well and good, but according the experts, none of these high doses of B vitamins “are going to boost energy unless you’re B-deficient”.
These vitamins aren’t toxic in large quantities, but overconsumption can cause nerve damage, tingling, and numbness in the limbs. Doesn’t sound like a potential performance enhancer…
Note — REIZE also contains B vitamins, but we like to think of ours as a “holistic replenishment”. Our doses are more healthy than hardcore.
5-HOUR ENERGY MISLEADING MARKETING
We’re not snitches, so we won’t name names. We’ll only say that a pretty big federal administration was once hot on the heels of 5-Hour Energy (and one or two others on this list).
Several incident reports mentioned these beverages as potential causes of (very) serious symptoms. Now, there were no charges brought, nor products banned – but why take the risk, when you can take a REIZE?
5-Hour Energy used to brag that they were a “caffeine high with no crash”. Then, three separate states sued them for deceptive advertising. Wonder if they asked Red Bull for any advice…
What was the deception? Well, almost 25% of consumers did in fact report a “moderately-severe” post-drink crash. Which study showed these results? 5-Hour Energy’s own unpublished one.
Though, in their defense, this was much less than reported from drinking Monster (75%) and Red Bull (80%). Now, they claim there is “no sugar crash”. It’s technically correct, because there’s no cane sugar in the product. Hey, marketing!
For their grab-and-go convenience, 5-Hour Energy stake a solid claim for the title of best energy drink.
OTHER NOTABLE BEST ENERGY DRINK CONTENDERS
Not included in our detailed analysis above, but also worth an honorable mention in the best energy drink conversation are:
These brands are all powder energy drinks, just like our favorite, REIZE.
Mix the energy powder with cold water and voila! Instant energy goodness.
Or, if ready-to-drink cans are more your style, these brands and flavors might be worth a look:
Whichever you choose, always consume responsibly to avoid any side-effects from overdoing it on caffeine. If you’re curious about which energy drinks have the most caffeine in them you may find this article helpful.
BEST ENERGY DRINK VERDICT
So, what IS the best energy drink out there?
It comes down to different strokes for different folks. For the extra mile on a road trip, 5-Hour Energy will do the trick. Before a massive workout, the guarana and sugar energy in Monster might give you that personal-best-busting boost in the squat rack.
But what about the best energy drink for sustained stamina, focus and performance, without any crash?
We’re a little biased, but REIZE ticks all these boxes AND tastes great. It packs a long list of premium ingredients we’re very proud of: Vitamin B complex, the healthy herbal benefits of ginseng, plus taurine, caffeine, niacin and inositol.
And, REIZE comes in powdered form, meaning you can mix it as you please.
Why keep reaching for a cold, carbonated can? Try REIZE in hot water with lemon and you’ll never look at Red Bull the same way again. We’ve designed it to be the best energy drink for gaming available today. And we’re quietly confident of being the best for many other things, too.
REIZE ships right to your door for around $1 per drink.
Try it and see how good it is for yourself.