Let’s face it, as much as we love caffeine, it has a very bitter aftertaste. Some people are OK with bitter flavors - I’m looking at you 90% dark chocolate lovers and black coffee drinkers. But for the rest of us, there are a huge number of ways that companies and coffee shops attempt to mask that bitterness.
And the energy drink market is no different. Countless hours of research and development time have been devoted to masking that bitterness.
Unfortunately, one of the most common strategies for most energy drinks is to pour in a huge amount of artificial sweeteners, such as sucralose and aspartame.
What’s Wrong With Sucralose and Aspartame?
If you’re reading this blog post, you probably already have a negative association with these two artificial sweeteners. But just in case, let’s do a quick review of the reasons they are less than ideal ingredients:
First, sucralose is 600 times sweeter than sugar. That sounds great in theory, but in practice it can desensitize the taste buds to sweetness which can lead to eating and drinking more calories which ultimately leads to weight gain.
Second, sucralose may disrupt the microbiome in your stomach and intestines. Gut biomes are extremely important for the digestive and immune systems. Upsetting it can lead to increased inflammation, obesity and diabetes.
Third, when baking with sucralose at high temperatures, it can break down into potentially harmful and toxic compounds. It might not be a good idea to ingest a chemical that breaks down into potentially dangerous sub compounds!
As for aspartame, it has been linked to several issues such as headache, migraines, irritability, anxiety and insomnia – as well as many other problems.
Given these issues, it’s best to stick with energy drinks that avoid artificial sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame, and stick to clean energy drinks and shots. Below is my list of the best energy drinks free of artificial sweeteners:
#1 Proper Wild Clean All Day Energy Shots
Perfect for energy on the go, Proper Wild’s 2.5 ounce energy shots fit conveniently in your pocket or purse and are TSA travel size approved for all your airline travel energy needs. The small size is also easy on your stomach and won’t fill your bladder like other large energy drinks. That makes them perfect for the gym or long car rides.
Functionally, Proper Wild’s secret sauce is 120 mg of L-Theanine paired with 100 mg of organic caffeine from green tea. L-Theanine is an amino acid found in green tea and mushrooms that balances the negative side effects of caffeine while boosting the positives.
I’ve found them to be much less jittery than other energy drinks and easier on the stomach than coffee. Give them a try and see what you think.
If you prefer a larger energy drink, Runa’s 12 ounce cans have an ingredient list you can feel good about. Unlike Proper Wild, whose caffeine comes from organic green tea leaves, Runa’s caffeine comes from brewed Guayusa which is a holly tree native to the Amazon rainforest.
Whether Guayusa has additional benefits beyond its caffeine content is a subject of some debate, but it definitely gave me a similar energy jolt to other caffeine sources.
Runa has been around for awhile and can often be found in your local grocery store.
#3 Matchabar Hustle
Like Proper Wild, Matchabar Hustle uses fruit as well as the natural zero calorie sweetener monkfruit to craft their flavors. The ingredient list is very clean and the caffeine comes from “Ceremonial Grade Matcha.”
Because of this, the drinks have a strongish matcha taste so if you don’t like matcha, this might not be the one for you. However, if you’re a fan of matcha flavor, these drinks pack a punch of energy without the artificial sweeteners.
#4 Guayaki Yerba Mate
It’s highly likely you’ve seen Guayaki’s signature yellow cans on shelves at your local grocery store or bodega. Similar to matcha, Guayaki’s Yerba Mate energy drinks offer an herby taste that is growing in popularity.
The main downside to their energy drink is that at 14 grams of sugar, it has a bit more sugar content then some consumers would prefer.
#5 Sambazon Amazon Energy
Sambazon 12 ounce energy drinks are another product that is free from artificial sweeteners. Their featured ingredient is Açaí which is rich in antioxidants and high in vitamin C.
Most of their flavors are Açaí forward so if you’re not partial to that flavor profile, this might not be the brand for you. They also use Stevia as a sweetener which can cause unpleasant side effects for a subset of consumers.
Given the growing awareness of the dangers of artificial sweeteners, more and more energy drink companies are steering clear of them. As consumers, it’s great to have accessible options but there are a variety of factors to consider when choosing the one that is right for you.
Hopefully this list helps you decide and if you’re still not sure, give Proper Wild’s Clean All Day Energy Shots a try. Their strong L-theanine content (for no jitters and crash) and convenient size pushed them over the top to #1 on this list.