Vegan dieting is great! By eliminating so many animal foods/products, you’re also eliminating the possibility of certain illnesses as you actively commit to this lifestyle of consuming plant-based, cruelty-free products.
However, as a vegan, you’ve likely had to give up quite a bit - like the milk or cream in your morning cup of coffee. So, when you need an enjoyable jolt, where can you get it? An energy drink, perhaps? But are energy drinks vegan?
To dispense any myths surrounding energy drinks and veganism, here are a few pieces of clarity:
What Does It Mean To Be Vegan?
While the term “vegan” wasn’t officially coined until the 1940s, many ancient cultures practiced this form of dieting long before it was given the name.
Indian and Eastern Mediterranean cuisines were the earliest vegan diets on record. Greek philosophers wrote about the moral benefits of abstaining from meat. Hundreds of years later, approximately 78 million people identify as vegan.
To be vegan is to completely avoid meat or animal products. Following a vegan lifestyle may sound easy enough, but the truth is that it can actually be quite difficult - animal products are found almost everywhere. Some of the most common food items not found in a vegan diet are:
Red meat (beef, pork, lamb, etc.)
Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck, etc.)
Fish (salmon, tuna, cod, etc.)
Shellfish (scallops, shrimp, lobster, etc.)
Dairy (milk, cheese, butter, etc.)
Any animal-produced food (eggs, honey, etc.)
Baked goods and complex dishes may appear to be vegan but actually contain some animal products. Some breakfast cereals are made with animal-based glycerin. Certain sugars are refined with charcoal from animal bones. Some cookware isn’t even vegan: if a non-stick baking pan is greased with animal fat, it can compromise a vegan meal.
Are Energy Drinks Vegan?
Across the spectrum, not all energy drinks are vegan.
Many coffee drinks like lattes, cappuccinos, and macchiatos contain cow’s milk. Milk is a common ingredient found in energy drinks, especially in flavors emulating coffee.
Popular caffeinated iced teas advertise honey, disqualifying them from vegan consumption. Bees pollinate flowers and produce honey, so vegans tend to avoid the sweet sticky substance.
Many energy drinks may seem vegan, but they usually contain animal products in some form. For example, thickeners like gelatin are animal-based, so every label should be thoroughly examined.
Depending on how strict your adherence to the vegan lifestyle is, there are some ingredients in leading energy drinks you may object to and will want to avoid:
Artificial Colors: Most artificial colors have been tested on animals.
Glycerol: Glycerol may be derived from animal fats.
Glycerol Ester of Wood Rosin: While this food additive may be plant-based, it may contain some animal products.
Sugar: Bone char from animals might be used in the sugar refining process.
BCAAs: Branch chain amino acids can be produced by animals.
Sucralose: This low-calorie sweetener is often tested on animals.
The Taurine Debate
When determining if certain energy drinks are vegan, taurine is often an ingredient that is up for debate.
Taurine is an amino acid. Amino acids are organic compounds that are vital to a functioning human body. We get the amino acids we need by consuming whole foods or producing them ourselves. Taurine can be made by the human body, but some people are unable to create it on their own.
Taurine has an interesting reputation. Due to the name’s similarity to the Latin taurus, meaning bull, rumors have circulated that taurine comes from bull urine or semen. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth!
Many animals and certain types of fish are capable of producing taurine. Other than the name, taurine is only associated with cattle because it was first isolated from ox bile. While it offers benefits to the body, taurine is not an essential amino acid—meaning we can live without it.
Taurine is thought to improve exercise performance and protect muscles, which is why many energy drinks use it. Synthetic taurine is available, but as a consumer, it can be difficult to identify which brands use animal-based taurine and which use lab-made taurine. The jury is still out on whether taurine is truly vegan or not.
Pay Attention to Sweeteners
Sweeteners are another part of the label that can be tricky. As mentioned above, honey is a common alternative sweetener to sugar. The bee-produced product, however, is NOT vegan.
Agave syrup, on the other hand, which is pretty similar to honey, is entirely plant-based and safe for vegans.
Other artificial sweeteners and additives can pose negative health effects. Some are even tested on animals, striking them from vegan consideration.
Some certified vegan sweeteners include:
Brown Rice Syrup
Racon Root Syrup
...and plain old fruit! Proper Wild’s Energy Shots, for example, are fully sweetened by fruit alone. Their three flavors include blackberry, ginger, and peach-mango, and only contain real juices with 0g of added sugar, and no artificial sweeteners.
So, are vegan energy drinks really vegan?
The answer is: it depends.
There are a ton of energy drinks on the market. While some may claim that they are totally “vegan,” the truth is that it can be difficult to come by a true vegan drink that avoids using any animal by-products.
For a guaranteed vegan energy drink, try Proper Wild’s Clean All Day Energy Shots. These 100% plant-based energy shots have a short, simple list of healthy ingredients and are flavored with real fruit juices with absolutely ZERO grams of added sugar, artificial sweeteners, or animal by-products!