For many health-conscious people in need of a quick jolt of energy, the new wave of “healthier” energy drinks may be a tempting option.
However, before you go purchasing the first option you see, it's important to keep in mind that there’s no definition of exactly what “healthy” is, so buyers beware.
Here’s everything you should know about “healthy” energy drinks.
What Are Energy Drinks?
There’s nothing quite like a heavily-caffeinated, sugary drink to transform you from sluggish to sharp-witted—but what exactly are these mystifying beverages, and how do they work?
An energy drink is a type of beverage containing stimulant compounds - usually Caffeine, which provides mental and physical stimulation. Next to multivitamins, these super drinks are the most popular dietary supplement consumed by American teens and young adults in the United States.
There are two types of energy drink products on the market. One is sold in containers similar in size to those of ordinary soft drinks, such as a 16 fl.oz bottle. The other kind is an “energy shot,” and is sold in small containers, usually holding no more than 2.5 oz. of concentrated liquid.
Both can provide you with the jolt of energy you need, but for those of us looking for energy sooner than later, an energy shot typically provides the fastest results.
Okay, so how exactly do these powerful energy beverages work?
If you’ve ever wondered how an energy drink is able to wake you up in the morning, or pull you out of an afternoon slump, the answer is really quite simple: these beverages are plentiful in stimulants!
Usually, the main ingredients found in energy drinks are Caffeine and sugar - although some may also contain added supplements, such as vitamins.
Many brands today market their products as capable of keeping you sharp, both mentally and physically. We’ve all seen the advertisements boasting compounds that are responsible for banishing fatigue and brain fog. And although energy drink formulas may differ from company to company, the miracle component behind the positive awakening effects is almost always plain old Caffeine. Why? Because it stimulates your central nervous system (CNS), which is what revives you from your zombie-like state in the morning.
What Makes An Energy Drink Unhealthy?
The most concerning part of traditional canned energy drinks is the high Caffeine and sugar content.
For optimal health, it’s recommended to limit added sugar to 5% of daily calories, which is 25 grams per day. The average energy refreshment contains that much sugar and more in just one single serving.
Additionally, because this excess added sugar is in liquid form, it causes rapid changes in blood sugar levels and the body has to work harder to keep blood sugar levels stable. Over time, repeated consumption of excess added sugar can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other metabolic disruptions.
The recommended daily Caffeine limit for healthy adults is 400mg. With the Caffeine content in some popular energy drinks exceeding 250mg per serving, a person could easily surpass this recommended daily limit after consuming just two energy drinks. Caffeine overdose is rare, but it can be fatal.
To be fair, not all energy beverages are chocked-full of this popular stimulant. The Caffeine content in a can of one leading energy drink is roughly 20mg lower than a cup of strong black coffee. Still, if you opt for this traditional energy drink option, you could be drinking roughly 27 grams of sugar in one sitting! Yikes!
What Makes An Energy Drink Healthy?
Before you ditch energy drinks for good, pump the breaks and familiarize yourself with the ingredients. Not all products are created equal, and there are, in fact, some healthier energy drinks on the market!
Here are some of the attributes to check for:
No Added Sugars
Believe it or not, evidence of sugar addiction has been demonstrated in animal studies. Sugar consumption triggers the release of a type of “feel good” neurotransmitter in the brain called dopamine - similar to the way certain habit-forming drugs do.
A healthier energy drink will take advantage of natural sources of sugar like organic fruit juices, skipping out on more processed sugars, or worse — high fructose corn syrup.
Avoid unfavorable health concerns by going with the most ideal route: an energy drink that has no added sugars, like the ones found at Proper Wild.
You’ll find it rather challenging to find an energy drink that doesn’t contain any synthetic ingredients, also known as additives. Preservatives — which work to keep beverages stable on the shelves — and sweeteners are both considered such substances. Some additives have been shown to cause health risks.
A healthier energy drink looks to natural energy sources and concentration-boosters to get the job done.
For example, Caffeine sources from a natural source, like green tea, can be paired with the powerful brain-boosting amino acid L-Theanine - for focused, long-lasting energy fueled by nature! You may also find vitamins C or B complex vitamins as an added bonus of energy drinks that utilize all-natural juices; these natural ingredients can provide an extra nutritional boost of antioxidants.
For a healthy energy drink, look for a reasonable dose of clean Caffeine equivalent to about 2-3 cups of coffee (at most) per serving.
As we mentioned, the maximum safety threshold for Caffeine consumption is set at 400mg a day - unless you are pregnant or have a heart condition - in which case, it’s much less.
Additionally, while some stimulant herbs aren’t a red flag, beware of energy drinks that try to pack too many energy-altering supplements into one tiny serving. Taurine, guarana, carnitine, and creatine are all safe in reasonable quantities, but combining them all into one drink can make for a recipe of jitters, and overstimulation. Long term studies on these combinations are severely limited so consume at your own risk.
Last on the list, but definitely not least, when looking for a healthier energy drink, stick with Caffeine that comes from natural sources, like organic Caffeine from green tea.
Natural Caffeine from green tea is absorbed much slower by the body. As a result, you won’t get the immediate, overwhelming Caffeine rush that you normally get with the synthetic Caffeine found in most leading energy drinks. Instead, the organic Caffeine will release slowly over time, giving you sustained energy all throughout the day.
In addition, synthetic Caffeine is notorious for giving people the jitters or the shakes. You can avoid these unwanted side effects by looking for energy drinks and shots that utilize a combination of organic Caffeine and the naturally-occurring amino acid, L-Theanine. This powerful amino acid naturally helps to induce a calm feeling, enhancing clarity and energy throughout the day.
So, do “healthier” energy drinks really exist? The answer is: Yes!
However, while there are a ton of energy drinks on the market that are touted as “healthy”, the truth is that not all products are created equally.
When looking for a pick-me-up that is healthier, reach for an energy drink that provides zero or minimal added sugar, no artificial sweeteners or artificial ingredients, limited stimulants, and Caffeine from natural sources.
Proper Wild’s Clean All Day Energy Shots are a great 100% plant-based option and use absolutely no preservatives, artificial sweeteners, or artificial flavors, as well as zero grams of added sugar. Proper Wild sources their Caffeine from organic green tea leaves and is loaded with healthy amino acid L-Theanine, for focus and productivity - without the jitters or crash!