A wise man named Ronnie Coleman - the greatest bodybuilder of all time - once said, "everybody wants to be a bodybuilder, but nobody wants to lift no heavy-ass weights." Absolute legend.
Likewise, everyone wants to be successful, but nobody wants to wake up at the crack of dawn.
I get it:
Waking up early is essential, but it sucks too. Who wants to get out of their warm bed to start their day when they can hit snooze and go back to sleep?
Whether you're rising at the crack of dawn to hit the gym, studying in the library for a test at the last minute, pulling an all-nighter on Xbox with your friends, or working the graveyard shift for the fourth night in a row, you're bound to feel tired, low on energy and possibly, miserable at some point.
That's where energy drinks come in - many use these sugary cans of goodness to get them through the day. And although they're delicious, most energy drinks are something you should only have once in a while.
Between harmful chemicals you can't pronounce, tons of low-quality caffeine, not to mention a boatload of sugar, most energy drinks do more harm than good.
But not all energy drinks were created equal. Some energy drinks like Early Bird are made with natural and healthy ingredients proven to be good for your body and mind.
I've spent several years reading, learning, and testing different energy drinks to pursue a healthy way to wake up every morning feeling great and ready to take on the day without crashing in the afternoon.
In this post, you're going to learn about the best energy drinks and everything inside. There's a lot to like about healthy energy drinks, and a lot more to watch out for when it comes to their unhealthy counterparts. From energy drink nutrition to their red flags, it's all in this post.
Let's dive in:
The 3 Secrets to Wake Up Early and Get Sh*t Done
There are three reasons why you feel like crap in the morning - and fixing these issues is the best way to wake up early feeling great for the rest of your day.
Here they are:
Overnight, you lose about a pound of water while breathing, which is why you wake up dehydrated. Early morning dehydration makes it quite hard for you (and your body) to wake up properly.
Water first thing in the morning helps, but we discover something that supercharges hydration… more on that soon.
2. Fast-acting, long-lasting energy
You need energy for both your brain and body to wake up feeling ready to start the day. Waking up without giving your body energy is like trying to jumpstart a car that's been in the cold all night. The car itself is fine, but it needs a bit of a boost to get going.
Your brain goes offline overnight and needs a boost to get going, as does your body, which is stagnant all night long.
Some energy drinks nail the fast-acting energy part of the equation but fall flat on their face when it comes to long-lasting energy that keeps you moving throughout the day.
Giving your body both fast-acting and long-lasting energy is the key to wake up motivated, and stay that way throughout the day.
3. Mood enhancement
Ever started your day by bashing your head against a wall five times fast? Probably not - that'd ruin your mood.
Your morning mood has been shown to affect the rest of your day. If you want to have a great day and get sh*t done, you have to nail your morning mood. That's why including a mood enhancement supplement first thing in the morning is key to feeling great all day long.
The EarlyBird Morning Cocktail is made with the perfect combo of 3 Nootropic Blends that give you energy, motivation, and EXACTLY what your body (and brain) need to make your mornings AWESOME... You'll wake up easily, EVERY SINGLE DAY!
That's why Wake Up Early and Get Sh*t Done is the Early Bird mantra.
The Best Healthy Energy Drink Alternative
Early Bird is designed to do one thing and one thing only: help you wake up early and get sh*t done by giving your body and brain everything they need to have a kick-ass day!
After mixing with water in a shaker cup, Early Bird makes use of a nootropic blend designed to hydrate you, make you feel good, and deliver fast-acting, long-lasting energy. It's definitely the best energy drink mix on the market.
Here are some of the ingredients in Early Bird:
- Electrolytes: An electrolyte blend that delivers supercharged hydration when your body needs it most
- Ashwagandha: A special, patented form of Ashwagandha (KSM-66) shown to combat that annoying morning brain fog (you know what I mean).
- Theobromine: it's an alkaloid found in chocolate! It gives you that warm and fuzzy feel-good feeling without the sugar
- Spectra™ Mixture: a unique mix of antioxidant fruits & vegetables that lower oxidative stress (makes you feel good).
- L-Theanine: an Amino Acid found in tea leaves that promotes smooth energy and intense focus, all day long
- PurCaf & Infinergy: natural, patented caffeine from green coffee beans gives you a mental jumpstart, without the crash. This caffeine is of high quality, far better than the ingredients used in most energy drinks and even cheap coffee.
With zero sugar or calories and a bunch of ingredients from fruits and vegetables, Early Bird is THE morning supplement. Simply mix with water in your shaker cup the night before, and leave it on your nightstand before bed.
Unlike Monster and Red Bull, Early Bird is designed to give your body exactly what it needs most to feel great all day long. Early Bird is the best non-carbonated energy drink on the market. It's also an energy drink powder mix, so it's cheaper and more convenient than regular energy drinks.
In the morning, wake up, shake, and drink. You'll feel better almost instantly! You can even use Early Bird during your night shift.
Best Energy Drinks
Unfortunately, those drinks also happen to be terrible for you, especially when consumed on a regular basis. They're packed with sugar and caffeine which, according to Healthline, will increase blood pressure, heart rate, and will lead to a severe crash later in the day.
We ranked our energy drinks based on calories, sugar, and if they don't have either, we used carb content.
With that being said, let's take a look at the best healthy energy drinks on the market in 2020:
Best Energy Drink to Stay Awake All Day Long (And Feel Great)
EBOOST Super Fuel is a tasty, non-GMO energy drink that will keep you awake all day long. Although it doesn't compare to Early Bird, EBOOST is the best you're gonna get from a standard energy drink in can form.
It was mentioned in BevNET's "Best New Products" of 2019, and has a ton of essential vitamins/minerals - it's free of artificial sweeteners as well. It has some nootropics too, which aid brain function and uses electrolytes to help with hydration.
It's sugar-free, but has a decent amount of caffeine per serving, coming in at 100mg of natural caffeine, derived from botanicals. Still, it's one of the best energy drinks to stay awake all day on the market.
Best Energy Drink for Gaming: G-Fuel FaZeberry Tub
Known as the official energy drink of E-sports, Gfuel is quite popular among gamers. It's priced well, around $36 for ~40 servings, which is on the cheap side for energy drinks in general (roughly $1 per drink).
However, this powdered energy mix is packed with caffeine, coming in at 150mg per serving, nearly double that of a Red Bull.
Although it may be good for some, those with lower caffeine consumption habits (and consequently, lower caffeine tolerance) may find the drink overwhelming.
Rather than being able to focus, you may end up tweaking out. If you're a regular caffeine user, this supplement is for you - otherwise, I'd opt for an energy drink that won't give you the jitters (check out our post on the best energy drinks for gaming if you want more information.)
On the bright side, Gfuel is sugar-free, so you won't have to worry about a blood sugar spike followed by a crash, aka a rollercoaster of energy.
Best Energy Drink for Studying
Zevia Energy is a great choice for students who want to study. With 120mg of caffeine, no sugar and zero calories, Zevia gets the job done.
How We Chose The Best Energy Drinks
According to Dr. Mike Roussell, Ph.D., nutrition expert, and co-founder of Neuro coffee, it's important to keep an eye out for high levels of caffeine in sugar in energy drinks, both of which have detrimental health effects when consumed (especially on a regular basis).
Here are the things to look for in an energy drink, and how we ranked our picks for the best energy drinks on the market:
Brand - We included trustworthy, reputable brands in the list, but that doesn't mean we're featuring top dogs like Monster and Red Bull. Despite being household names, they're actually pretty bad for you, and we only want to feature healthy energy drinks that are low on sugar and other bad ingredients, if any at all.
Caffeine - Caffeine gives you energy and is relatively safe to drink in small amounts, though it can be habit-forming. Everyone has a different level of caffeine sensitivity, but health experts like Dr. Roussell say caffeine intake should be limited to a maximum of 400 milligrams per day (one 8 oz cup of coffee has roughly 95 mg of caffeine according to the USDA.) That being said, we avoided energy drinks that have a ridiculous amount of caffeine.
Sugar - Sugar is bad for your health, end of story. Sugar is incredibly calory dense - not that a sugar calory is more than any other calory - but even a small quantity of sugar packs a lot of calories, making it easy to overdo it and gain weight, among other things. That's why you should avoid mainstream, sugary energy drinks like the plague, as they're packed with sugar.
Reviews - User reviews - as always - are a great way to gauge the quality of a product and how it works in the short and long term.
Price - We looked at the price per serving to determine how far each dollar will get you. In this category, it's not so much about the cheapest energy drink, but finding the highest quality energy drink for the lowest price. It's better to think of it in terms of value for your money - you might have to pay a bit more, but the quality of the drink you're receiving dramatically outweighs the cost.
Taste - Come on, if it doesn't taste good, you're not going to drink it. You probably wouldn't even drink the elixir of life if it tasted like a steamy dog turd. Unfortunately, tasty drinks are usually loaded with added sugar. That's why we were on the lookout for energy drinks that pack a flavor punch without the added sugar.
How do Energy Drinks Work?
Energy drinks affect your body in a variety of ways thanks to a bunch of different chemicals/ingredients.
According to How Stuff Works, here are some of the most common ingredients in energy drinks:
Ephedrine - This is a central nervous system stimulant, that's a common ingredient in weight-loss supplements. However, some have concerns about its effects on the cardiovascular system, mainly the heart.
Taurine - This ingredient is a natural amino acid found in the body that regulates muscle contractions and heart beat. Experts are unsure of its effect on the body when used as an additive.
Ginseng - A root believed by some to have a few medicinal properties, including boosting energy levels and reducing stress.
B-vitamins - These vitamins converse sugar into energy (because most energy drinks have a ton of sugar, which is unhealthy)
Guarana seed - A stimulant that comes from a small shrub native to Venezuela and Brazil.
Carnitine - An amino acid that plays a role in fatty acid metabolism.
Creatine - Creatine is a supplement commonly used by bodybuilders for its effect on the muscles
Inositol - A member of the vitamin B group that helps relay messages between body cells
Ginkgo biloba - Made from the seeds of the ginkgo biloba tree; some think it improves memory.
Despite many energy drinks' advertising saying otherwise, sugar and caffeine are responsible for the majority of the energy boost you feel after downing a can.
When caffeine enters your bloodstream and makes its way to your brain, adenosine - a chemical that makes you feel tired, involved in sleep - is prevented from binding with your brain's receptors. This blockage causes brain neurons to go off, and your body goes into fight or flight mode.
Then, it releases adrenaline, causing your heart rate to increase, and makes your eyes dilate. Your liver will also send more sugar to your bloodstream for a quick energy boost.
Lastly, caffeine boosts your dopamine levels, which is why drinking coffee, energy drinks, etc. can become addicting. All of these things make you feel as though you have more energy for a short while.
Unfortunately, the caffeine-induced adrenaline spike will soon wear off, alongside a steep decline in blood sugar levels, causing you to crash later in the day.
This sudden drop off in alertness might make you crave more caffeine, which isn't a sustainable solution to feeling tired.
Instead, it's best to eat right, exercise often, and get plenty of sleep. Eating healthy, complex carbohydrates is another way to give your body sustained energy throughout the day without the crash, as opposed to simple carbs and sugars that spike your energy levels, followed by a crash.
People Also Ask (Energy Drink FAQ)
What is an Energy Drink?
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health:
"Energy drinks are widely promoted as products that increase energy and enhance mental alertness and physical performance. Next to multivitamins, energy drinks are the most popular dietary supplement consumed by American teens and young adults. Men between the ages of 18 and 34 years consume the most energy drinks, and almost one-third of teens between 12 and 17 years drink them regularly."
In other words, an energy drink gives you the feeling of having more energy via caffeine, vitamin, and mineral boosts. Most energy drinks, unfortunately, are unhealthy though, because they're packed with way too much sugar, caffeine, and sometimes harmful chemicals. Many energy drinks have taurine, ginseng, caffeine, and B vitamins.
What is the Difference Between an Energy Drink and a Sports Drink?
Drinks like Gatorade and Powerade are sports drinks that aim to hydrate you via electrolytes, which help to supercharge hydration. Conversely, most energy drinks (aside from Early Bird) draw hydration from the body, which ends up dehydrating you.
Although a sports drink may be a great way to quench your thirst after an intense workout or sporting event, water is always the best thing for your body (this goes without saying in pretty much any situation.)
What's the bottom line here?
A sports drink is typically packed with electrolytes to hydrate your body, while an energy drink typically uses caffeine and other ingredients to make you feel energized, awake, and alert.
How Long Does it Take to Feel the Effect of Energy Drinks?
Since energy drinks are in liquid form, they're absorbed by your esophagus, throat, and stomach pretty quickly, especially when compared to food.
You should feel the effects of caffeine in about 10 to 15 minutes, but the vitamins and minerals from the drink will take far longer to absorb into your bloodstream and make their way to your brain.
This is how drinks like Early Bird provide fast-acting, long-lasting energy. The initial burst of energy comes from the caffeine entering your bloodstream, followed by an extended-release of other vitamins over the course of four to six hours.
How Many Energy Drinks Can I Have in a Day?
I'm assuming you're a young (below 55) healthy person with a healthy weight and no underlying health conditions like diabetes or heart disease. If that's the case, you can have up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day, which usually equates to about 2-4 drinks per day.
But there's more than just caffeine in an energy drink - for one thing, having more than a single drink each day will likely mean sugar overload unless you're drinking a sugar-free option like Early Bird.
You also need to watch out for an overload of B vitamins commonly found in energy drinks, added to give energy throughout the day. 100-300mg of B vitamins in a single day is entering dangerous territory.
Even if you are healthy, there have been plenty of young Americans ages 12 to 17 admitted to emergency rooms for energy drink-related health emergencies in 2007 according to the CDC - some 1,145, to be exact.
Here's the moral of the story:
Drinking a standard energy drink every day isn't a good idea for your health in the first place, but if you're going to, limit it to just one a day to be on the safe side.
If you're a few cans deep and start getting fidgety, you've had enough.
What's the Worst Energy Drink for You?
Drinks like Red Bull, Monster, Rockstar, and Full Throttle are some of the most popular - and unhealthy - energy drinks on the market.
Having the drink once in a while won't hurt you if you like their taste, but even then I'd avoid them. Considering their insanely high sugar content among other things, they're not a healthy choice and will likely do more harm than good.
What is the Most Dangerous Energy Drink in the World?
Cocaine - no, not the kind you snort, although I wouldn't recommend using that type for energy either. There is an energy drink called cocaine, that has triple the caffeine of a can of Red Bull. Especially for those with heart conditions, a can of this stuff could be lethal if consumed too quickly, or at all.
Full Throttle, 5-hour energy, and VPX Redline are also pretty bad choices. More info on the most dangerous energy drinks here.
Is One Energy Drink a Day Ok?
From the standpoint of caffeine intake, one energy drink a day should be okay if you're below the 400 mg threshold.
According to a Mayo Clinic dietitian, Katherine Zeratsky, "Healthy adults who choose to drink energy drinks should not exceed one can per day." But there are many other factors to consider.
There's a big difference between drinking Monster every day and drinking Early Bird in the morning. Many energy drinks have chemicals in addition to caffeine - stimulants - that can raise heart rate, increase blood pressure, make you restless, give you the jitters, increase anxiety and insomnia, etc.
Generally speaking, I'd avoid mainstream energy drinks like Monster, 5-hour energy, Red Bull, etc. on a daily basis.
Is Coffee Better Than an Energy Drink?
It depends on what you mean by "better."
According to Spoon University:
"A Starbucks grande Caffe Americano (16 oz) has 225 mg of caffeine and a Red Bull can (8 oz) has 80 mg."
However, some energy drinks might have more caffeine than coffee, especially large cans with "extra energy." Most healthy adults can have 400 mg of caffeine per day maximum, so keep that in mind.
Unlike energy drinks, coffee also has one main ingredient: coffee beans. Energy drinks, on the other hand, have a ton of added ingredients like artificial colors and flavors, B vitamins, taurine, etc.
Most energy drinks are also loaded with sugar - even if you add a few scoops of sugar to your coffee and a splash of milk, it's usually less than a typical can of Red Bull.
If you're to choose between Red Bull and a regular cup of coffee, coffee is a better alternative. But if you want a healthy alternative to coffee, join Club Early Bird so you can wake up early and get sh*t done without the crash!
What is the Best Time to Take an Energy Drink?
If you're about to study, work late, or take the graveyard shift, I recommend having your energy drink 5-10 minutes before starting. You'll start to feel the effects immediately and they should last for an hour or two.
Drinking an energy drink first thing in the morning, however, may lead to a short burst of energy followed by a crash later in the day. Instead, drinking a supplement like Early Bird is a better option first thing in the morning, as you'll get a quick burst of fast-acting energy that lasts throughout the day, without the crash, not to mention hydration and mood enhancement!