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Healthy Energy Drinks: Do They Exist?

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By: Erin Coleman, B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.,

Writer at The Fit Father Project

healthy energy drinks

Do healthy energy drinks actually exist? And if they do, should you be consuming them?

As sleep deprivation is common, many men and women turn to energy drinks for a quick pick-me-up.

But, are energy drinks really healthy?

If so, which are best?

The answer might surprise you!

Here's what you need to know about healthy energy drinks.

Follow these tips to spend quality time with your family when you have no energy for kids.

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Common Ingredients in Energy Drinks

Energy drinks vary widely in the ingredients they contain.

Common ingredients found in many types of energy drinks on the market include:

  • Caffeine
  • Taurine
  • Glucuronolactone
  • B vitamins
  • Guarana
  • Ginseng
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • Other herbs
  • L-carnitine
  • L-tartrate
  • Guarana seed extract
  • Sugar or syrup
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Antioxidants
  • Trace minerals

Some ingredients found in energy drinks, such as vitamins, minerals, and even caffeine in moderate amounts are often beneficial for your health.

Others, however, aren't the best choice for a variety of reasons.

Knowing more about which energy drinks to choose and which to avoid is a must to maintain good health and reduce your risk of weight gain and chronic diseases.

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Benefits of Healthy Energy Drinks

Choosing healthy energy drinks over unhealthy alternatives can offer you and your family numerous benefits.

Examples include:

More Energy

Feeling less tired is the main reason people choose energy drinks.

Increases in energy can help you burn more calories throughout the day, have better workouts, and stay mentally alert at work.

Healthy Weight Management

Many energy drinks contain caffeine, which can help you achieve or maintain a healthy weight.

Studies show that caffeine consumption can reduce body mass index (BMI) and body fat while increasing your body's daily energy expenditure.

Healthy (low-sugar) energy drinks containing B vitamins and other essential nutrients also keep your metabolism high.

Improved Athletic Performance

Caffeine found in many energy drinks can improve athletic performance, as it boosts your energy and reduces perceived exertion during physical activity.

Additionally, energy drinks containing carbohydrates and electrolytes can keep you from “hitting the wall” during prolonged exercise lasting more than an hour.

Studies recommend consuming 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour during pronged physical activity to maximize performance.

However, it's best to consume carbohydrates from 100% fruit juice or other types of natural sugar. Steer clear of added sugar whenever possible.

Micronutrients

Healthy energy drinks often contain vitamins and minerals, which can reduce your risk of nutritional deficiencies.

However, use caution when choosing energy drinks containing very large quantities of micronutrients (more than the tolerable upper intake for vitamins or minerals).

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Characteristics of Unhealthy Energy Drinks

Common characteristics of unhealthy energy drinks to watch out for include:

Added Sugar

Consuming too much added sugar can pack on extra calories and pounds, and isn't the ideal choice to fuel your body.

Unfortunately, many types of energy drinks contain a large amount of added sugar.

In fact, some provide up to 40 grams (or more) in each drink.

The natural sugar found in fruit, 100% fruit juice, vegetables, vegetable juice, milk, yogurt, and protein shakes is a better option.

Choose energy drinks containing no added sugar (or very low amounts of it) whenever possible.

Excessive Caffeine

While caffeine is safe for most healthy adults, consuming too much of it can be problematic for your health.

Symptoms of excessive caffeine intake include:

  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness
  • Frequent urination
  • Inability to control urination
  • Muscle tremors
  • A fast heartbeat
  • Feeling jittery

Mayo Clinic suggests it's safe for most healthy adults to consume up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day.

This amount of caffeine equates to drinking 2 energy shot drinks or 4 cups of brewed coffee.

Pregnant and nursing women should cut back on or eliminate caffeine altogether, depending on what their doctor recommends.

Consuming caffeine late in the day can make getting a good night's sleep difficult, and it may interact with certain medications.

The caffeine content in energy drinks varies, depending on the type of beverage you choose.

Some provide no caffeine, while others contain over 100 milligrams of caffeine (or more) in just one drink.

Check the nutrition facts label to know for sure how much caffeine you're ingesting in each serving of your favorite energy drink.

Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners taste like sugar, but they are calorie-free.

While choosing artificial sweeteners (such as sucralose, aspartame, and saccharin) might seem like a good way to cut calories for healthy weight management, these no-calorie sugar alternatives aren't the best choice.

In fact, artificial sweeteners can cause insulin levels in your body to fluctuate.

When your tongue tastes something sweet, your brain expects increases in energy levels.

Artificial sweeteners can desensitize your palate to sweet tastes.

They can cause you to crave sugar-sweetened foods or other unhealthy choices.

Studies show that artificial sweeteners are linked with obesity, metabolic syndrome, higher calorie consumption, and weight gain.

Researchers also found that artificial sweeteners can alter your gut microbiome, which disrupts the balance of good vs. bad bacteria in your digestive tract.

If you do consume calorie-free sweeteners, do so in small amounts and choose all-natural Stevia, erythritol, or monk fruit sweetener.

Learn how to stop sugar addiction and what sugar REALLY does to your body!

Healthy Energy-Boosting Drinks

When you choose foods or drinks to give you a boost of energy, pick the following options in place of sugar-sweetened beverages:

Water

While water lacks calories and carbohydrates, it's a good choice when you want to prevent fatigue associated with dehydration.

Drinking more water is also an effective weight management strategy.

Many men need at least 16 cups of water or other fluids daily to meet their bodies' demands.

If you lose large amounts of sweat during prolonged physical activity, consider electrolyte-enhanced water to replenish lost stores.

100% Fruit Juice

Drinking 100% fruit juice containing no added sugar is one of the best ways to give you a quick boost of energy.

Natural sugars found in fruit and fruit juice are better alternatives to drinks containing added sugar or artificial sweeteners.

Coffee

Drinking coffee is an excellent way to increase your energy levels naturally without the extra calories.

One cup of brewed coffee contains 5 calories or less but nearly 100 milligrams of caffeine.

Sweeten your coffee with a tiny bit of Stevia if you'd like, and add cream or milk to it instead of added sugar.

Tea

Tea often contains 30-50 milligrams of caffeine in each cup, giving you a quick boost of energy plus disease-fighting antioxidants.

Drink tea in between or with meals, or add matcha powder to your favorite homemade protein shake!

Natural Homemade Energy Drinks

To help you steer clear of added sugar, artificial sweeteners, and other additives, consider homemade energy drinks!

Combine or blend together natural ingredients, such as fruit, 100% fruit juice, vegetables, vegetable juice, herbs, tea, matcha powder, coffee, or protein powder.

Consider these natural energy drink recipes!

Healthy Ready-to-Drink (RTD) Energy Drinks

If you don't have time to make homemade energy drinks or you're on the go, consider healthy ready-to-drink energy drinks!

They contain no added sugar, no artificial sweeteners or colors, and less than 200 milligrams of caffeine per serving.

Many also contain energy-boosting vitamins and minerals.

To know if an energy drink is truly healthy, despite what the product package states, check its nutrition facts label.

You can determine how many calories and grams of added sugar each drink contains.

The ingredient list shows you if the product you choose contains artificial sweeteners or other additives.

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Energizing Habits

Drinking healthy energy drinks isn't the only way to maintain high energy levels throughout the day.

Examples of energy-boosting habits include:

More Sleep

Getting a good night's sleep is one of the best ways to keep energy levels high, with or without energy drinks.

Aim to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night and go to bed at the same time.

  • Set a regular bedtime routine and stick with it.
  • Avoid going to bed hungry or very full.
  • Sleep in a cool dark room and avoid blue light (screen time), caffeine, smoking, and alcoholic drinks right before bed.
  • Have a light snack if you feel hungry (such as a protein shake or Greek yogurt), read a book, or try guided sleep meditation.
  • Use a white noise machine to help you sleep through sounds that might wake you up.
  • Keep stress levels as low as possible. Try relaxation techniques, take time for yourself, consider yoga, get a massage, or meditate on stressful days.

If you suffer from sleep apnea, check with your doctor about possible treatments.

They might recommend you wear a special type of mouthguard at night when you sleep to keep your airway open.

Learn some sleep and weight loss facts including how you can leverage sleep to improve your health.

Regular Exercise

While you might feel tired during exercise, especially high-intensity interval training or prolonged workouts lasting more than an hour, regular exercise is one of the best ways to improve strength, endurance, and all-day energy levels.

To achieve the best outcome with regular exercise sessions, combine resistance training with aerobic exercise.

Get at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week if you can.

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In addition to daily exercise, add at least 45 minutes of activities of daily living to keep your body moving throughout the day.

Do house chores or yard work, play outside with your kids, walk your dog, go golfing, or grocery shop.

Better Hormone Balance

Hormone imbalance, particularly low testosterone levels in men, can take a toll on your energy – despite adopting healthy lifestyle habits.

Men over 40 have a higher risk of low testosterone, also referred to as low T.

In addition to causing fatigue, hormone imbalance puts you at risk of thinning hair, weight gain, a slow metabolism, sexual dysfunction, decreased muscle mass, and loss of sexual desire.

Have a doctor check your blood hormone levels to determine if you're a good candidate for hormone therapy.

Your treatment might consist of injections, subdermal (under-the-skin) pellets, patches, or gels periodically to increase testosterone levels in your body.

Healthy Weight Management

Weighing more than you'd like to can take a toll on your energy levels, despite getting plenty of sleep and regular exercise.

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Dietary Supplements

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies commonly cause tiredness, which is why supplementation is an excellent fatigue-prevention strategy.

Low levels of vitamin D, iodine, and B vitamins are common culprits of fatigue.

Ask your doctor which multivitamin supplements for men are the best option for you.

In addition to taking multivitamins that include all or most essential micronutrients, your provider might recommend you take additional vitamin or mineral supplements as needed.

Other dietary supplements for men to consider include protein supplements, omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, immunity-boosting, and testosterone-boosting supplements.

Spend more time outdoors to get an extra dose of vitamin D and boost your mood in addition to your energy!

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The Bottom Line

While many energy drinks aren't the best option for promoting better health and wellness, healthy energy drinks do exist.

However, don't assume your favorite energy drink is good for you.

Read nutrition facts labels or make your own energy drinks at home using natural, safe ingredients!

Add healthy energy drinks to your meal plan or choose energizing coffee, tea, 100% juice, fruit, or protein shakes instead.

Adopt healthy lifestyle habits, such as getting plenty of sleep and regular exercise.

Steer clear of consuming more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day.

Avoid added sugar, artificial colors, and artificial sweeteners whenever possible.

Begin your journey toward better health by choosing the Fit Father Project healthy lifestyle program for men.

In addition to consuming healthy energy drinks or nutritious energy-boosting alternatives, sign up for a free meal plan and workout today!

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Erin Coleman B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.

Writer at The Fit Father Project

Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian with over 15 years of freelance writing experience.

She graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in nutritional science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and completed her dietetic internship at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Prior to beginning her career in medical content writing, Erin worked as Health Educator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Internal Medicine.

Her published work appears on hundreds of health and fitness websites, and she’s currently working on publishing her first book! Erin is a wife, and a Mom to two beautiful children.

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*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on healthy energy drinks.

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