As a lover of coffee, I don’t turn to energy drinks very often.
Don’t get me wrong: I actually enjoy some occasional caffeinated energy drinks, but since I typically drink my cold brew coffee every single day, that’s plenty of caffeine for me.
Can you have coffee & an energy drink on the same day? Of course.
But, depending on your caffeine tolerance, you may find that level of caffeine consumption to be too much for you.
I want to break down some of the more popular energy drinks out there to see how they stack up. And since this blog is all about health and nutrition, we’ll also take a quick look at the calories, sugar, and ingredients.
How much caffeine is too much?
If you check out my caffeine comparison for Dunkin & Starbucks, you’ll see that caffeine content for coffee is all over the map. Depending on the type of roast, brewing method, etc, the caffeine can vary pretty widely.
I like to estimate that a small cup of coffee will typically have around 100mg of caffeine. If you’re like me and drink a big cup (or glass) of coffee, you’re looking at around 200mg of caffeine.
If you were to have 2 of those coffees per day, that’s about 400mg of caffeine.
According to the FDA, 400mg is the recommended caffeine consumption limit. Since tolerances vary, you may very well be able to handle more caffeine without any ill effects, but this is the general rule of thumb.
If your coffee consumption is very high, you may already consume more than 400mg of caffeine, which can be totally fine. It’s very individualized, and that may work fine for you, but consult a physician if you are unsure!
As you’ll soon see, some energy drinks contain 300 mg of caffeine, so if you were to pair that with a coffee, or drink 2 of these energy drinks on a given day, you can quickly go over the recommended caffeine limit.
Which energy drink has the most caffeine?
Okay, let’s get into it. We won’t break down every single energy drink known to man (ain’t nobody got time for that) we’ll compare some of the most popular ones on the market today.
We’ll start with the most caffeine and work our way down to the lowest…
Being in the fitness industry, I’m all too familiar with Bang. They would pop up at all the fitness expos, and their marketing strategy is essentially having anyone with a nice body hold a can of Bang Energy to promote it. I have no idea how they taste… but I’ve always been slightly bitter about the silly marketing tactics.
How much caffeine is in Bang?
A 16oz can of Bang energy contains 300mg, making it one of the most highly caffeinated energy drinks on the market.
Reign Total Body Fuel
Reign is relatively new to the market, but it is actually owned by the same company that produces Monster! Reign is geared towards fitness-minded individuals as it contains BCAAS (amino acids) and electrolytes to help with overall sports performance.
How much caffeine is in Reign?
A 16oz can of Reign Total Body Fuel contains 300mg, which is on par with Bang as one of the highest caffeine totals out there.
Alani Nu Energy
New this past year from Alani Nu comes an energy drink “formulated for your wellness needs.” Alani Nu bust onto the scene in the health space in recent years with their supplements and protein bars, and it looks like they’re trying to make a name for themselves in the energy drink space as well.
How much caffeine is in Alani Nu Energy Drinks?
A 12oz can of Alani Nu contains 200mg, which is actually more caffeine than most energy drinks of the same size. Other energy drinks with 160-200mg are typically 16oz total, making Alani Nu slightly stronger given the size.
Yet another energy drink within the fitness space, Celsius contains a bunch of ingredients to provide energy aside from simply relying on caffeine: green tea extract, guarana, ginger root, and more.
How much caffeine is in Celsius?
A 12oz can of Celsius contains 200mg, making it one of the more caffeinated beverages at the 12oz size.
3D is another relatively new player to the energy drink space, and their brand revolves around minimalism. The cans have very little writing on them, only containing the logo and a color (along with the nutrition label, of course).
The unique thing about 3D is that there aren’t flavor names, just colors. That’s right: if you buy a white can, the flavor is just… white.
How much caffeine is in 3D?
A 16oz can of 3D contains 200mg, which is slightly above the average amount for an energy drink that size.
Man oh man, I am a sucker for Ghost products. As a graphic designer myself, I cannot express how much I appreciate the branding behind Ghost, and the tiny details that go into all their packaging!
Ghost started out in the fitness industry as a supplement company, but it’s clear that they are in it for the long haul to make waves in all industries going forward.
One of the biggest draws of Ghost products is their collaborations: I mean, having officially licensed Sour Patch Kids and Warheads energy drink flavors are certainly unique!
How much caffeine is in Ghost Energy?
A 16oz can of Ghost Energy contains 200mg, putting it on par with many other cans of this size.
C4 Energy was created from the very popular pre-workout supplement by Cellucor, “C4.” I can speak from experience in saying that the C4 pre-workout is a great product, so I would imagine that the energy drink is quite solid, too! C4 energy utilizes additional ingredients aimed at improving performance and muscle endurance, making this an energy drink geared more towards fitness-minded individuals.
How much caffeine is in C4 Energy?
A 16oz can of C4 contains 200mg, while the 12oz can contains only 150mg.
Mountain Dew Rise Energy
Mountain Dew needs no introduction, but their new energy drink does! This one is brand new, but with Lebron James backing their marketing efforts (ever heard of him?) it’s sure to find success. This one is definitely more of a sports drink, with the “mental boost” and performance upgrades being their big selling points.
How much caffeine is in MTN Dew Rise Energy?
A 16oz can of MTN DEW RISE contains 180mg, slightly more than Monster or Rockstar.
NOS Energy Drink
NOS was one of the earliest energy drinks to hit the market (way back in 2005), launched by Fuze. It has changed over the years, and now it is actually produced by Monster Energy! Given the name, it should come as no surprise that NOS is marketed heavily towards the motorsports industry.
How much caffeine is in NOS?
A 16oz can of NOS contains 160mg of caffeine. NOS Turbo, the zero-sugar drink, contains a whopping 300mg per 16oz can, making it one of the highest on the market.
Monster is arguably the most popular and most successful energy drink in the biz. Since they’ve arrived on the scene, they’ve expanded their lineup to include a done of different variations: Original Monster Energy, Monster Lo Carb, Monster Zero Sugar, Super-Premium Import, Monster Mule, & Monster Energy Assault.
How much caffeine is in Monster?
A 16oz can of Monster contains 160mg of caffeine, while the Lo Carb and Zero Sugar Monster drinks contain 140mg of caffeine. These are on par with most other 16oz energy drinks you’ll find on the market!
Like Monster, Rockstar has become a very established and well-known brand in the energy drink space. Whereas Monster is geared towards extreme sports, Rockstar markets itself in the entertainment space.
How much caffeine is in Rockstar?
A 16oz can of Rockstar (as well as Rockstar Sugar-Free) contains 160mg of caffeine, which puts it at the same caffeine level as Monster.
Launched by The Rock in 2021, it won’t be surprising to see ZOA reach huge success in the coming years. What sets ZOA apart (aside from being backed by the biggest movie star in the history of the world) is that the caffeine comes from natural green tea extract & green coffee, making it a bit more “clean” than synthetic caffeine options. Many report feeling much less jittery with these caffeine sources, but I have yet to experience that for myself.
How much caffeine is in ZOA?
A 16oz can of ZOA contains 160mg of caffeine from natural green tea extract and green coffee.
Zevia, a brand known for their naturally sweetened Stevia products, has joined the energy drink game. Mostly known for the popular soft drink, Zevia Energy comes in at 0 calories & 0g sugar, and is one of the simpler energy drinks out there in terms of ingredients.
How much caffeine is in Zevia Energy?
A 12oz can of Zevia Energy contains 120mg of caffeine.
Last but not least, we have Red Bull, which needs no introduction. Back when we didn’t have 100s of energy drinks to choose from, we had Red Bull, and it has stood the test of time. Now, it has the largest market share of any energy drink in the entire WORLD. Yes, I said world!
How much caffeine is in Red Bull?
Since a can of Red Bull is smaller than most other energy drinks, the caffeine levels reflect that. An 8oz can of Red Bull (including Red Bull Sugarfree) contains 80mg of caffeine.
If you were to drink 2 cans of Red Bull, you would be consuming 16oz of fluid and 160mg of caffeine, putting it right on par with Monster or Rockstar.
5 Hour Energy Shots
I wanted to keep this comparison to energy drinks, but energy shots deserve an honorable mention. While there are many out there today, 5-Hour Energy was the first one out there, and definitely the most widely known.
The energy shot is exactly what it sounds like: a tiny 2 ounce container that you can drink in just one or two sips to get your caffeine fix. Do they taste good? No, they certainly do not. But hey, I guess that’s the same as a shot of alcohol, huh?
How much caffeine is in 5 Hour Energy Shots?
A small, 2 ounce shot of 5 Hour Energy contains 200mg of caffeine, while the “Extra Strength” variety contains 230mg.
What’s the healthiest energy drink?
Everyone’s definition of healthy is different, and all energy drinks are different, so it’s impossible to give a definitive answer as to which is the healthiest.
It’s important to keep in mind that many energy drinks out there are essentially soft drinks with caffeine. Many are meant for performance purposes and aren’t necessarily trying to be “healthy.” If you’re looking for some caffeine & sugar to keep your energy levels up, choosing something “healthy” may not be on your radar; you just want a sports drink!
But based on your specific goals, we can identify some of the better options out there…
Natural Ingredients: Zevia Energy
If you’re after an energy drink without too much “stuff” in it, then Zevia is the way to go. Flavored with natural flavors and Stevia as the sweetener, you’ll find this ingredient list to be one of the friendliest for your goals.
Lowest Calorie: Bang Energy
There are other 0 calorie energy drinks out there, so take your pick! However, Bang is definitely one of the more popular ones, so it’s worth highlighting here. While many other energy drinks will be virtually calorie-free, many of them will have 15-25 calories per serving, so Bang has the slight edge!
Sugar-Free: Almost all of them!
When it comes to energy drinks, most of them rely on caffeine and B-vitamins as an energy source, not sugar. While some of the “original” energy drinks to hit the market have high amounts of sugar (see Red Bull, Monster, or Rockstar), most the energy drinks you’ll see on the market now will be sugar-free.
Even those drinks that have large amounts of sugar now have sugar-free alternatives, so no matter what your taste preferences are, you should be able to find a quality option.
Lowest Caffeine: Red Bull
Are you trying to keep your caffeine intake in check, but still want a little pick-me-up? Red Bull is the way to go! It’s a smaller can than most other energy drinks out there, and the caffeine reflects that. At only 80mg of caffeine, it’s half (or less) the caffeine content of many other popular energy drinks out there!
Are energy drinks healthy?
Remember, we all define “healthy” differently, so we can’t answer this definitively.
However, I’d like to point out that many energy drinks are indeed healthy by most definitions of the word.
They’ve gotten a bad wrap as being mostly sports drinks with caffeine, but over the years, energy drinks have really evolved.
Sure, some options have a ton of added sugar, and that may not be ideal for you. But many of the options out there, as evident by this post, are very low in calories and contain little to no sugar.
At the end of the day, coffee is the “healthiest” kind of energy drink, being as it is just one ingredient, free from sugar, and completely natural.
But that being said, there are some amazing options out there if coffee isn’t your thing. I hope this post has been able to help you identify some decent options!
Everything in moderation.