Walk into your local The Vitamin Shoppe in search of an energy drink and you’re greeted by coolers lined with row after row of colorful cans. It’s a mecca of beautiful, bubbly pick-me-ups. The only tricky part, really, is choosing between them all.
Truly, your options are endless—so how do you find the one that best suits your individual needs? Glad you asked! Simply answer the following questions to pinpoint your ideal energy drink. We’ll even hook you up with some specific recommendations.
1. How do you feel about Sweeteners?
First off, you won’t find plain ol’ sugar in most energy drinks. If sweeteners are an issue for you, get your hands on some ZOA. Each of the brand’s five flavors comes in a regular and zero sugar variety.
Sweeteners not a problem? You’ve got many more options. For example, Bang’s ever-popular energy drinks are free of artificial colors and flavors but get their sweetness from sucralose, an ingredient that’s technically derived from sugar but is chemically modified to be hundreds of times sweeter and calorie-free.
If natural ingredients are of the utmost importance to you, try Celsius’ Natural Energy Drinks, available in Grapefruit and Cucumber Lime, which are sweetened with erythritol (a sugar alcohol) and stevia. (Most of Celsius’ other drinks use sucralose.)
How much Caffeine Can you Handle?
Energy drinks exist across a whole spectrum, some providing a mild punch of caffeine along with other energizing ingredients, while others turn the caffeine volume up to 11.
In the middle of the pack are Alani Nu Energy Drinks (200 milligrams of caffeine and some B vitamins), GHOST Energy (200 milligrams of caffeine plus a slew of energizing herbs and other ingredients), and Cellucor C4 Energy (200 milligrams plus B vitamins and a couple of other boosters). Celsius’ popular energy drinks also contain 200 milligrams of caffeine as a part of their proprietary blend of energizing ingredients, which includes green tea leaf extract, guayana, and more.
Read More: How Fast Do You Metabolize Caffeine?
ZOA, meanwhile, contains a more modest 160 milligrams of caffeine—plus energizing B vitamins—per can. Another chill option: Optimum Nutrition’s Sparkling Amino Energy + Electrolytes, which comes in at just 100 milligrams of caffeine.
What kinds of flavors do you like?
Of course, it’s also important that you enjoy the energy drink you crack open enough to down the whole thing—and do so day after day if you bought an entire case. So, once you’ve nailed down your basic requirements, get thinking about the kinds of flavors that catch your eye.
If you prefer to keep it simple, you’ll always be able to find classic flavors across the whole assortment of brands and drink varieties out there.
A few fan favorites worth considering:
- Celsius Sparkling Wild Berry Energy Drink
- Reign Total Body Fuel Cherry Limeade Energy Drink
- Alani Nu Watermelon Wave Energy Drink
- Optimum Nutrition Grape Sparkling Amino Energy + Electrolytes
- Bang Blue Razz Energy Drink
- ZOA Wild Orange Zero Sugar Energy Drink
- GHOST Citrus Energy Drink
- Celsius Sparkling Grapefruit Energy Drink
The Creative Twists
That said, there is truly no shortage of creative and just plain out-there energy drink flavors to pick from if your taste buds tend to get bored (or you’ve just downed one too many berry-inspired drinks in your day.
Mix it up with the following funky vibes:
- Alani Nu Mimosa Energy Drink
- ZOA Pineapple Coconut Energy Drink
- Celsius Cola Sparkling Energy Drink
- Bang Rainbow Unicorn Energy Drink
- GHOST Sour Batch Kids Energy Drink
- Bang Cotton Candy Energy Drink
- Optimum Nutrition Blueberry Lemonade Sparkling Amino Energy + Electrolytes
- Cellucor Sparkling Arctic Snow Cone C4 Ultimate Energy Drink
- Celsius Tropical Vibe Energy Drink
Another consideration you don’t want to take for granted: whether your energy drink has bubbles or not. If you’re crushing a can before hitting the gym, maybe the thought of carbonation makes you queasy. But if all you’re after is something to bust that mid-afternoon slump, some bubbles may be a more than welcome lift.
Whether you want all the bubbles or none at all, Celsius is a great brand to start with because they’ve got plenty of sparkling and non-sparkling options.
Otherwise, many of the most popular drinks out there do feature some bubbles. From Bang and GHOST, to Reign and ZOA, you’ll find plenty of carbonated options to stock your fridge with.
Looking for some extra Boosters?
There’s more to most energy drinks than just caffeine. While some formulas keep it super-simple, others incorporate everything from B vitamins to popular pre-workout ingredients to focus-boosting nootropics. This way, you can tailor your fuel to your specific needs, whether it’s to power through a work project or crush a workout.
If you’re not looking for anything fancy, stick with a simple option like Alani Nu, which combines caffeine with a few B vitamins.
However, if you want a little something extra, consider whether your priority is to power up your body or your mind. Some energy drink formulas focus on one more than the other, while others contain ingredients to boost both.
For a little extra workout oomph, check out:
- Bang (contains creatine, CoQ10, essential amino acids, and vitamins and minerals)
- Reign (contains BCAAs, B vitamins, and CoQ10)
- ZOA (contains BCAAs, antioxidants, vitamins, and electrolytes)
- Celsius (contains vitamins and minerals, plus a blend of energizers such as EGCG, taurine, and guarana)
- Optimum Nutrition Essential Aminos + Electrolytes (contains, as you can guess, electrolytes plus an unmatched five grams of amino acids)
To bump up your brainpower, try:
- Cellucor C4 Smart Energy Superbrain Drink (contains 200 milligrams of green tea-derived caffeine, a patented form of focus-enhancing citicoline, and n-acetyl-l-tyrosine, an amino acid-like compound needed for neurotransmitter production)
- Jocko Discipline GO Drink (combines 95 milligrams of caffeine with B vitamins, minerals, choline, and brain-boosters like l-theanine, the herb bacopa monnieri, Alpha GPC, and more)
Finally, if you’re looking for an all-out option that essentially turns you into a Power Ranger for the day, opt for Bucked Up’s Energy Drink. It’s a not-for-the-faint-of-heart formula that combines 300 milligrams of caffeine with deer antler velvet, Korean ginseng, AlphaSize Alpha-GPC, theacrine, and more.
The bottom line: You’ve got endless options
If you’re still not sure where to start in finding your new go-to energy drink, go with single cans before buying cases so that you can sample different brands and formulations to figure out the flavors and ingredient profiles that make you feel energized and powerful but not strung-out or jittery.
When in doubt, stop into your local The Vitamin Shoppe for a tour of the energy drink fridge and to talk to a Health Enthusiast about what you’re looking for in your next favorite can of awesome.