Tasty, energising and full of supplemental ingredients, the best energy drinks will quench your thirst while giving you an all-round boost
While they may sometimes get a bad rap, the best energy drinks have plenty of positives. They offer an alternative stimulant for those who don’t enjoy the taste of coffee – or its high price – when out and about. Energy drinks also tend to come in a variety of tasty and interesting flavours, offer a significant caffeine boost that even some stronger coffees fail to match and are easily portable and storable for long periods of time. Another interesting thing about energy drinks is the tight-knit communities and fan-followings they sometimes develop due to their fun, maximalist aesthetics and sponsorship of extreme sports and up-and-coming music scenes.
Beyond all that, they contain a range of energy-boosting and, sometimes, health-boosting ingredients, which we will guide you through in our handy buying guide below. A little further down the page, you’ll find mini-reviews of our favourite energy drinks, where we break down the flavours and key ingredients that ensured they made it onto our list. So, say goodbye to sluggishness, it’s time to get energised.
Best energy drink: At a glance
How to choose the best energy drink for you
Energy drinks have a lot of supplemental ingredients – what do they all do?
Beyond caffeine, energy drinks pack in many supplemental vitamins, sugars and other ingredients to try to increase your mental performance and energy. It can be difficult to keep track of all these ingredients and their different properties, so we’ve assembled a handy glossary:
B vitamins, such as riboflavin, niacin and B12, help our bodies convert carbohydrates into glucose, which in turn gives us energy. B vitamins also help with a range of complex processes, such as the metabolisation of proteins and fats.
BCAAs, or branched-chain amino acids, are named for their branching chemical structure. The body cannot synthesise BCAAs, so they must be taken in as part of your diet or in supplementary form. They’re important for muscle and skeletal growth and are thought to improve athletic performance and mental stimulation, although further study is needed to prove the latter claims.
Ginseng, in its fresh form, is a type of root popular in traditional Chinese medicine. It’s widely taken for its antioxidant properties and possible increases in mental performance and energy levels, although many of its health benefits remain unproven.
Guarana is a plant native to the Amazon and naturally contains caffeine. Many energy drinks contain guarana extract for caffeination or to supplement caffeine levels.
L-carnitine is a nutrient that helps transport fatty acids to your cell’s mitochondria, where they can be turned into energy. While we’re still learning about the various roles it plays in the body, it’s generally agreed that L-carnitine contributes to brain and heart function, muscle movement, and many other bodily processes. Vegans tend to produce lower amounts of L-carnitine, so supplemental amounts of this may be beneficial for those avoiding animal products.
Taurine is important to many of the body’s metabolic processes and helps improve cardiovascular health. It’s also thought to have antioxidant properties. This amino acid occurs naturally in meat, fish and dairy products. There isn’t much consensus as to the positive effects of taurine, though some studies suggest it improves athletic performance, as well as mental performance when consumed alongside caffeine.
Vitamin C famously helps stave off scurvy, with citrus fruits being a good source. It’s also involved in tissue repair, collagen formation and the production of l-carnitine, among other things.
Are energy drinks safe?
Energy drinks, like most things in life, are perfectly safe when consumed in moderation. That being said, their high caffeine content can be hazardous for those with pre-existing heart conditions, pregnant women and younger children. For the best safe consumption advice, always refer to the label or can and follow the manufacturer’s guidance and instructions.
Another factor to consider when consuming energy drinks is that they tend to be high in sugar, which, similar to caffeine, is fine in moderation. To be mindful of this, however, we’ll also link to sugar-free versions of our favourite drinks where available.
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The best energy drinks you can buy in 2023
1. Red Bull Red Edition: Best energy drink overall
Price when reviewed: £13 (12pk) | Check price at Amazon
Red Bull is one of the most well-known and popular high-caffeine brands on the market and has become synonymous with energy drinks. The company is also known for its support of high-octane sports, record-breaking stunts and up-and-coming electronic musicians.
At 32mg of caffeine per 100ml, Red Bull provides a reliable caffeine boost alongside taurine and B vitamins. While regular Red Bull tastes perfectly nice, this Red Edition watermelon variant has a tastier and more interesting fruity flavour. Also available are the Tropical Edition (tropical flavour), Coconut Edition (coconut-berry flavour) and Summer Edition (apricot-strawberry flavour). For those cutting down on sugar, you’ll be happy to know the tropical variant also has a sugar-free option available.
Key details – Size: 12 x 250ml; Caffeine content: 32mg per 100ml; Notable ingredients: Taurine, niacin, riboflavin, vitamins B6 and B12
2. Muscle Moose Moose Juice Energy Shot: Best energy shot
Price when reviewed: £30 (12pk) | Check price at Discount Supplements
Understandably, not everyone wants to drink a whole 500ml can every time they need a pick-me-up. That’s where energy shots come in, with this Moose Juice offering from Muscle Moose being one of the tastiest and strongest options available. The grape-flavoured shot packs a whopping 200mg of caffeine (the highest on our list) into its 60ml, as well as a wide range of supplemental ingredients such as L-carnitine and folic acid, all while being sugar- and aspartame-free. If you’re a grape-hater, this pre-workout supplement is also available in a fun Rainbow Candy flavour.
Note: With this being the highest concentration caffine beverage on our list, we would encourage you to employ caution and restraint when consuiming it. Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines as well as any advice you may have received from healthcare professionals.
Key details – Size: 12 x 60ml; Caffeine content: 200mg per 60ml; Notable ingredients: BCAAs, taurine, L-carnitine, vitamins B3, B6 and B12, folic acid
3. Tenzing Blackberry and Acai: Best eco-friendly energy drink
Price: £20 (12pk) | Check price at TenzingWho says high-caffeine beverages and environmental friendliness can’t go together? Not drinks brand Tenzing, which aims to promote naturally energising ingredients, as well as eco-consciousness, producing its plant-based energy drinks with enough CO2 offsets that it’s carbon negative.
Inspired by traditional Himalayan brews, this tasty blackberry and acai energy drink contains 32mg per 100ml of natural caffeine from green coffee beans, BCAAs derived from corn, green tea extract and beet sugars for sweetness. It tastes great and provides a welcome caffeine boost, all while remaining low-cal and avoiding synthetic flavours and ingredients.
Key details – Size: 12 x 330ml; Caffeine content: 32mg per 100ml; Notable ingredients: Guarana, vitamin C, BCAAs
4. Upbeat Protein Energy Sour Berry: Best post-workout energy drink
Price when reviewed: £25 | Check price at AmazonWhile most of us associate energy drinks with late-night study sessions and early-morning boosts on our commutes, an energy drink designed to provide some extra energy and clarity post-workout is a pretty solid idea. Upbeat Protein Energy aims to do just that, pairing a whopping 180mg of caffeine with 15g of pure whey protein – more than what you’d get from some protein bars and shakes. Alongside the protein and caffeine, the drink also contains a cavalcade of B vitamins, which aim to combat fatigue and improve mental performance.
While the Sour Berry flavour was the tastiest option out of the ones we’ve tested, bringing a nice, mild balance of sweet and tart flavours, you can also pick it up in Mixed Berry, Tropical and Zesty Orange flavour options, if these sound more to your taste. Can’t decide? You can also grab a mixed case.
Key details – Size: 500ml; Caffeine content: 36mg per 100ml; Notable ingredients: Whey protein isolate, BCAA, Vitamins B1, B3, B5, B6. B7, B12 and folic acid
5. Boost Iced Coffee Double Espresso: Best canned coffee drink
Price when reviewed: £18 (12pk) | Check price at Amazon
If you don’t enjoy the taste of energy drinks and don’t want to pay for pricey coffees to-go from Starbucks and the like, then a canned coffee is the ideal solution for getting your caffeine fix on the move. Part of the latest range from energy drinks manufacturers Boost, this double espresso drink is made from skimmed milk and a blend of robusta (60%) and arabica (40%) coffee.
This is the drink to go for if you’re trying to maximise your alertness, as its doubled-up strength has its caffeine content of 60mg per 100ml. While there are other drinks that contain a higher total caffeine content on this list, this is one of the strongest caffeine-to-drink size ratios you’re likely to find.
Key details – Size: 12 x 250ml; Caffeine content: 60mg per 100ml; Notable ingredients: N/A
6. Monster Energy Mega Mixed Variety Pack: Best energy drink variety pack
Price when reviewed: £21 (12pk) | Check price at Amazon
Monster has developed a cult-following among energy drink fans due to its sponsorship of sports and music events, its colourful, heavy-metal aesthetic and its wide range of flavours. Not to mention the 36mg per 100ml of caffeine it contains, placing it firmly at the higher end of the caffeination spectrum.
This mixed case gives you a whistle stop tour of some popular flavours: the classic Original blend, fruit juice-enhanced Pipeline Punch, Pacific Punch and fan-favourite Mango Loco. There are also two options from its sugar-free Ultra line. Beyond caffeine, Monster also aims to boost your energy with additional taurine, ginseng extract and B vitamins.
Key details – Size: 12 x 500ml; Caffeine content: 36mg per 100ml (Original); Notable ingredients: Taurine, ginseng extract, L-carnitine, niacin, riboflavin, vitamins B6 and B12 (Original)
7. Lucozade Alert Original: Best-tasting energy drink
Price when reviewed: £10 (12pk) | Check price at AmazonWe’re old enough to remember when Lucozade Energy Original was considered an energy drink due to its bringing together of caffeine and glucose, giving kids across the country their first sugar rush. However, the energy drinks arms race has hotted up quite a bit since then, prompting Lucozade to re-enter the game with an energy drink that’s caffeine-packed enough for the modern day.
Lucozade Alert matches the standard 32mg per 100ml caffeine content of its competitors, while also containing vitamin B3, alternatively known as niacin. What makes Lucozade Alert stand out is its flavour, giving you that well-loved glucosey taste that made the original a household name, now with an additional caffeine boost. If you want to stray a little from the classic flavours, Alert is also available in Tropical and Cherry Blast flavours.
Key details – Size: 12 x 500ml; Caffeine content: 32mg per 100ml; Notable ingredients: Niacin
8. Rubicon Raw Energy: Best fruit juice based energy drink
Price when reviewed: £14 (12pk) | Check price at AmazonIf you’ve been down to your local corner shop recently, chances are you’ve at least seen, if not purchased, some kind of fruit juice drink from Rubicon. Known for its well-loved range of sparkling, spring and still fruit juices, Rubicon now offers an energising option in the form of its Rubicon Raw Energy line.
Made from 20% fruit juice, this orange and mango energy drink has a tropical, citrusy flavour, as well as a 32mg of caffeine per 100ml and a bevy of natural boosters like ginseng extract, guarana and B-Vitamins. If orange and mango isn’t quite your speed, there are also cherry and pomegranate, raspberry and blueberry and apple and guava flavoured options available.
Key details – Size: 12 x 500ml; Caffeine content: 32mg per 100ml; Notable ingredients: Ginseng Extract, Guarana, Niacin, Vitamins B6 and B12
9. C4 Smart Energy: Best energy drink for focus
Price when reviewed: £23 (12 pack) | Check price at Amazon
C4’s new Smart Energy claims to improve mental clarity rather than just supplying the body with an immediate rush. In order to test this, we tried it before work and immediately after lunch to fight off the afternoon lull. The results were positive: we noticed improved concentration and alertness without the ‘caffeine high’ often associated with energy drinks. We tasted the Red Berry Yuzu, the Mango, and the Watermelon Burst and, although flavours will always be subjective, we found them to be pretty refreshing.
Per 330ml, it contains 106mg of natural caffeine from green coffee beans, “Brainberry” nootropics, and zero added sugars.
Key details – Size: 12 x 330ml; Caffeine content: 106mg per 330ml; Notable ingredients: Brainberry Aronia Melanocarpa Fruit Extract, Nicotinamide, Natural caffeine (Green coffee beans)