Top 10 energy drinks: the best of the worst

Some of the most popular energy drinks contain the most caffeine and added sugar. WSS staffer Mohana Sunkara ’23 ranks these drinks from best to worst.


Mohana Sunkara

Ten of the most popular energy drinks with the most caffeine content.

Energy drinks have made their way to being one of the most popular supplements. The popularity of energy drinks has spiked significantly since 2020 when global sales peaked at a total of $57.4 billion. Now more than ever, people are relying on the caffeine content in energy drinks to keep them up and running throughout the day. Men between the ages of 18-24 make up the majority of the energy drink consumers and following that, we have one-third of 12-17 year-olds who rely on them as well. 

Despite this new popularity, one jaw-dropping aspect of these energy drinks that are commonly looked upon is their nutritional facts. Energy drinks are primarily known for their caffeine and sugar content. 

“The caffeine in energy drinks provides a false sense of energy,” said Ashley Pearson, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist. Adenosine binds to neurons in the brain to decrease the neuron’s excitability which, in turn, lowers the amount of dopamine and other stimulating chemicals released, thus resulting in feeling sleepy. When caffeine enters the body, it binds to the same receptors on the neuron that adenosine binds to. Caffeine blocks the adenosine from attaching to the neuron which allows for the body to remain energized. 

Although caffeine is used to boost energy, excessive amounts can lead to insomnia and an increase in anxiety, blood pressure and heart rates. Suggested caffeine intake varies from person to person depending on age, body weight and health conditions. It is recommended for teens not to exceed 100 mg and adults not to consume over 400 mg per day.

One way to be more mindful of your caffeine intake is by reading the nutrition facts. One energy drink can sometimes contain two or three servings which means the listed nutrition facts need to be doubled or tripled. Pearson said “limiting how much of the energy drink you are drinking is the best way to go. That’s all I would suggest to people. There isn’t one that’s better than the other, but I would try to find ones that are lower in caffeine.”

Some energy drinks indicate that they are sugar-free. However, the content replacing the sugar is artificial sweetener or sugar alcohol. Although artificial sweeteners are zero calories and sugar alcohols are low in calories, they’re not necessarily good for you. The human body is already used to digesting and using real sugar, but when it comes to sugar alcohols, the body treats them like fibers and doesn’t actually break them down. This can cause some people to have gas. 

“Along with caffeine and sugar content, there are a lot of other things such as vitamins and minerals that are too high of an amount than what you’d necessarily need. A lot of times the nutrition label will say 200-300% of your daily value of certain things and that’s not necessarily good for your body to be getting excessive amounts of those types of things. And so there’s some that contain other ingredients in them too, that isn’t fully tested in the United States,” Pearson said. Along with what Pearson said, it’s never good for you to be consuming too much of anything. Everything should be in moderation. 

Here’s a ranking of the top 10 worst energy drinks based on caffeine, sugar, and vitamin levels respectively. 

10. Focus Aid

Focus Aid is not a well-known energy drink but turns out to be one of the better options. It contains half the caffeine content of the most popular energy drinks such as Celsius and Alani Nu. Focus Aid has 100 mg of caffeine (recommended intake for a 12-17-year-old, and one-fourth of the recommended intake for an adult) and it contains 7 grams of added sugar (14% of suggested intake) per 12 oz can. It has perfect Vitamin B6 (100%) and Niacin (100%) levels, however, it crosses the Vitamin B12 level by resting at 375%.

9. Celsius

One of the most beloved energy drinks, Celsius contains 200 mg of caffeine for a 12oz can. It contains zero grams of sugar. The reason why Celsius sits beneath Alani Nu is due to the natural sweeteners that Celsius uses. Although it is naturally caffeinated, it still exceeds the recommended amount of caffeine for 12-17-year-olds and accommodates for half of the recommended adult intake. Along with that, Celsius exceeds the recommended percentage for Vitamin B6 (118%), Vitamin B12 (250%) and Niacin (125%). 

8. Alani Nu

Promoted by multiple fitness influencers, Alani Nu has built a reputable brand. Often looked upon is the caffeine content in the 12 oz can. Alani Nu has 200 mg of caffeine and zero sugars. The sweetness in this energy drink comes from the two grams of sugar alcohol and Sucralose.  When it comes to Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12 and Niacin; this energy drink exceeds the recommended value by providing 110% of the daily intake for each. 

7. Zoa

Zoa is Dwayne Johnson’s energy drink. It contains 160 mg of caffeine and zero grams of sugar per 16 oz. The sweetness in Zoa comes from Sucralose and Acesulfame Potassium. It has the exact amounts of recommended Vitamin B6 (100%), Vitamin B12 (100%) and Niacin (100%) levels. 

6. C4 Energy

A C4 energy drink has 200 mg of caffeine and zero added sugars per 16 oz. To provide sweetness to the drink; Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium, and Stevia Leaf Extract are added. The 16 oz can of C4 Energy has 250% of Vitamin B12 and 190% of Niacin. The percent of Vitamin B6 is not listed.

5. Red Bull

Red Bull is known to be one of the unhealthiest energy drinks. But why? Red bull contains 151 mg of caffeine and 51 grams of added sugar (101% of suggested intake) for a 16 oz can. Along with that, it exceeds the percentage of suggested vitamins/minerals. It has 470% of Vitamin B6, 160% of Vitamin B12 and 190% of Niacin. 

4. Monster

It should be no surprise that Monster is one of the worst energy drinks. It contains 160 mg of caffeine and 54 grams of added sugar (108% of suggested intake) per 16 oz. Along with that, it towers over the recommended vitamin and mineral requirements. It contains 240% of Vitamin B6, 500% of Vitamin B12 and 250% of Niacin. 

3. Rockstar

It was hard to place Rockstar in this ranking because it contains the most amount of added sugar but not the highest caffeine level. Rockstar is placed here due to the significant decrease in caffeine levels compared to Reign and Bang. Rockstar contains 160 mg of caffeine per 16 oz, and although that is less than Alani Nu and Celsius, it contains 63 grams of added sugar (126% of suggested intake) which outweighs the sugar levels in any other energy drink listed in this ranking. Rockstar has 100% of the daily recommended intake for Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12 and Niacin. 

2. Bang

Bang is sitting right next to Reign at 300 mg of caffeine and zero grams of sugar per 16 oz. However, Sucralose is still used to sweeten the drink. Bang doesn’t exceed the recommended values with 30% of Vitamin B6, 60% of Vitamin B12 and 30% of Niacin that you should consume in a day.

1. Reign

Coming in first as the unhealthiest energy drink is Reign, containing 300 mg of caffeine and zero grams of sugar in 16 oz. Although they are said to have zero grams of sugar, they have to sweeten the drink with something, hence Sucralose, an artificial sweetener. Reign is ranked worse than Bang which is the next worse in this ranking. Reign exceeded the Vitamin B6 levels by 120%, Vitamin B12 by 250% and Niacin by 130% recommended percentages.