Instead of chugging a sugary energy drink at your desk or before you head to the gym, consider one of the several healthy alternatives for energy drinks.
For many, energy drinks provide a pick-me-up in the afternoon or keep them going during a night shift at work. But over the years, ample research has revealed that energy drinks are, in fact, horrible for you. Instead of chugging a sugary energy drink at your desk or before you head to the gym, consider one of the several healthy alternatives to energy drinks.
Some alternative beverages can help you stay awake without compromising your health. While they might not taste exactly like the sugary, soda-like energy drinks that you’re used to, these best alternatives for energy drinks will keep you healthier in the long run.
Why choose a healthy alternative instead of an energy drink?
It’s really no surprise that energy drinks are horrible for you, even the sugar-free versions. A study from the Harvard School of Public Health shows that even though energy drinks are very appealing to people who need a pick-me-up during the day, they can have a lot of bad effects on your health. Because of the high sugar and caffeine content, energy drinks can cause stomach irritation, increased stress, high blood pressure, aggressive behaviors, cigarette abuse, and even increased one’s risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. So there’s just no way a quick jolt of energy is worth these damaging effects!
Even though some energy drinks advertise unique ingredients that are typically healthy, like ginseng root, guarana seed extract, and vitamin B, there’s really no evidence that they help with mental alertness when added to an energy drink.
The regular consumption of sugary, caffeine-filled energy drinks can impact your heart health even more. Another study suggests that energy drinks can be linked to heart arrhythmias. It also says that many energy drinks have ingredients like taurine and L-carnitine that lower the risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
For these very serious reasons, it’s best to stick with a healthy alternative to energy drinks.
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Top 11 Healthy Alternatives for Energy Drinks
If the fact that energy drinks aren’t good for you is a hard pill to swallow, don’t worry, as there are plenty of healthy alternatives that you’ll enjoy.
1. Greens Powder
Greens powder can give you more energy and give your body the vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and antioxidants it needs. It can be added to smoothies, fresh juices, or protein shakes.
A high-quality, organic greens powder, like Ensō Supergreens, is incredibly easy to consume and is packed with locally grown ingredients. From whole-leaf wheat grass, parsley leaf, and broccoli to alfalfa leaf, peppermint leaf, ginger root, and spinach, this powder is sure to give you energy without harming your heart or overall health. In addition to giving you more energy, supergreens powder can help with digestion, improve gut health, aid in detoxification, reduce inflammation, and even prevent some conditions.
Greens are easy to drink with no grassy aftertaste. Greens powder may be beneficial for gut health, menopausal symptoms, bloating, and inflammation.
The ingredients in Ensō Supergreens are locally grown and organic, and this formula of supergreens powder contains more than 15 nutrient-rich ingredients. Greens powder is simple to incorporate into smoothies or protein shakes. However, super greens should be consumed regularly to gain benefits, and greens powder is not a replacement for vegetables in your diet
Bottom Line: In the long run, a beverage containing greens powder will benefit your body far more than a sugary, caffeinated energy drink.
2. Green Tea
When most people think of tea, they think of it as coffee’s less exciting, boring sister. But in reality, black and green teas can be a lot of fun as they contain quite a bit of caffeine. Green tea can boost your energy while bringing certain healthy substances to your body. A high-quality green tea has plenty of antioxidants and minerals that can clear your skin, improve brain function, and even increase fat burning. Plus, a box of green tea is much more affordable than a box of energy drinks, so you’ll also be saving money.
Green tea can also aid in weight loss. Its antioxidants may protect against some cancers, protect the brain from aging, and boost cognitive function. Green tea is easy to drink without having to add any milk or sugar, and it doesn’t have any calories.
But, of course, you’d need access to boiling water to make it. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, green tea might make you jittery
Bottom Line: Green tea, unlike energy drinks, doesn't have any calories and helps your brain work better while giving you a lot of antioxidants.
3. Yerba Mate
Pronounced “yehr-ba mah-tay,” this antioxidant and nutrient-rich superfood can be consumed like tea. Yerba Mate can improve mental focus and boost energy, enhance performance, and protect against specific conditions as it is high in antioxidants like xanthines, saponins, polyphenols, and more. The superfood comes from South America, but it is now very popular worldwide because it is a great alternative to energy drinks. It can be brewed as strongly as coffee, but it isn’t as acidic or addictive, so you don’t need to worry about falling into an unhealthy habit.
Yerba Mate is easy to prepare, inexpensive, and can be found at grocery stores. You can consume it hot or cold; it is rich in antioxidants, and it can boost energy and mental focus.
However, because it is a stimulant, it may not agree with those with hypertension or heart disease. It should not be consumed in high doses for extended periods, and it could cause an upset stomach.
Bottom Line: While it shouldn’t be consumed multiple times per day, a glass of yerba mate can provide a boost of energy once you hit your usual afternoon slump.
4. Fresh Juice
Not be confused with the containers of orange or apple juice you find at the store. Juices that are freshly squeezed and not from concentrate can give you a boost of energy without caffeine. Depending on how much free time you have, you can even make your juice at home with a juicer and tons of fresh fruit and veggies.
A common misconception is that caffeine is needed to help your body produce energy. But in reality, our bodies make energy from the foods we consume, so it’s important to stay away from sugary snacks, as a crash usually follows these. When looking for a healthy fresh juice, look for one that contains ingredients like leafy greens, as this means you’ll be getting vitamins A, K, and C, and iron. Citrus juices can also be very tasty and help your immune system because they are high in vitamin C. Greens powder can also be mixed into a glass of fresh juice for added health benefits.
Fresh juice may be linked to reducing certain types of cancer. The antioxidants in fresh juice can boost your immune system and give you more energy. Nutrients may be better absorbed from the juice.
However, lots of the fiber is removed when a fruit or vegetable is juiced, and it can be high in calories. Fresh juice can also be expensive.
Bottom Line: Fresh juice, and not juices from concentrate, can be packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients and can give you some much-needed energy.
When consumed in moderation, coffee isn’t bad for you. In small amounts, it’s still considered to be better than sugary energy drinks. So instead of pouring a cup of coffee multiple times daily, try to have one cup in the mornings without added sweeteners or creams high in calories. It is much healthier to eliminate any added processed sugar and replace it with honey or agave syrup. So while you may not be crazy about black coffee or a healthier version of coffee at first, be patient, as it can take months to form a new habit.
Coffee can boost energy levels, it tastes delicious when mixed with your choice of milk, and it can be consumed cold or hot.
However, high caffeine content can make people feel anxious or jittery, it can cause digestive issues, it’s easy to become addicted to coffee, and if you don’t make it at home or work, it can get expensive.
Bottom Line: While a natural alternative to energy drinks, coffee should be consumed in moderation and as much as possible, without the addition of sugary creams and sweeteners.
Matcha is a variation of green tea and has become a popular coffee alternative over the past few years. Not only is matcha full of antioxidants, but it has also been linked to lowering the risk of heart disease, helping people lose weight, and making them more alert without giving them the jitters. Matcha powder can be blended into milk or dairy alternatives, but to reap all the benefits, it is best to mix it with hot water.
Matcha contains antioxidants like polyphenols and can boost energy and give a glow to the skin. It is delicious when prepared correctly and may even improve cardiovascular health. However, it can be more expensive than other healthy alternatives to energy drinks. Matcha products that aren’t high-quality could contain contaminants
Bottom Line: Those looking for a healthier alternative to energy drinks will love the taste and benefits of matcha, especially when it is prepared correctly.
7. Dark Chocolate
While it’s not a beverage, a few squares of dark chocolate can increase energy and promote cognitive function. For example, dark chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, which is responsible for a boost of energy and an enhanced mood after consumption. Dark chocolate is also full of antioxidants, which can help lower stress, fight free radicals, and improve blood flow. A few squares of dark chocolate can perfectly accompany your afternoon cup of green tea or coffee.
Dark chocolate is delicious, is a potent source of antioxidants, it may improve blood flow and reduce heart disease, and could improve brain function
Of course like all delicious things, dark chocolate should be consumed in moderation because it can be high in calories, and in sugar, depending on the type you purchase.
Bottom Line: It’s important not to go overboard with dark chocolate, even though it’s easy. All you need is a few squares of dark chocolate to boost your energy when you’re tired.
8. Coconut Water
Coconut water, contrary to its name, is a juice found inside young, green coconuts. It's a clear liquid with impressive hydrating and nutritional properties that's popular among athletes and health-conscious individuals. In contrast to energy drinks that are high in sugar and artificial ingredients, coconut water is rich in electrolytes, potassium, and magnesium, which support muscle function and maintain fluid balance in the body.
In addition to electrolytes, coconut water contains antioxidants that fight free radicals, which are one of the causes of cell damage. With its low-calorie count (45 to 60 calories per 8-ounce serving) and absence of added sugars, coconut water delivers powerful nutrients without causing crashes or side effects typically associated with energy drinks.
Bottom Line: Coconut water is a nutrient-rich and hydrating alternative to energy drinks, providing electrolytes and antioxidants without the unhealthy ingredients.
You’ve probably seen kombucha at the store, a fermented tea drink that has gained a huge following in recent years. It is produced by fermenting black or green tea with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast for one to three weeks. Kombucha is high in probiotics, antioxidants, and nutrients that promote gut health and overall wellness, making it an excellent substitute for sugary energy drinks. Because kombucha is a type of tea, it naturally contains a small amount of caffeine, approximately 10-15 mg per 8-ounce serving.
To get the best energy-boosting effects, choose a kombucha product with few added sugars and no artificial ingredients. You can also make kombucha at home, giving you complete control over the ingredients and sugar content.
Bottom Line: Kombucha is a probiotic and antioxidant-rich alternative to energy drinks that provides a gentle energy boost from naturally occurring caffeine. However, always check the nutrition facts to ensure it doesn’t contain unhealthy ingredients.
10. Ginseng Tea
Made from the roots of the ginseng plant, ginseng tea offers a natural energy boost without relying on caffeine or sugar found in traditional energy drinks. Ginseng is an adaptogenic herb that has been used for centuries in Chinese and Korean cultures, dating back to 196 AD. On top of its energy-boosting effects, ginseng tea may help lower stress, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar.
In a randomized controlled trial with 21 men and 69 women, ginseng helped reduce chronic fatigue and promote better energy. While more testing can help confirm these claims, ginseng may boost energy levels by stimulating the nervous system’s metabolic effect. It contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, and ginsenosides, which may contribute to the plant's natural health benefits.
Bottom Line: Ginseng comes in two varieties: Asian/Korean and American, and gives you a natural energy boost without the use of artificial substances. While more research is needed, traditional medicine has long recognized the therapeutic benefits of ginseng.
11. Chia Seed Water
Chia seed water is a simple yet effective alternative to energy drinks. Simply combining chia seeds with water yields a hydrating, energy-boosting beverage rich in omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fiber, protein, and essential minerals. One serving of chia seeds contains only about 140 calories and about 4% of the daily recommended amount of carbohydrates. Compared to energy drinks that can cause blood sugar spikes and crashes, chia seed water is nutrient-dense and delivers a subtle energy boost.
Chia seeds have the ability to absorb up to 12 times their weight in water, forming a gel-like consistency that helps keep you hydrated for longer periods. Chia seed water can also be customized by adding various fruits, herbs, and natural sweeteners to create a delicious and healthy drink.
Bottom Line: Chia seed water provides sustained energy and hydration with powerful nutrients. While an excess of chia seeds can cause stomach discomfort, at a safe dose, it's a great alternative to energy drinks in the morning.
Few things are worse than falling asleep at work or school, so people use energy drinks. However, enough research has proven that these sugary, caffeinated energy drinks aren’t good for you. Instead, go for a beverage that will improve your health long-term, like drinks mixed with a supergreens powder, green tea, yerba mate, or the others on this list.
Frequently Asked Questions
We get a lot of questions about healthy alternatives. Here are some more questions and answers about alternatives for energy drinks.
What is a healthier alternative to energy drinks?
Instead of a sugary energy drink, try drinking fresh juice with greens powder, green tea, matcha, yerba mate, a glass of cold water, or even snacking on a few squares of dark chocolate to get you through your mid-day slump. Kombucha is another significant energy boost that a horrible crash won’t follow.
What can take the place of energy drinks?
Many people have realized that energy drinks are high in sugar and calories while posing a threat to your well-being and heart health. Instead of drinking an energy drink like Monster or Red Bull, opt for a cup of matcha, green tea, yerba mate, kombucha, freshly squeezed juice, or a beverage mixed with a greens powder. These will make you feel much healthier and less jittery.
How can I give myself energy without energy drinks?
Along with drinking a healthy alternative to energy drinks, consider exercising, having a snack filled with nutrients, getting a night of good sleep each night, connecting with nature, or taking a short power nap. Snacks that are low in sugars and high in protein, like nuts or hummus with veggies, can give you a boost of energy without all of the caffeine.
How can I focus without energy drinks?
Even though you might think energy drinks are helping you focus, they are doing more damage than good. If you’re having trouble concentrating at work, get outside for some fresh air. Physical activity can help wake you up and promote blood flow. Breathing exercises can increase oxygen flow to the brain, making you feel more focused. Snacking on healthy foods or drinking a healthy alternative to energy drinks can also help you stay alert so you can complete your tasks efficiently.