Surprising Picks for the Best and Worst Energy Drinks

Surprising Picks for the Best and Worst Energy DrinksBy Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D., Nutrition Editor, EatingWell Magazine

Energy drink sales are skyrocketing: from 2011 to 2012 they grew by 14 percent, a bigger jump than any other beverage category! That's not too surprising--who doesn't want to catch a second (or third) wind?

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But are some drinks better than others? Here we take a look at the calories, sugar and caffeine in some of the most popular energy drinks on the market.

The Best: McDonald's Coffee
(large, 16 oz., black): 0 calories, 0 g carbohydrate, 0 g sugar, 133 mg caffeine
In general, straight-up black coffee is going to be a top choice for energy. Black tea is a close second, though it delivers less caffeine per fluid ounce. Research shows that, in small quantities, caffeine may boost energy, alertness and athletic performance. But it's recommended that you limit your caffeine to 200 milligrams at a time, no more than twice a day--which is why the McDonald's black coffee at 130 mg per 16 ounces beat out the Starbucks with 330 mg for 16 ounces.

There are other perks to choosing coffee, too: moderate coffee drinking may help reduce risk of dementia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, as well as lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Other top choices:
• Starbucks Coffee, Pike Place Roast
(grande, 16 oz., black): 5 calories, 0 g carbohydrate, 0 g sugar, 330 mg caffeine
• Celestial Seasonings Morning Thunder Black Tea
(1 bag): 0 calories, 0 g carbohydrate, 0 g sugar, 40 mg caffeine
• Crystal Light Energy
(1 serving; all flavors): 5 calories, 0 g carbohydrate, 0 g sugar, 60 mg caffeine
• 5-Hour Energy (1.93 oz.): 4 calories, 0 carbohydrate, 0 g sugar, 215 mg caffeine

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Worst: Rip It Power
(16 oz.): 260 calories, 66 g carbohydrate, 66 g sugar, 200 mg caffeine
Of the energy drinks we looked at, Rip It Power delivered the most calories and sugar--though its caffeine content is spot on, based on the recommendation to limit it to 200 milligrams at a time.

Here's how other popular energy drinks stack up:
• Advocare Spark
(1 packet): 45 calories, 11 g carbohydrate, 0 g sugar, 120 mg caffeine
• AMP Energy Original
(16 oz.): 220 calories, 58 g carbohydrate, 58 g sugar, 142 mg caffeine
• AMP Energy Original, Sugar Free
(16 oz.): 10 calories, 0 g carbohydrate, 0 g sugar, 142 mg caffeine
• Coca-Cola
(12-oz. can): 140 calories, 39 g carbohydrate, 39 g sugar, 35 mg caffeine
• Glaceau Vitamin Water Energy
(20-oz. bottle): 120 calories, 33 g carbohydrate, 32 g sugar, 50 mg caffeine
• Monster Energy
(16 oz.): 200 calories, 54 g carbohydrate, 54 g sugar, 160 mg caffeine
• Monster Energy, Lo-Carb
(16 oz.): 20 calories, 6 g carbohydrate, 6 g sugar, 160 mg caffeine
• Red Bull
(8.4 oz.): 110 calories, 28 g carbohydrate, 27 g sugar, 80 mg caffeine
• Rockstar, Sugar Free
(16-oz. can): 20 calories, 4 g carbohydrate, 0 g sugar, 160 mg caffeine
• Sambazon Organic Amazon Energy
(12 oz.): 135 calories, 35 g carbohydrate, 30 g sugar, 80 mg caffeine
• Starbucks Doubleshot Energy Mocha Drink
(15-oz. can): 200 calories, 33 g carbohydrate, 26 g sugar, 145 mg caffeine
• V8 V-Fusion + Energy Orange Pineapple
(8-oz. can): 50 calories, 13 g carbohydrate, 10 g sugar, 80 mg caffeine

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Do you drink energy drinks? If so, which ones? If not, share why!

By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D.

Brierley Wright

Brierley's interest in nutrition and food come together in her position as nutrition editor at EatingWell. Brierley holds a master's degree in Nutrition Communication from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. A Registered Dietitian, she completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Vermont.

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