We all have had days when staying awake feels like a real task. You may be trying to pull an all-nighter to study for the exam or concentrate on office work (recall Mondays).
While you will likely reach for a cup of coffee as the first resort, sometimes the caffeine from coffee just doesn’t cut it. On such days, when you need a stronger energy boost to get going, you may want to power up with energy drinks.
But are there any vegan energy drinks available? What are the best vegan energy drinks options?
Let’s dig down a little deeper (like we always do here, on Vegan Calm) to find out if any of the popular energy drinks available out there are suitable for vegans and put together our own list of the best vegan energy drinks.
But, before we do that, we need to have a clear idea of what we’re looking for. So, let’s discuss that before investigating the popular energy drinks, evaluating their ingredients, and determining their vegan status.
What are Energy Drinks Made Of? Common Energy Drink Ingredients
There are so many varieties of energy drinks available on the market that it’s difficult to track their ingredients. Moreover, every energy drink brand seems to have its own proprietary energy blend, which, most often than not, is kept a secret.
However, food researchers and enthusiasts have identified 10 common ingredients found in (most) energy drinks. While none of them are the obvious non-vegan culprits, some are derived from animals, while others have controversial status in the plant-based community.
Let’s look at them and then briefly discuss the (potential) non-vegan ingredients commonly found in energy drinks.
Common energy drinks ingredients include:
- Caffeine (of course!)
- Ginseng – an East Asian herb
- Ginkgo Biloba – Chinese herb
- B Vitamins
- Sugar (a lot of it)
- Taurine – the key ingredient we’re concerned about
- Guarana Extract – taken from the seeds of the Guarana plant, and is known to have twice as much caffeine as coffee
- Carnitine – another ingredient we should pay heed to
- Glucuronolactone – one more ingredient to be concerned about
Let’s go over the energy drinks ingredients vegans are (or should be) concerned about and find out where they are sourced from to determine if it’s fine to consume them on a vegan diet or they should be avoided.
If you’ve been vegan for any length of time, you would know that refined sugar is a controversial ingredient in the vegan community.
For those who may not know, sugar is refined using bone char in the commercial industry. This is why many vegans assert that refined sugar should be avoided. However, some argue that the widespread use of refined sugar makes it almost impossible to avoid it.
Even though it’s established that the refining of sugar involves the use of bone char, it is categorized as a controversial ingredient that some vegans (prefer to) avoid while others find okay to consume.
When it comes to energy drinks, they usually have sugar in the form of glucose, sucrose, or high-fructose corn syrup. And all these are forms of refined sugar.
Carnitine is an amino acid derivative that is naturally found in the human body, in almost all cells. It plays a vital role in the conversion of fat into energy. While our body can make sufficient carnitine on its own, it also comes from food sources.
Animal products, i.e., meat, dairy, poultry, and fish are the best food sources of carnitine.
It’s important to note here that carnitine is a broad term for a few different similar compounds. The one found in energy drinks (and is also the most abundant in the human body and food sources) is L-carnitine.
While the primary sources of carnitine are animal-derived, it can also be synthesized in the laboratory. Technically, you need to check where an energy drinks company sources its carnitine from to determine the vegan status of its products.
However, it’s commonly known that most (if not all) commercial food companies that use carnitine use its synthetic variety.
Glucuronolactone is another naturally occurring substance in the human body. It is produced by the liver during the process of glucose breakdown, and makes a vital structural component of almost all connective tissues.
It is also known to help improve attention. It’s added to energy drinks to help prevent glycogen depletion in the body.
Just like carnitine, glucuronolactone can also be sourced from foods and synthesized in laboratories. It can also come from animal tissues.
You need to consider the source of glucuronolactone in an energy drink to figure out if it’s vegan-friendly or not. However, just like carnitine, its synthetic version is known to be used in the commercial food manufacturing industry.
Taurine is the most abundantly used potentially non-vegan ingredient in energy drinks. It is a form of amino acid that is both naturally produced in the body and found in some foods. The best food sources of taurine, however, are non-vegan; meat, eggs, and fish.
Having said that, the taurine used in energy drinks (or any other commercial food product per se) is synthetic. Almost all the popular energy drink brands have confirmed that they use synthetic taurine in their products, making them suitable for vegans.
Now that we have discussed all the common energy drinks ingredients that are worth considering to determine their vegan status, let’s look at what some popular energy drinks are made of and find out what energy drinks are vegan. I will also list down the five best vegan energy drinks (in my opinion) in the last section of the article. Keep reading to know your options!
The 5 Best Vegan Energy Drinks
Now that we have discussed all the important information about vegan energy drinks, let’s highlight some of the best available options.
While there’s no dearth of good energy drinks in the market, here are my top five choices (not in any particular order):
1. Red Bull – Original Flavor
Red Bull is the biggest energy drink brand and has a cult following for a reason. Its Original flavor is one of my all-time favorites.
With 80mg of caffeine, just the same amount of sugar as you get in a cup of juice, and good flavor, Red Bull Original checks all the boxes for a great energy drink.
It also comes in a recyclable can (brownie points for that!)
The kick it gives may not be high enough for some people, but I find it just right (not too high, not too low). If you’re looking for a similar effect, do give Red Bull Original a try (if you haven’t already).
In case you don’t really like the original flavor, you can choose any other flavor. They all give the same energy kick.
2. Monster Energy Zero Ultra
On days when I am need of a stronger energy boost and a regular cup of coffee (or Red Bull) doesn’t cut it, I often opt for Monster. But I find its regular varieties a little too sweet. If you’re like me, try Monster Zero Ultra. Beware, it may become your new favorite!
As evident from the product name, this is a zero-sugar energy drink with only five calories in a can. This makes it a great option for health-conscious vegans too.
This citrusy-flavored sugar-free vegan energy drink comes in a 10.5-ounce can and provides a good 100mg dose of caffeine.
3. Rockstar Pure Zero Energy Drink
On days when Monday blues hit the hardest or when you have to pull consecutive all-nighters because the finals are just around the corner (I feel ya, students!), you need a really high dose of caffeine.
And Rockstar Pure Zero energy drink provides just that without giving you an overdose of sugar.
This sugar-free energy drink contains 240 mg of caffeine, which is the equivalent of three cups of coffee, so you can trust it to do the job of keeping you awake and alert. It is also low in calories; there are only 20 calories in a 16 fl oz can.
While this line of Rockstar energy drinks is originally intended for athletes, sportsmen, and others with very active lifestyles, there’s no one stopping you from having it to save your workdays or exams.
Rockstar Pure Zero comes in multiple flavors, but I like its grape flavor the best.
1. Extra Strength 5-Hour Energy Shot – Berry Flavor
Berry flavor is the OG of 5-Hour energy shots; this was the very first flavor the company launched. Its Extra Strength version offers the same great flavor, but take things further up a notch by providing an even stronger energy kick.
Extra Strength 5-Hour Energy Shots have 230 mg of caffeine. It’s strong, great tasting, low calorie, and sugar-free. What more do you want?
Don’t worry if you don’t like berry flavor. It comes in 10 other flavors too, so you’ll find one that you like.
2. Guru Organic Energy Drink – Original
Despite the fact that energy drinks come to our rescue in some of the toughest times, they are infamous for having high sugar content and calories and being packed with a whole lot of synthetic, chemical-based ingredients.
Although there are now many sugar-free and low-calorie energy drinks options available, they are still unhealthy. If this is something that bothers you, Guru Energy is the brand you should go for.
Their products are 100% organic and vegan certified. The only shortcoming is that they have a very limited number of options; only four products. But, hey, they are healthy vegan energy drinks. Isn’t it great!
They also have a couple of very interesting flavors – Matcha and Yerba Mate. Though all the flavors of Guru Organic Energy drink are good, I recommend starting with the Original flavor and then move on trying others.
Are Monster Energy Drinks Vegan?
With 39 different types of energy-boosting drinks under various categories, Monster Energy is a leader in the energy drinks industry, only coming next to Red Bull. But, can vegans drink Monsters? Let’s find out!
What are Monster Energy Drinks Made of?
Monster Energy drinks have a long list of ingredients.
All the four controversial ingredients that we discussed earlier are present in Monster drinks.
Moreover, there are natural flavors and colors, both of which are controversial ingredients [Refer to my article Are Sour Patch Kids Vegan you don’t know what the deal with colors and natural flavors is].
So, is Monster vegan?
Despite the fact that Monster drinks contain some controversial ingredients and others from unknown sources, most Monster energy drinks are classified as vegan-friendly.
According to multiple online sources, Monster has confirmed that none of the ingredients they use are derived from animal sources. Even though the company says that its ingredients are not certified vegan, PETA categorizes Monster energy drinks as suitable for vegans.
The only main exception is the Java Monster line, as it has milk (the real one, not the non-dairy milk).
However, there are some other non-vegan varieties of Monster available outside the US. For example, Monster Ultra Red sold in the UK contains Red # 4, which is carmine; a color made from cochineal (a bug).
That’s not the case in the US, though. Here, all the Monster energy drinks, except those in the Java Monster line, are vegan.
Is Red Bull Vegan?
Red Bull needs no introduction. The company has been keeping us all pumped up for over three decades now, and is, unsurprisingly, the biggest player in the energy drinks industry.
The best part about Red Bull (apart from their energy boosting drinks) is that they provide quite enough information about their products on the company’s website.
You can find lists of all the major ingredients with brief descriptions. They also have a Q&A page on their website, where they answer some of the most common questions people have about their products, their ingredients, and effects.
Here’s what I found there about the sources of Red Bull ingredients (information that helps determine the vegan status of Red Bull energy drinks)
Although nowhere does Red Bull says that their drinks are vegan, the company does highlight that none of the ingredients they use come from animal sources. So, it’s safe to presume that they are vegan-friendly.
However, there is only one ingredient that some vegans may find problematic, and that is artificial colors.
In case you didn’t already know, artificial colors are vegan on their own, but are considered controversial in the vegan world because they are tested on animals.
There is only a small group of vegans who avoid artificial colors. Others are okay with consuming them because of it is practically almost impossible to avoid them; they are widely used everywhere.
Red Bull Organic drinks are free of artificial colors, but they are not energy drinks (just wanted to put it out there to avoid any confusion)
Is Guru Energy Drink Vegan?
Guru may not have as great of a product line, in terms of variety, as Monster, Red Bull, or other leading energy drink brands.
However, vegans gotta love this company because it is probably the only energy drinks brand whose products are certified vegan. They are also certified organic and gluten-free.
Here are the lists of Guru’s certified vegan energy drinks ingredients for your reference:
Guru Organic Energy Drink Ingredients
Guru Organic Energy – Lite Ingredients
Guru Organic Energy – Yerba Mate Ingredients
Guru Organic Energy – Matcha Ingredients
They have natural/organic flavors, generally considered a controversial ingredient (or term) in the vegan community. But in this case, you can rest assured that these flavors come from plant sources. Remember, Guru products are certified vegan.
Since Guru Energy drinks are made of all-natural ingredients, they are also touted as healthy energy drinks. Simply put, they are healthy vegan energy drinks (hear y’all, health-conscious vegans!)
Are 5-Hour Energy Drinks Vegan?
Known for its quick action mechanism, 5-Hour Energy comes in two varieties – Energy Drinks and Energy Shots. Both contain more or less the same ingredients.
They contain no sugar and are also free of L-carnitine, but they do have glucuronolactone and taurine. They also contain natural flavors. But, are they vegan?
They seem to be! Because the company’s website mentions that their products are free of animal products.
It’s important to mention here that some social media posts assert that 5-Hour Energy products are not vegan. However, they don’t provide any evidence to back their claim.
When I dug deeper into this, I found one bit of information that I believe could have led to this misconception. Here it is:
The answer is non-explanatory and can make people presume that it means the Energy Blend ingredients are derived from animals.
However, that doesn’t seem to be the case, as the company clearly states (in another question) that their products do not contain animal ingredients. Wondering what could this ‘no’ means, then?
While I am not exactly, but it could mean that they use synthesized ingredients.
Are Rockstar Energy Drinks Vegan?
According to the company’s website, all their products are suitable for plant-eaters, including both vegetarians and vegans. They do not contain any animal-derived ingredients; even the taurine found in Rockstar energy drinks is synthetic.
It’s important to note that while the company asserts that its products are suitable for vegans, Rockstar energy drinks are not certified vegan, like Guru’s.
Vegan Energy Drinks FAQs?
Let’s end the article by answering some common questions vegans ask about different popular energy drinks.
▪ Is Monster Energy Ultra Vegan?
Monster Ultra is classified as vegan-friendly in North America. However, in the UK and EU region, it’s Ultra Red flavor is not vegan, as it contains carmine or E120, a color derived from cochineal.
▪ Is White Monster Vegan?
White Monster is the name that people generally use for the Monster Zero Ultra. It is vegan and one of the best vegan energy drinks, in my opinion. Refer to the previous section to read my brief review of it.
▪ Is Monster Punch Vegan?
Combining the fruity flavors with the punch of caffeine, Punch Monster energy juice is vegan.
▪ Is Mango Loco Monster Vegan?
Monster Mango Loco is a flavor of Monster Energy Juices. Though it contains sugar, a controversial vegan ingredient, it is generally classified as vegan-friendly.
▪ Does Monster Test On Animals?
Monster doesn’t test on animals. However, the company is not certified as cruelty-free because it does use artificial colors, which are known to be tested on animals.
▪ Are There any Organic Vegan Energy Drinks?
Yes. All of Guru Energy’s products are organic and certified vegan. Although the company offers only a limited range of energy drink flavors, they are organic, healthy, and confirmed vegan.
▪ Is Yerba Mate Vegan?
Yes, Yerba Mate is vegan. It is an herbal tea or extract made from the leaves of a South American plant, which are known to be naturally caffeinated.
We all have days when we feel sleepy, tired, or just lack the energy to go about our day. Energy drinks can come to the rescue on such not-so-great days.
While most energy drinks varieties available on the market contain a few controversial ingredients, they are considered vegan-friendly because research shows that those ingredients are synthetic and hence, suitable for vegans.
The only exception to this is sugar, which, as we all know, is commercially refined using bone char.
If you don’t mind it, you can choose any energy drink. Just make sure it doesn’t have milk, as Monster Java does. However, if you’re careful about the consumption of refined sugar, choose sugar-free vegan energy drinks.
If you’re a health and/or fitness freak and worried about putting all those chemicals in your body, go for GURU Organic energy drinks. They may not be as great as some of the best-known ones, but they are certainly healthy and certified vegan.
Did you find this article helpful? Interested to learn about the vegan status of some other popular commercial products? Check out my article Are Lays Chips Vegan to figure out if these everyone-s favorite potato chips are suitable for those on a strict plant-based diet.