Energy drinks continue to rise in popularity and are consumed by people for an instant boost of energy, alertness, and concentration.
Due to high levels of sugar and caffeine, there have been concerns regarding whether energy drinks are good for your health or not, with many health professionals warning against their harmful consequences.
While this is a legitimate matter of concern, another burning question that has caught on is whether energy drinks are vegan.
People are turning to veganism as they become more aware of the environment and the animal cruelty around them. And while it is a very rewarding lifestyle, it requires a lot of sacrifices on your part in bidding adieu to all animal-based ingredients and animal-derived products.
So, are energy drinks vegan? Energy drinks can be vegan but that is not always the case. It all comes down to the ingredients and where they are derived from.
Read on to find out what energy drinks are made of, whether they are vegan or not, and some of the most popular vegan-friendly energy drinks on the market.
What Are Energy Drinks Made Of?
When it comes to energy drinks, there are so many brands available on the market, and while they don’t have the obvious animal-based ingredients in them, such as meat, they may have traces of animal-derived products.
Energy drinks are usually taken by people when they are feeling fatigued and need a higher level of focus to carry out tasks such as studying, working late, or doing strenuous work.
But have you ever thought about what is in your favorite energy drinks that give you that much-needed boost? Energy drinks contain a long list of ingredients, the key one being caffeine.
Caffeine is a natural stimulant derived from plants and is most commonly found in tea and coffee. The caffeine content in most energy drinks is around 80 mg in a 250 ml can.
Other ingredients include taurine, sugar, water, glucuronolactone, B vitamins, guarana, ginseng, ginkgo biloba, L-carnitine, antioxidants, and trace minerals.
Out of these, the first two ingredients, taurine and sugar, pose a few questions regarding their vegan-friendliness and it all comes down to where they are sourced from.
Taurine is an amino acid present in many energy drinks and is one of the most common “active” ingredients.
The addition of taurine is known to enhance the athletic performance of the drinker, and in combination with caffeine, it can improve mental health as well.
Taurine is produced naturally by the body and is often found in animal-based products such as meat, fish, and eggs. Although natural taurine comes from non-vegan sources, most of it used for manufacturing is synthetically made, and is, therefore, vegan.
There were also some claims back in the day surrounding taurine that it was made from bull semen and urine, but that theory was quickly disproved.
The bottom line is that if you see taurine listed as one of the ingredients in your favorite energy drink, which you most likely will, it is safe to say that it is synthetic and, therefore, vegan-friendly.
Most of the sugar we consume comes from plant-based sources such as sugar cane, sugar beets, and corn. That should make it vegan-friendly, right?
While sugar itself is vegan, it is the refining process that raises a few eyebrows and may negate its naturally vegan properties.
The reason being that sugar typically goes through a refinement process that involves the use of bone char from animals to achieve its white color. Bone char is usually added to sugar made from sugarcane, rather than one made from sugar beets or other sources.
Energy drinks are usually quite sweet and that is because they are loaded with sugar. It has the second-highest content in energy drinks, right after water, with some containing as much as 500 mg of sugar in one can.
If you are a vegan, it is always best to investigate the ingredients of the products you are consuming. However, when it comes to sugar, since it is difficult to know where and how the sugar is being processed, it may not be worth it to worry so much about it.
In the end, it all comes down to your personal preference and where you draw the line on what is acceptable to you and what isn’t.
Other Non-Vegan Ingredients
While we are confident that there are no cow, bull, or ox-derived ingredients in energy drinks, including sperm and urine, they may contain a small insect called a cochineal.
These insects are used to create the dye carmine and, for obvious reasons, are non-vegan since insects are animals too.
Therefore, if you see any of the following ingredients in your energy drink, specifically the ones that are red, it’s time to take them off your list of acceptable vegan-friendly foods:
- Cochineal Extract
- Carmine Lake
Top Energy Drinks: Are They Vegan?
Now that we have looked at the general ingredients in energy drinks, it’s time to look at some of the top energy drinks to check for their vegan-friendliness.
Some of the most popular energy drinks include Red Bull, Monster, Rockstar, Reign, NOS, Venom, Bang, and 5-Hour Energy. Let’s check them out:
1. Red Bull
It is impossible to talk about energy drinks and not mention Red Bull. It is a very popular energy drink around the world and was the first one to be introduced to the US.
Despite its name and claims in the past that it contains taurine sourced from animals, Red Bull does not contain any animal ingredients in it and is, in fact, vegan-friendly.
This has been confirmed on the Red Bull website that states it uses non-animal ingredients and is okay for vegans to consume.
The only ingredient that some vegans may object to is the artificial coloring used, some of which is tested on animals. If that is not a problem for you, consuming Red Bull should not be a problem.
Monster produces a wide range of energy drinks and is a popular choice among many across the globe. While most Monster Energy drinks are vegan-friendly, there are a few exceptions.
While the taurine used in the drinks is vegan, some of them, particularly Java Monster, contain animal products such as milk.
It is also important to note that the ingredients vary from one country to the other, with some countries having traces of non-vegan ingredients such as carmine, for instance in the Monster Ultra Red commonly sold in the UK.
However, people living in the US don’t have to worry about this since the Monster Ultra Line in North America is completely vegan. Other vegan-friendly options include Juice Monster, Monster Hydro, and the classic Monster Energy.
There are no ingredients in a Rockstar energy drink that would stand out as being non-vegan, except for taurine, which the company has claimed is derived from synthetic sources.
So, is Rockstar vegan? The simple answer to that is yes. A can of Rockstar energy drink can be enjoyed by vegans all over the world and it will surely have you feeling like a rockstar as you enjoy an energy boost!
However, if we were to go into details, the food coloring, such as Caramel and Riboflavin, although sourced naturally from plants or synthetically made, could be tested on animals.
While food colorings are generally unavoidable when it comes to food products, in the end, it all comes down to what you are and are not comfortable with.
Although Reign energy drinks aren’t vegan certified, it doesn’t contain any animal products, a claim that can be confirmed by the company if you wish to contact them for information.
Besides that, Reign is also sugar-free so you don’t have to worry about how it is produced and if it is vegan-friendly or not. You will also see many high-profile vegans promoting Reign, which is a clear nod to its vegan-friendliness.
Though a great option for vegans, since Reign has a lot of caffeine, it may not be suitable for people with a low caffeine tolerance.
NOS energy drinks are another option that, although not vegan certified, do not use any animal products as confirmed by the company.
It might get a little confusing seeing ingredients such as guanine and glycerol ester of wood rosin, as these components can be derived either from plants or animals.
The good news is that they come from plants and shouldn’t be a cause for concern for the vegans out there.
Venom is generally considered vegan-friendly since it has no animal products, but there are a few areas of concern.
One of its ingredients is natural flavors which, if you read up on, may come from either plants or animals, and may make you wonder which of the two it is.
The other issue is with sucralose, an artificial sweetener that, although does not contain animal products, may have a history of animal testing, making it unacceptable for many vegans.
In addition to that, as is the case with other artificial sweeteners, sucralose is associated with health risks in the long term upon prolonged use.
With a lot of misinformation and confusion out there regarding the vegan-friendliness of Bang energy, it is in fact vegan, as told directly by the company.
It was thought that the creatine contained in it could be non-vegan and that the BCAAs present in it came from animals. The truth, however, is that there are no animal products in Bang and this can be confirmed by contacting the company.
8. 5-Hour Energy
5-Hour Energy does not fall into the energy drink category as the other ones listed above and is rather a small “shot” that works like an energy drink.
Regardless of what type of drink it is, 5-Hour Energy is vegan. As with many other products, there has been misinformation regarding its ingredients, but the company has put them all to rest by stating that it does not use any animal products in its production.
The taurine used in the drink is synthetic and 100% suitable for vegans. If you have any confusion, you can consult the company directly since it’s good to be careful when you are on a strict vegan diet.
Now that we’ve covered so much about vegan-friendly energy drinks and the best ones available on the market, let’s look at whether they are vegetarian, gluten-free, kosher, paleo, and keto:
Are Energy Drinks Vegetarian?
Yes, when it comes to energy drinks, vegetarians have a lot of choices. Vegetarians eat no meat and energy drinks do not contain any.
However, if you are an ovo-vegetarian and do not drink milk, you might have to steer clear of a few options such as the Java Monster drinks that do contain milk.
Are Energy Drinks Gluten-Free?
Energy drinks come in a range of options from zero-calorie drinks with added vitamins and minerals to flavorful ones with lots of sugar and caffeine.
Many of these are considered gluten-free and safe for people with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. However, you still need to be careful and go through the ingredient list before consuming them.
As a general rule, energy drinks with more ingredients and processing tend to be riskier and may not be suitable for you if you are sensitive to gluten.
Some of the most popular gluten-free energy drinks are Red Bull, Monster, NOS, and 5-Hour Energy drinks.
Are Energy Drinks Kosher?
Kosher foods refer to those foods that are prepared in compliance with the biblical laws in terms of purity, quality, and cleanliness.
An energy drink needs to have kosher certification for it to be considered kosher. The manufacturer claiming it is kosher does not guarantee that it is.
When looking for kosher energy drinks, you need to look for the labels OU or the star K to determine whether it is kosher.
Some of the most popular kosher energy drinks include 5-Hour energy drink, Jolt, NOS energy drink, XS energy, Red Bull (original & sugar-free), Vault, and Venom.
Are Energy Drinks Paleo?
No, energy drinks are not paleo. They are filled with preservatives and hard-to-pronounce ingredients, in addition to unhealthy levels of sugar and caffeine that send the body into more of a shock instead of providing it with energy.
Other healthier, paleo-friendly alternatives include organic green tea, matcha tea, herbal tea, and kombucha that will provide you with that much-needed energy boost along with many health benefits.
Are Energy Drinks Keto?
Some energy drinks are keto-friendly and can be enjoyed while on a keto diet. Although, since there are so many options and different ingredients, it is a good idea to pay attention to the labels.
Some energy drinks may have more than the recommended grams of carbs, so it’s best to choose a drink with low sugar that will lower the carb count as well.
Also, even though many energy drink brands may use artificial sweeteners, not all of them are good for your health, which is why you must choose those that use natural sweeteners such as stevia.
Other than stevia, some of the best sweeteners for a ketogenic diet include Monk fruit, Sucralose, Erythritol, Xylitol, and natural fruit juices.