The 5 Best Energy Drinks in 2020: Our Tested Reviews

Best Energy Drinks

By Ryan Bucki
Updated on: October 3, 2020

Honest Review Guarantee from Fitness Informant:
Our product testing team uses the full 30 day serving amount in container before reviewing. Learn more about our review process here.

The world runs on caffeine. Are we right? Try walking into a convenience store/gas station and not find at least two full coolers of the "hottest" energy drinks on the market. You know what we are talking about. Hell, if it is not an "energy" drink it is a drink infused with copious amounts of caffeine.

This is where we decided we needed to create a guide that actually looks at some of the "better" energy drinks on the market today. Most of these you won't find in a C-Store, but you should find them online and in some of the more reputable stores.

We get it, we're tired. We run on coffee, caffeine, B vitamins and more to be more alert and productive. But why not spend that $2+ per can on something that is more than just a caffeine bomb. Your traditional brands like Monster and Red Bull essentially provide a jolt of caffeine but nothing more. Why not seek other ingredients that can aid with focus or hydration? Why not have your money work harder for you, while still getting all the benefits of the caffeine in which you are seeking? Well, that time is now.

Blatantly vacant from this list are going to be the big brands you all have come to fall in-love with only because that's all you've ever known. The truth is brands like Monster, Red Bull and even Bang Energy do not have to give you anything more than a caffeine bomb in a can. However, there are other brands entering the RTD energy space looking to give us more. You're welcome.

We critique each energy drink on several different factors including formula, taste, effectiveness and value.


A Comparison of the Best Energy Drinks

Here's the top 5 picks for the best energy drinks that money can buy:

Product Name

Highlights

Rating

#1 GHOST Energy

GHOST Energy

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Best Overall Energy Drink

Highlights:


  • 200mg Natural Caffeine
  • 1,000mg Taurine
  • 1,000mg ALCAR
  • 100mg Neurofactor

Our #1 Rated

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9.5 out of 10

#2 C4 Smart Energy

C4 Smart Energy

Highlights:


  • 200mg InnovaTea Natural Caffeine
  • 250mg Cognizin Citicoline
  •  N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine

Our #2 Rated

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9.3 out of 10

#3 Raze Energy

Raze Energy

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Highlights:


  • 300mg Caffeine
  • Performance Blend
  • Focus Blend Containing Alpha-GPC

Our #3 Rated

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8.7 out of 10

#4 Merica Energy

Merica Energy

Highlights:


  • 200mg Caffeine
  • 250mg Choline Bitartrate
  • Soda Inspired Flavors

Our #4 Rated

Fitness Informant Logo

8.5 out of 10

#5 A-SHOC

A-Shoc Energy Drink

Highlights:


  • 300mg Caffeine
  • All 9 EAAs
  • Multiple Flavors

Our #5 Rated

Fitness Informant Logo

8.4 out of 10

There are hundreds of different brands and variations of pre-workout supplements out there.

How did these 5 make Fitness Informant's top 5 list? Read on and we'll tell you:


#1 GHOST Energy

GHOST Energy
  • Rating: 9.5 ​​out of 10
  • Servings: 16oz
  • Best For: Top Overall Product

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Pros

  • Fully Transparent Label
  • 200mg Natural Caffeine
  • 100mg Neurofactor
  • Authentic Licensed Flavors
  • High Carbonation
  • 1g Taurine

Cons

  • Limited Flavors (for now)
  • Limited Distribution (for now)

GHOST Energy hit the world by storm, largely because it was the first-time that those outside of GNC could get their hands on a GHOST product to sell within their stores. GHOST signed an agreement with Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI) to distribute their new energy drink making this one of the hottest energy drinks on the market.

Yes, the hype behind the energy drink is justified as this quickly became our favorite energy drink on the market. It is no shock that we love GHOST here at FI, but they did something different with their RTD. Not only did they fully disclose the label, telling us all about the actives used and the amounts, but they also brought authentic flavors via licensing deals to the space. These flavors are spot-on.

GHOST Energy's formula is quite impressive being MUCH more than just caffeine. It does use 200mg natural caffeine, which we love as most drinks are 300mg+, and we are already stimmed out as a society. GHOST also does a solid by adding a full gram of Taurine for hydration purposes. We also get several cognitive enhancing ingredients in ALCAR at 1g, Neurofactor at 100mg and Alpha-GPC at 150mg.

Another area GHOST excels at are the flavors. As of this writing, GHOST Energy is available in Tropical Mango, Citrus, Warheads™ Sour Watermelon and Sour Patch™ Kids Red Berry. Tropical Mango is one of the best mango flavored energy drinks on the market. Citrus tastes a lot like Mountain Dew. Warheads™ Sour Watermelon is legit spot-on and makes it the best watermelon flavored energy drink on the market. Lastly, the GOAT has to be Red Berry Sour Patch Kids™. They nailed this flavor. It tastes like you are drinking cold, carbonated red Sour Patch Kids.

Who Makes It?

GHOST is known in the sports nutrition space as the brand that does things their way and while doing so, they are influencing the entire space to step up their game. GHOST is not that old of a brand, but they have impacted the market, both inside sports nutrition and outside, through their work ethic and business savvy which earned them the 2019 Fitness Informant Brand of the Year award.

What's in it?

One can contains:

  • 200mg Natural Caffeine - promotes energy
  • 1g Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR) - promotes energy as well as cognitive improvement
  • 1g Taurine - aids in regulating electrolytes for hydration and endurance
  • 200mg Neurofactor - this comes from coffee fruit and promotes improvement in focus and memory
  • 150mg Alpha-GPC - one of the most effective cognitive boosting ingredients on the market
  • 25mg AstraGin - promotes ingredient uptake
GHOST Energy Label

Bottom Line:

Let's be real, a lot of times there is hype around a new product that ends up being an epic fail. This is definitely not the case. GHOST Energy delivers on everything they promise. You get clean energy, an improvement in focus and flavors that are currently untouchable today. GHOST hit a home run with their energy RTD. The only thing we can ask for are more flavors and more spots to buy it!

Use coupon code INFORMANT to save 20%

#2 C4 Smart Energy

C4 Smart Energy
  • Rating: 9.3 out of 10
  • Servings: 16oz

Pros

  • 200mg InnovaTea Caffeine
  • 250mg Cognizin Citicoline
  • No Sugars
  • Clean Energy
  • Improved Focus

Cons

  • Limited Flavors (for now)
  • Not A Fully Transparent Label

C4 Smart Energy hit the scene and immediately caught our attention due to the use of two key ingredients. Cellucor injected InnovaTea Caffeine and Cognizin Citicoline into a 16oz can to give us a very clean energy drink with REAL benefits above energy.

Most of the energy drink market was doing the same thing. The race to a higher caffeine amount with mediocre flavors. C4 Smart Energy looked at the landscape and realized that it was saturated with a lot of the same things, so when everyone was taking a right turn, they went left. What we got was one of our favorite "energy" drinks on the market today.

Yes, the formula isn't fully transparent, but they do clue us in on the dosages of InnovaTea Caffeine and Cognizin, which is extremely important. Cellucor was the first brand that we saw to start using some name-brand ingredients (Super Creatine is NOT name brand) with proven benefits.

On top of a solid formula for an energy drink, the flavors of C4 Smart Energy are solid. Freedom Ice is a clean smooth flavor while Peach may quickly become one of your favorites. Cotton Candy leaves something to be desired but then again we don't think Cotton Candy should ever be a flavor. Electric Sour may very well be the best "sour" candy flavor on the market.

Who Makes It?

Cellucor is the maker of C4 Smart Energy. C4 gets a lot of flack from this world because everyone thinks of the Costco special 2-pack, which, admittedly, is a water-downed formula that we would never suggest here, but their energy line and a lot of the other things they are coming out with are solid AF. Cellucor is putting a lot of effort into their beverage line and they are not half-assing it.

What's In It?

One can contains:

  • 200mg Caffeine from InnovaTea - this is caffeine produced from tea leaves which is an all-natural source of clean energy
  • 250mg Cognizin Citicoline - brand name cognitive enhancing ingredient proven to improve focus and memory
  • N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine - improves focus
C4 Smart Energy Label

Bottom Line:

Cellucor did something special with C4 Smart Energy. This is one of our favorite "energy+" drinks (that's what we will call it). It is affordable, tastes great and does a great job of providing clean energy without a crazy stim high or crash.

#3 Raze Energy

Raze Energy
  • Rating: 8.7 out of 10
  • Servings: 16oz

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Pros

  • 300mg Caffeine
  • More-Than-Caffeine Actives
  • Flavors

Cons

  • Not A Fully Transparent Label

Raze Energy will always have a spot in our heart as they were one of the drinks to hit the market to use other actives like Alpha-GPC (although we never knew how much) to go against the big guy at the top of the RTD chain. They did that all while making it in-house on a limited budget, but easily made a better tasting drink that the #1 player in the game.

Admittedly Raze Energy was the officially energy drink of FI back in 2018. We still love them and will go out of our way to buy one at a GNC if we are on the run, but with anything newcomers come into the space and knock the champ off of its pedestal. This is not taking anything away from Raze because it is still awesome.

We would have loved if Raze Energy would have disclosed the actives like others on this list had done, but we still like seeing it in a drink. At the end of the day we cannot expect "clinical" doses in a drink. It is not always stable, and it also needs to be drinkable (not a sludge).

What Raze does extremely well is flavoring. Phantom Freeze and Galaxy Burst are easily two of their best flavors. A lot of people like the Sour Worms as well, we do too. Raze Energy was also the first to crowd source flavors which was something very unique.

Regarding the actual formula, the only thing we really do know is that it contains 300mg total caffeine from Caffeine Anhydrous and Caffeine Citrate. This is a lot of caffeine in one drink so beware not to drink too many in one setting.

Who Makes It?

REPP Sports is the maker of Raze Energy. REPP Sports was the more performance based sports nutrition brand to stem off of NutraKey. REPP hit the ground running when they launched, but the pills and powders took a back-seat to energy when they launched that.

What's In It?

One can contains:

  • 300mg Caffeine - caffeine from Caffeine Anhydrous and Caffeine Citrate to provide energy
  • Taurine/Potassium Nitrate - for hydration purposes
  • Betaine Anydrous - can boost performance
  • Carnitine L-Tartrate - can improve energy
  • BCAAs - can aid in recovery
  • Tyrosine - improves memory and focus
  • Choline Bitartrate - improves cognition
  • Alpha-GPC - one of the most effective cognitive boosters
Raze Energy Label

Bottom Line:

We would have love to see an open label with all these actives. We know they are most likely lower than what we'd want, but we also need to understand that this is a canned beverage. Raze Energy is still one of the best flavored drinks on the market providing more than enough energy to keep you going for hours.

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#4 Merica Energy

Merica Energy
  • Rating: 8.5 out of 10
  • Servings: 16oz

Pros

  • 200mg Caffeine
  • Transparent Label
  • 250mg Choline Bitartrate
  • Soda-Like Flavors

Cons

  • Distribution

Merica Energy had the hearts of all the anti-Bang folks when they launched. Their marketing campaigns were the best we've ever seen. I am not kidding; they were epic. The drinks that soon followed were uniquely named to be on-brand and also tasted pretty solid. Merica Energy also employed a transparent label on the actives.

The label contained an "Energy and Focus Blend" of ALCAR at 250mg, Choline Bitartrate at 250mg, Caffeine Anhydrous at 190mg and Guarana Extract at 50mg. They challenged Bang's BCAA/Super Creatine formula with a legit drink, not just fun marketing.

Soon after their launch the brand came out with a Cream Soda and Cola flavored drink, something to our knowledge no other energy drink has done. These flavors were legit, and arguably their best two flavors. While most companies do fruit-forward flavors (Merica does this too) these were a refreshing change.

As much as we love Merica Energy, you could say they lost stamina along the way. They hit the ground running and running hard. Then things cooled off. This could have been the influx of new brands or focus on expansion elsewhere, but there is a lot of potential for this line to do well.

Merica Energy has a wide variety of flavors that can be attractive to many. Whether you want fruit or soda, they have you covered.

Who Makes It?

Merica Labz, which is owned by Doug Miller of Core Nutritionals, is the brand behind energy. This was Doug's "fun" brand. You could say "marketing" brand if you will but the difference was they kept their promise on quality. We have heard that the brand is going through some changes, and we should see it revitalized in 2020/2021.

What's In It?

One can contains:

  • 200mg Caffeine - provides energy
  • 250mg ALCAR - a Carnitine source of energy and cognitive improvement
  • 250mg Choline Bitartrate - a focus improving ingredient
Merica Energy Label

Bottom Line:

Merica Labz is probably the most fun brand we've seen, but they do back-it-up with a great drink. We favor the soda inspired flavored over the fruit inspired but there's something for everyone. Merica Energy has a lot of potential to crawl up the rankings again with a refocus on the brand. Bottom line is that this is still a tasty drink with more than just caffeine.

#5 Adrenaline Shoc Smart Energy (A-SHOC)

A-Shoc Energy Drink
  • Rating: 8.4 out of 10
  • Servings: 16oz

Pros

  • 300mg Caffeine
  • All Nine EAAs
  • Widely Distributed
  • Flavor Selection

Cons

  • Not A Transparent Label

A-Shoc is one of the newest "big brands" to make a wave in the market. Albeit they do not provide a transparent label, which we would love, they do invest into cognition of the drink. They also have great distribution and a lot of flavors to choose from.

A-Shoc, also known as Adrenaline Shoc Smart Energy, gives the user 300mg Caffeine from natural sources. They also incuse the drink with all nine EAAs versus just the BCAAs the top dog touts. The label also states "Coffee Fruit Extract" which would make us think they are using Neurofactor but they do not call it out anywhere. We wish wer had more clarificaiton.

Where A-Shoc really beats the others on this list is with flavor selection and distribution. They gained distribution quickly and you see many of their flavors in major food, drug and mass market. The ease to access makes it a beneficial drink to have on the list as users can get it rather easily.

While it seems every energy drink maker has a couple of bad flavors, A-Shoc doens't. They have some, like Watermelon, that aren't special, but they aren't bad. They also have eight flavors as of this writing to choose from with more in the works.

Who Makes It?

A Shoc Beverage is not a sports nutrition company. They are a beverage company. We do not know much about them other than they produce and distrbute this drink.

What's In It?

One can contains:

  • 300mg Caffeine - this is from natural sources that provides energy
  • EAAs - all nine EAAs are included in the formula which may aid in recovery
  • 300mg Vaso6™ - Patented ingredient which may aid in pumps
  • Ginsing Root Extract - may aid in performance
  • Coffee Fruit Extract - can aid in improved focus
  • CoQ10 - could improve memory 
A-Shoc Label

Bottom Line:

A-Shoc still has a ways to go to climb this ranking guide, but for now they find themselves on the list. They are an easy grab and go option on grocery and c-stores when you're in a bind. If you cannot find the others on this list, we would default to one of these.


Are Energy Drinks Bad For You?

As with anything in the world, too much of one thing can be bad for you. If you have an energy drink here and there we would say there is not much to worry about. However, many of the drinks on the market today are 300mg caffeine. If you have 2-3 of these a day that is a lot. Toss in a pre-workout at 300-400mg and you are on caffeine overload.

If you need a pick-me-up or just want something different, go for it. It is not going to hurt you or kill you. Consume all energy drinks with caution as too many at one time can and will impact your health.

What To Look For In An Energy Drink

The biggest thing to look for in an energy drink is the ingredient responsible for energy: caffeine. If they can does not disclose this amount, put it back down. Try to keep your energy drink caffeine amounts betweeen 150-300mg. We personally like the ones around 200mg as 300mg gets a bit high, especially with other sources of caffeine throughout our day.

Other things you should look for are ingredients that can actually promote a benefit above and beyond energy. Look for cognitive enhancing ingredients like Alpha-GPC, Cognizin, Neurofactor, Choline, ALCAR, Tyrosine and more. Look for REAL dosages as it is always good to know what you get.

You can also look for hydration and electrolyte ingredients like Taurine and Potassium Citrate. These are beneficial to have.

Overall, an energy drink is just that, but it has potential to be so much more. Put your trust in a can that gives you more, not less. The more info, the better.

Our Energy Drink Testing Process

We examined five different areas of each energy drink when we compiled our rankings:

  1. Ingredients Profile
  2. Effectiveness
  3. Taste
  4. Value

Ingredients Profile

When we review each energy drink on their ingredient profile, we look at the active ingredients being used and their dosages. Somestimes we do not get the amounts listed so this makes it hard for us to give a lot of credit to those energy drinks.

Many energy include a variety of beneficial ingredients, but under dose them proving to be non-effective.

Effectiveness

Effectiveness is an extension of ingredient profile. Do you get adequate energy without the crash? Are there other ingredients that can improve our focus?

Everyone is different. Everyone takes to different ingredients differently at varying dosages. We have tried and tested each of these products throughout the full duration of their container to ensure these products are effective over their life.

Taste

We review taste on two different components. First, how close does the energy drinks taste to the actual name printed on the label. For example, does Blue Raz actually taste like blue raspberry. Second, we review it on overall taste (in our opinion) versus others in the same flavor category.

Value

Value is a combination of ingredient profile, effectiveness, taste, and cost. We do not just look at the price tag like a lot of others do. If a product is priced at a premium, we inform you if it is worth the premium price or not based on all the categories. We look at the overall picture of the energy drink and how it compares to other energy drinks on the market.

Please Note: Many of the “top 10” lists you find online are written by content writers with no in-gym or supplement experience who are paid by the word count to write an article for a website trying to generate money.

These lists are influenced by brands who pay for placement. These lists contain energy drinks that are, for the lack of a better word, garbage.

These products on our "best of: list were used by the author of this article. He used each of the energy drinks listed.

Stop relying on faulty information that is influenced by outside writers and money. This list is the real deal. Here at Fitness Informant, we don’t steer you wrong. Be Informed. Live Fit.