Energy Drinks: What are the differences?

Energy drinks are everywhere due to their versatility. Whether it’s to wake you up in the morning, a drink to help get the most out of your workout, for an all nighter revision session or to help you keep up with your friends in the club. And although they frequently receive negative press in the media, they are easily one of the fastest growing sectors of the beverage industry and it’s not hard to see why. They are marketed to help reduce tiredness and improve concentration, providing a physical boost; the perfect great tasting pick me up for any occasion.

Because the term energy drink is quite broad it’s best to differentiate the several types of energy drinks available on the market, as over the last decade we’ve seen consumers demand for more variety. Whether it’s for study, work, online gaming, festivals or just general physical activity there has been a market shift to create more complex energy drinks with specific functionality and added value for consumers.

From the classic caffeinated energy drinks that provide an instant energy boost and enhance physical performance, to the plant based functional energy drinks for more health conscious consumers, to the more recent rise of nootropic energy drinks designed to sharpen focus and improve cognitive performance.


Traditional energy drinks

The very first energy drinks began as an offshoot of the typical soft drinks industry, with some being created as early as 1904! In fact, both Coca-Cola and Pepsi were originally marketed as “energy boosting” drinks. However, the market for traditional caffeinated energy drinks really got going in the mid 1980’s. Since then they have only grown in popularity, and are now a ubiquitous item in store shelves globally.

This category of energy drinks includes popular brands such as Red Bull and Monster. They usually contain sugars and caffeine with the primary focus of providing an instant energy boost. This is mainly because caffeine has known benefits of increasing awareness, enhancing physical performance and stimulating brain function and when digested sugars break down and travel through the bloodstream into blood cells for the instant rush or energy. Some drinks of this kind also include an amino acid taurine.

Over time we have seen a growing trend with consumers looking for healthier alternatives, and this trend really began with sugar free options. As such, most energy drinks that fall into this category will offer a sugar free version alongside their standard one, substituting the sugar with various sweeteners. There have also been movements to reduce the taurine content of these drinks, as in some cases it can be extremely high.

Traditional energy drinks are brilliant for providing instant energy when you need a pick-me-up, thanks to their high caffeine content, and (often) high sugar content too. However, when the caffeine wears off you may be in for a big crash, and we all know the negative effects of sugar. This is one of the main reasons we’ve seen a rise in natural functional energy drinks which use healthier ingredients and are designed to provide functional benefits that last all day long.


Natural energy drinks

Natural plant based functional energy such as Crave is typically made by combining plant extracts that are naturally rich in vitamins and minerals with the energy boosting power of natural maca, caffeine, spirulina, kombucha, green tea, yerba mate and guarana. The rise in this new generation of beverages is also due to the increasing demand from consumers looking to decrease their intake of artificial ingredients such as sweeteners, flavourings and colourings.

These new generation of energy drinks often contain function-boosting ingredients such as BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids), various vitamins, and plant extracts. All of these ingredients are included for their range of benefits stretching from brain power to the immune system, which is a particular concern for today’s consumers. Functional energy drinks each contain their unique combination of these enhancements providing added value, sometimes lasting throughout the entire day.

Typically these natural ingredients are organically sourced, catering to a consumer base who care deeply for the environment. Many companies ensure their ingredients are farmed sustainably and ecologically, with customers willing to pay a premium for quality ingredients from ethical sources in an environmentally friendly packaging.


Nootropic energy drinks

Nootropic energy drinks are the latest arrivals to the energy drink market. Some research suggests that the e-sport and gaming community have helped to embrace nootropics as a way of enhancing focus and mental clarity. They tend to be made with a mix of natural caffeine and amino acids such L-theanine as well as incorporating natural sources of vitamins and minerals specifically used to improve cognitive function while providing added energy.

Many nootropic drinks contain similarly high amounts of caffeine to their traditional counterparts, however they also contain extra supplements to boost neural activity. The chemicals used in nootropic drinks often have little to no research on their effectiveness as brain stimulants, and little is known about their long term effects, however many will swear by their use. Use of nootropic drinks is only increasing as they become more and more popular with time, especially among younger generations.

The energy drink market may be branching out but it certainly isn’t going away anytime soon, and with plenty of options to choose from you’re sure to find a brand you love. So, whether you’re in need of an instant energy boost, prefer sustained natural energy that lasts you throughout the day or are just looking for something to enhance your focus and mental clarity. You’ll be sure to find an energy drink that gets the job done!

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