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Keto-Friendly Energy Drinks: Yes, They Do Exist
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Even people who aren’t familiar with the ins and outs of the keto diet know that products containing sugar are essentially forbidden.
That includes almost all sodas.
And if Coke and Pepsi are on the “bad” list for ketogenic diets, you’d naturally expect that Monster Energy and Red Bull are on there as well. After all, their two primary ingredients are caffeine and sugar.
It’s true that big-name energy drinks are bad news for keto dieters. The sugar they contain can kick dieters right out of ketosis and end their diet in a hurry.
Here’s the good news, though. Some delicious energy drinks do exactly what you want them to do – without the help of added sugar.
Let’s discuss why most of these drinks are off-limits, and then check out the keto-friendly energy drinks that will give you a quick boost even when you’re on a low-carb diet.
Sugary Drinks and Keto
If you’re not quite sure how and why ketogenic eating plans work, let’s deal with that first. It’s important to understand before we look at energy drinks.
How Keto Works
The keto diet is a high-fat, low-carb diet that drastically reduces the amount of carbohydrates you’re allowed to consume each day.
Here’s a brief summary of how that helps people lose weight.
When you’re eating “normally,” carbohydrates enter the digestive tract and are converted into glucose, the fuel that the body and brain need to function. On keto, though, you don’t eat enough carbs to allow the creation of glucose (often called blood sugar).
Instead, carb deprivation forces the body into a metabolic state known as ketosis, where it begins producing molecules called ketone bodies (commonly called ketones). Ketones work just fine as alternate fuel until glucose is available once again.
How does the body make ketones? It burns and processes stored body fat – and needless to say, burning stored fat is the goal of any weight loss program. As long as a dieter continues to drastically limit carb consumption, the production of ketones, fat burning and weight loss all continue.
But if the dieter cheats and eats too many carbs, they “fall out of ketosis.” More glucose is produced, fat burning stops, and the diet will have to be started all over again. That’s a big deal.
It can take as long as a week of keto eating for some people’s bodies to enter a state of ketosis; you can’t just have a cheat day and then resume your diet as if nothing had happened. And until you’re back in fat-burning mode, you’re likely to suffer from very unpleasant “keto flu” symptoms like headache, brain fog, fatigue and nausea.
That leads to two important questions: how many carbs can you eat on keto, and how do energy drinks fit into that picture?
Keto and Beverages
There are different variations on keto guidelines. Generally speaking, though, you’re only supposed to get about 5% of your daily calories from carbs.
For most people, that means consuming no more than 20-50 grams of carbohydrates per day. By contrast, federal dietary guidelines recommend that you consume about 200 grams of carbs daily. That’s why many people find the keto diet so difficult to adjust to and follow.
Sugar is a carb, which explains why it’s such a bad choice on keto. It also explains why sodas and energy drinks loaded with sugar are on the “naughty list.”
Let’s look at a few numbers.
A teaspoon of sugar contains more than four grams of carbs (usually just shortened to “four carbs” for convenience). An eight-ounce glass of orange juice contains 26 carbs. A can of Coke contains a whopping 40 grams (root beer and Mountain Dew have even more).
And that brings us to popular energy drinks. There are 27 grams of carbs in a can of Monster Energy, 30 grams in Rockstar, and 40 grams in Red Bull. That’s no worse than a can of soda, but it’s still enough to kick you right out of ketosis.
So what can you drink on the keto diet? Water’s good. You can have coffee, black tea, herbal tea or green tea (as long as you drink them black), some nut milks, and bone broth (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it). Hard liquor without mixers has no carbs, although you obviously can’t make that a go-to beverage. Some wines and a few low-carb beers are ok, too.
But milk (loaded with lactose, also known as milk sugar) and fruit juices (loaded with fructose, also known as fruit sugar) are out. So are the vast majority of sodas and sports drinks, and the most popular energy drinks.
“What about zero-carb soda?” we hear you ask.
Good thought. We’re headed there next.
Keto and Low-Carb Beverages
We’ll start this part of our discussion with a cautionary note.
Most health experts (and keto diet gurus) recommend avoiding low-calorie, zero-calorie and sugar-free beverages when following the ketogenic diet. They point to studies showing that the consumption of artificial sweeteners activates the same “reward” system in the brain that sugar does.
That means people seeking to cut calories or carbs by opting for “diet” drinks often end up craving and eating sugar, even when they’re drinking beverages that are zero-sugar or contain zero calories.
However, many keto dieters have successfully avoided that landmine. It’s possible for those with willpower to enjoy low-carb or zero-carb sodas on keto – and the same is true for zero-carb or low-carb energy drinks.
If you decide that you can handle those beverages without being tempted to give in to sugar cravings (and destroying your diet in the process), it’s important to remember one thing: not all low-carb sodas and energy drinks are zero- or low-calorie. Even if you’re diligently counting carbs on keto, calorie consumption matters as well. Be careful and don’t go overboard.
Everyone in agreement? Great. Let’s look at the best energy drinks for keto dieters.
Best Keto-Friendly Energy Drinks
We’ve edited this list of keto-friendly energy drinks to add an extremely promising zero-carb energy drink that’s about to hit the market.
Disclaimer: we haven’t been able to try it yet. But because of the way that it’s being produced – and the people who are producing it – we believe it will be the best of the sugar-free energy drinks available to those on low-carb or keto diets.
1. Super Energy
Super Energy is a re-imagined energy drink. It contains no sugar, and there are no “mystery ingredient” additives with long names, which are often added to big-name energy drinks for no apparent reason. There are no artificial sweeteners in Super Energy, either.
What it does contain are the natural sweeteners monk fruit extract and stevia, healthy alternatives to sugar and lab-created sugar substitutes. Monk fruit and stevia are sugar-free and carb-free, making them ideal for keto dieters.
Also in Super Energy: collagen protein, which supports healthy muscle recovery as well as healthy skin, hair and nails; probiotics, which support digestive health and wellness; and a curated choice of vitamins to help provide the energy boost you expect.
The company promises that Super Energy is also delicious (thanks to natural flavors); we’re looking forward to confirming that as soon as it’s available.
2. Bang Energy Drinks
Bang is famous for making energy drinks that boast some of the highest caffeine content on the market, 300mg of caffeine per 16-ounce can.
Add zero carbs and zero calories to that powerhouse caffeine content, and Bang compares favorably with all of the “regular” energy drinks on the market. In fact, this isn’t a special “zero-carb” or “zero-calorie” option; it’s the flagship Bang energy drink.
Bang uses the artificial sweetener sucralose instead of sugar, adds B vitamins, vitamin C and creatine to the mix, as well as ingredients you usually won’t see in energy drinks like CoQ10 and numerous amino acids.
Those latter ingredients aren’t really going to give you much of an energy boost, but the caffeine takes care of that in spades. The 300mg of caffeine in a can of Bang is almost the maximum daily amount of 400mg that the government recommends. Two cans and you’re way over the limit.
In other words, this energy drink will give you the boost you’re looking for, but more than one may be too many – unless you enjoy the shakes and jitters you suffer when drinking five or six cups of coffee per day.
There are nearly two dozen flavors of Bang energy drinks. Most are naturally flavored, and all taste good. The caution about artificial sweeteners we’ve already discussed applies, but one of these a day can get your motor running.
3. Rockstar Pure Zero
This company’s only “zero” energy drink is Rockstar Pure Zero. Their “Rockstar Zero Carb” brand has been discontinued.
Pure Zero goes heavy on the caffeine – something that Rockstar focuses on for all of its products – and that means a 16-ounce can delivers a blast of 240mg of caffeine.
There are two net carbs (total carbs minus fiber) and 20 calories in a can of this drink. It’s sweetened with the artificial sweeteners sucralose and acesulfame potassium, and the sugar alcohol erythritol which is commonly used in low-calorie food products.
The amino acid taurine is one of Pure Zero’s additives; it’s often put into energy drinks because it may improve endurance and cognitive performance. B-vitamins, electrolytes and artificial colors are also added to this energy drink, which is available in Fruit Punch, Grape, Mandarin Orange, Silver Ice and tropical flavors.
Pure Zero delivers the punch you’d expect from a Rockstar energy drink with just two carbs and decent taste. If you don’t develop sugar cravings from the artificial sweeteners, it’s a good choice for keto dieters.
4. Monster Energy Zero Ultra
Zero calories, zero carbs, but two grams of carbs per 16-ounce can and 140mg of caffeine.
That makes Monster Energy’s Zero Ultra a good energy drink for those who are searching for a keto-friendly option, although it’s not as powerful as Bang or Rockstar.
Artificial sweeteners replace sugar in this Monster brand; they use erythritol, sucralose and acesulfame potassium instead. Taurine, B vitamins, amino acids and ginseng extract are added as well. Citric acid gives Zero Ultra a pleasant, natural citrus taste.
Another Monster option is Monster Energy Zero Sugar, which (obviously) contains no sugar and no calories and has a similar ingredient list. It tastes better, almost like the original Monster energy drink, and is available in more flavors than Zero Ultra. However, it contains four carbs per can, so you have to go easy with it if you’re on keto.
5. Red Bull Total Zero
As with Pure Zero and Zero Ultra, the “Zero” in the name of this product refers to sugar, not carbs (or calories). If you check the nutrition facts on the label, you find that a 12-ounce can of Red Bull Total Zero actually contains two grams of net carbs and 15 calories. (This product isn’t available in 16-ounce cans, so the numbers aren’t quite comparable to the others on our list.)
Keto dieters might want to rethink this choice for a reason other than its carbs: the amount of caffeine in Red Bull. A can of this energy drink contains just 114mg of caffeine, less than half the amount in a 16-ounce Rockstar Pure Zero, and not much more than you’d get in a cup of brewed coffee.
Red Bull Total Zero is sweetened with sucralose and aspartame, which as we’ve already discussed, are both artificial sweeteners that might cause sugar cravings. Taurine and B-vitamins are also added to the formulation, as are artificial flavors.
This drink has a somewhat-thick consistency and a very sweet taste. Combine that with the artificial sweeteners and the low caffeine content (for an energy drink), and you probably won’t get the energy boost you expect from a Red Bull, or want to drink many of these a day.
We prefer Red Bull Sugarfree, which contains the same amount of caffeine but tastes better, However, it will set you back four carbs per 12-ounce serving.