Does it seem like it's harder to focus than ever before? If so, you're not alone. Factors like lack of sleep, anxiety or stress — conditions we probably all face at least occasionally — can make it super hard to keep our minds on task. One of the most popular ways to help your brain keep those synapses firing is downing an energy drink. Which raises the question: if you could choose one and only one, what's the best energy drink for focus?
As with many things in life, a lot of that answer is going to depend on personal preference and your unique tastes. Some people like cloyingly sweet carbonated caffeine delivery devices apparently! Others don't.
All snarkiness aside, let's dive in and take a look at some of the energy drinks you might want to consider when you need an extra boost of brainpower.
At a glance:
- Best Alternative to an Energy Drink
- Best Energy Drink for Improving Mental Performance
- Best Energy Drink for a Quick Energy Boost
- Best Alternative to Bang for a Quick Energy Boost
- Best Energy Drinks for Steady Energy & Focus Without the Crash
- Best DIY Energy Drinks for Focus
- Honorable Mentions
- Step Outside the Energy Drinks Box
Best Alternative to an Energy Drink
Odd way to start this list, we admit. But before we start talking about the obvious, we thought we'd dive into an alternative. If you haven't heard of caffeine vapes, you should consider them as a legitimate, more convenient and (many would say) more effective means of giving your brain a boost.
And in this category, HELO Air from MELO Labs leads the pack. Here are a couple reasons why we suggest you consider making the switch.
First, the caffeine jolt hits your system a bit faster with vapes versus an energy drink. They're also a lot cheaper on a per-use basis. Each HELO Air costs less than a 12 pack of most energy drinks, and you get 800 inhales of natural caffeine energy from each one. Which is (obviously!) a heck of a lot more usage than you’ll get from a can of your favorite energy drink.
And the taste, in our opinion, is a heck of a lot better too — with flavors like Arctic Mint, Pink Lemonade, Red Apple Peach, Mango, Cherry Cola and more.
Want another reason? Big cans are a hassle to carry around. Plus, you have to find some way to keep them cold, because hardly anyone actually prefers a warm energy drink. Problem is, there isn't always going to be a refrigerator or cooler around, so that's not always going to be possible.
All that adds up to a lack of portability with every single energy drink on the market today. That lack of portability is another reason we suggest you give caffeine vapes a try. They're just flat out more convenient to carry around.
Some people might have reservations about HELO Air because of health questions about vaping. If so, we've got you covered there too. While every HELO Air contains the things you want — the mental clarity and brain power that comes from a caffeine boost — there's nothing in there you don't want.
There's no nicotine, no diacetyl (associated with popcorn lung), no vitamin E acetate (known to cause lung injury), and no propylene glycol (a petroleum derivative). Just caffeine, vegetable glycerin and the natural flavors we mentioned above.
Bottom line: Give HELO Air caffeine vapes a try. We think you'll be pleasantly surprised. But if you’re set on energy drinks to get the focus you need, read on …
Best Energy Drink for Improving Mental Performance
If you're like 99.9% of people on the planet, your brain can get a bit lazy at times. It actually likes to shut off and do as little work as possible.
That might be fine if you're zoning out and binging a sitcom on Netflix, but if you need to perform a task that requires you to actually use your brain's power — like working or studying — you're going to need it to kick in and pay attention.
For a brainpower boost, the OG of energy drinks, Red Bull, might just be your best energy drink go-to. Here's why …
First, as anyone who recognizes Red Bull's iconic can knows, there's just less of it when compared to some of today's more popular energy drinks, which means less caffeine.
Less, by the way, does not mean "not enough." With 80mg of caffeine, it has about the same amount as a serving of coffee. So it should be enough to get your juices flowing without going overboard. And that's important. Because focus requires more than just energy (more on why this is true below … stay tuned!)
And here's where Red Bull starts getting good. Because in addition to enough caffeine to make you alert, there are also a couple ingredients that help harness that energy.
Taurine, for example, is an amino acid that has some important functions in the brain. One of the things it does is counteract the effects of that caffeine. It's actually a mild depressant that calms your body as it simultaneously stimulates your brain. And when it comes to helping you focus, that's exactly the kind of thing you're looking for.
Red Bull also contains vitamin B3, also known as niacin, which is something your brain needs to function properly. For lack of a better description, it helps convert food sources into energy that your brain can use. So, again, the perfect effect we're after.
You can get Red Bull just about anywhere, and it comes in plenty of flavors, which should make it easy enough to find one you like. And many people consider it to be a great tasting energy drink. Check out Red Bull here.
Best Energy Drink for a Quick Energy Boost
We've already talked about Bang Energy Drinks a couple of times, so it's no secret they'd hit another list. When it comes right down to it, Bang is one of the most popular energy drinks on the market.
Bang comes in more than two dozen flavors and is available pretty much everywhere you'd think — supermarkets, convenience stores, gas stations, etc. So getting your hands on a can shouldn't be a problem.
Note that in our review of Bang vs Reign Energy Drinks, we weren't that impressed with it. In fact, one of our reviewers started to feel sick after only half a can. (We couldn't tell if it was from the enormous amount of caffeine in every serving, or one of the other ingredients). But that's just our personal opinion. And a lot of people love the stuff. That's why it made our list.
Bang packs a wallop — 300 mg of caffeine per can —which honestly might be more caffeine than you need, and could wind up having the opposite effect you want. Energy and calm focus is what you're after when you're doing mentally taxing work — not the jitters. You're not helping anyone if you're bouncing off the walls.
Still, as mentioned above, a lot of people swear by this energy drink. And if it's up your alley, more power to you. Check out Bang Energy here.
Best Alternative to Bang for a Quick Energy Boost
If you've read our Bang vs. Reign post, you know how we feel about Reign's entry into the energy drink wars. TLDR — we like it better than Bang. But to expand on that just a bit …
Bang and Reign are similar in so many ways that it's honestly difficult to distinguish between the two when it comes to ingredients. Hence, they both have similar effects on your body.
But while we experienced some nasty side effects with Bang, we didn't get those with Reign. Plus, we just think Reign tastes better. If you want to read our full comparison between these two popular energy drinks, check out our post: Bang vs. Reign here. Check out Reign Energy Drinks here.
Best Energy Drinks for Steady Energy & Focus Without the Crash
The problem with most energy drinks is that they're absolutely loaded with caffeine. As you probably know, hitting your body with a large caffeine jolt may send you soaring for a while. But when the effects wear off and you "come down," you may not land softly.
Avoiding the crash typically associated with energy drinks is important if you want to avoid the up and down cycle that comes with regular consumption. But it's also really important if your goal is enhancing your ability to focus.
Zipfizz is an interesting concept, and earns a place on our list as much for what it doesn't have as for what it does.
First, Zipfizz isn't an energy drink per se — it's a powder that you turn into an energy drink by mixing it with water. Rather than being a downside, we see that as a plus. Less stuff to lug around. (It also comes in the form of a shot, but we're reviewing the powder here.)
There's plenty of caffeine in Zipfizz to boost your energy levels — 100 mg of caffeine from green tea extract and Guarana — but not so much that you're likely to get the jitters from it or suffer a crash later on. In fact, it's formulated to provide four to six hours of steady energy, which is perfect for most mental tasks.
It also contains a bunch of electrolytes and vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, which is a key component in helping your body turn carbs into glucose. That’s a fancy way of saying it turns food into fuel that your body and brain can use.
Finally, Zipfizz comes in 14 sugar-free flavors, including black cherry, grape, fruit punch, pink lemonade, lemon iced tea, peach mango and pina colada. Check out Zipfizz here.
Best DIY Energy Drinks for Focus
FocusAid is not your typical energy drink. It's unique among many energy drinks on this list in that it's the only one that's not an energy drink with a "side use" as a focus aid. In fact, FocusAid's formula is specifically intended to improve your ability to focus and concentrate first, with its status as one of the more "healthy energy drinks" coming second.
With 100 mg of caffeine from green tea extract and Yerba mate, FocusAid has the same amount of caffeine as ZipFizz (see above), but much less than the two powerhouse energy drinks on this list, Bang and Reign.
In addition to the caffeine, FocusAid contains vitamins B3, B6 and B12, a standard combination that's been shown to be an energy booster, and which is found in many of today's more popular energy drinks. But it also contains several ingredients not typically found in your "off the shelf" energy drink.
The FocusAid formulation also includes:
Acetyl-L-carnitine, an amino acid that's found in every cell of the body and, like other amino acids, is a crucial component in turning fat into energy.
GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which is a neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, found in your brain. GABA's big "claim to fame" when it comes to focus energy drinks is that it produces a calming effect. Perfect, again, for that combination of "calm energy" that's necessary for maintaining focus over long periods of time.
ALPHA-GPC is sometimes called a "must-have supplement" for boosting brain power and memory. It has been shown to give a boost to both physical and mental performance. Check out FocusAid here.
MiO Energy Water Enhancer
Another energy drink that comes with "assembly required," MiO Energy bills itself as a "water enhancer." The nice thing about MiO is that it's more portable than your standard can of energy drink, the same way Zipfizz is.
But where Zipfizz is a powder, MiO is a concentrated liquid that you add to water whenever you need to give your energy levels a boost. Another cool thing about MiO that's not true with other energy drinks — it's "customizable." You don't need to necessarily add the exact recommended amount.
A standard squirt of sugar-free MiO has 60mg of caffeine, which is fine for a mild pick-me-up. Want more? Add two squirts. Even more? Go crazy and add three. Being able to customize your intake in this way is certainly a nice option to have.
Like other focus-first energy drinks, you also get B vitamins, taurine and Guarana (benefits of these are all described above) and ginseng, which is just a good all-around tonic. Check out MiO here.
Monster & Rockstar
We won't go into any great detail about these two energy drinks, because you're no doubt familiar with them, particularly if you're a student. But Monster and Rockstar have to make the list because of their popularity, if for no other reason.
Both energy drinks contain similar levels of caffeine — 160 mg for Rockstar and 176 mg for Monster — and come in dozens of flavors.
Both Rockstar and Monster pack in your standard list of B vitamins, taurine, ginseng and guarana. Rockstar also adds ginkgo biloba and milk thistle to that list.
One thing to be aware of — the standard versions of both Rockstar and Monster are loaded with more sugar than other energy drinks. Rockstar has 31 grams, Monster a whopping 54 grams. So in addition to the caffeine rush, expect a sugar boost as well. And an associated sugar crash later on.
Step Outside the Energy Drinks Box
We led off this story talking about this, so let's close with it as well. You have literally dozens upon dozens of energy drinks to choose from, and we've talked about some of the better ones here. But why limit yourself?
Caffeine vapes give you the same (or more) of what you need for energy and focus as energy drinks, but have none of that stuff you don't want.
And remember, each of our HELO Air vapes costs less than a 12 pack of most energy drinks, and contains 800 inhales of natural caffeine energy. No energy drink on the market beats that.
Check out HELO Air. You may never go back to energy drinks again!