Are Energy Drinks Vegan? Complete Guide To Finding Out

Are Energy Drinks Vegan? Red Bull gives you wings (seriously, what does that even mean?) Monster Energy Drinks come in huge cans, and then there is Yerba Mate (that’s yehr·buh maa·tay). Energy Drinks can be great when you need that boost of …energy. For me personally, there are only two occasions when I grab an energy drink (my personal choice is a Yerba Mate): (1) when coffee just won’t do it for me; and (2) I need to study for a long period. I am probably in the minority here. That’s because around 33.85% of 18 to 29-year-olds and 42.32% of 30 to 49-year-olds regularly consume energy drinks in the US. Energy drinks account for 31% of beverage sales at US Convenience stores and this number is only growing. A survey in Sicily even found only 17% of people drank energy drinks for sports and around 8% for studying. Having just finished writing about whether Vitamin Water and Sports Drinks are vegan (you can read that here at Is Vitamin Water Vegan? How to Know the Difference?) it got me thinking about Energy Drinks? What goes into an energy drink? In fact, what even is an energy drink? And most importantly, are Energy Drinks vegan?

Are Energy Drinks Vegan?

As a general rule, most Energy Drinks are vegan. This is because most energy drinks do not contain ingredients derived from animals making them suitable for vegans. The Taurine (an amino acid associated with improved athletic performance) found in most major energy drink brands is synthetically made and is therefore vegan. The main ingredient found in some energy drinks that some vegans object to is artificial color as this is routinely tested on animals.

What Are Energy Drinks?

An energy drink is a drink containing stimulants – usually caffeine. Energy drinks are designed to provide a boost to physical and mental stimulation. For this reason, they are usually associated with sports activities. However, this is not always the case. Surveys have found drinkers of Energy Drinks consume them mostly without a reason or for personal enjoyment with only a small percentage drinking them for sports or study reasons.

Some energy drinks are carbonated, some are non-carbonated. In addition to caffeine, they may also contain sugar/sweeteners, amino acids, taurine, and other herb extracts.

The three biggest energy drink brands in the US in 2021 according to Statista are Red Bull, Monster, and Bang. There are a lot of energy drinks out there on the market – to keep it as simple and useful as possible I will focus on these three biggest brands in the US plus two natural energy drinks – Guru and Yerba Mate.

Are Energy Drinks Vegan – Most Common Ingredients

Look at the back of an Energy Drink and you will most likely find the below ingredients. I will break down each separately:

  • Caffeine
  • Taurine
  • Guarana
  • Glucuronolactone
  • B Vitamins
  • L-Carnitine
  • Sugar

Caffeine & How Does It Work?

Are Energy Drinks Vegan -  Caffeine

Caffeine is the main ingredient in energy drinks. Caffeine (or its official name 1, 3, 7-trimethylxanthine) is a stimulant that acts on the nervous system. I don’t need to tell you this unless you have been living on the moon, but drink some caffeine and you start to feel energized and more alert.

If you want to get technical, what caffeine does is get in the way of Adenosine in the brain. Adenosine curbs brain activity and so by getting in the way of it, caffeine stimulates the brain and our nervous systems. If you want to learn more about it check out Drug Science.

Types of Caffeine

There are two types of caffeine. Caffeine can come from natural sources in plants such as cacao (that’s the base for anything chocolate-related), guarana berries, yerba mate, or from what we all know and love the Coffea plant (which is used to make our coffee beans). Fun fact, these plants use caffeine as a defensive toxin.

Our demand for caffeine simply cannot meet these natural resources. Enter the second source of caffeine – synthetic caffeine. Synthetic caffeine is produced from Amino Acids like Urea and then highly process. Most synthetic caffeine is produced in pharmaceutical plants in China.

What is the FDA Caffeine allowance?

The FDA recommends healthy adults don’t consume more than 400mg of caffeine a day. That’s the equivalent of four or five cups of coffee. As I will personally attest to, drinking too much caffeine is oh so very bad – I learned that the hard way when I ordered a 4 shot latte by accident.

Are Energy Drinks Vegan – What about Taurine?

Aside from Caffeine, energy drinks will also usually contain Taurine. For example, Red Bull and Monster contain taurine. Bang does not contain Taurine.

Taurine is an amino acid that is found naturally in humans as well as in meat, fish, and dairy. It is believed to help increase athletic and mental performance, but according to WebMD studies are not conclusive on this. However, it is for these related reasons that it is added to Energy Drinks.

Is Taurine Vegan?

There are rumors circulating online that taurine is extracted from bull’s sperm – a Reuter’s article confirms this to not be true. Although Taurine in its natural state is found in animals (and therefore not vegan), it can also be synthetically made in a lab (as well as extracted from some plants). Most modern Taurine is synthetically made and is vegan, including the Taurine found in most major energy drinks brands.

Are Energy Drinks Vegan – Is Guarana Vegan?

Guarana is Vegan as it is derived from the Guarana plant.

Guarana is a climbing plant found in the Amazon. Officially called Pullinia Cupana, the plant grows berries that naturally contain caffeine. Guarana berries contain around four times more caffeine than traditional coffee beans. Monster Energy use guarana in their drinks.

Are Energy Drinks Vegan – Is Glucuronolactone Vegan?

Glucuronolactone, if you can’t tell by the long name, is a chemical normally produced from glucose in the liver by the body. It is a naturally occurring metabolite and is an important component of connective tissue in the body. Some research also suggests it can be used to reduce “brain fog”, and increase attention, and athletic performance. For this reason, it is added to many energy drinks. However, according to WebMD, there is no good current scientific evidence to support this.

Glucuronolactone is found in plant gums, wine, and can also be produced synthetically. For these reasons, it is most likely vegan.

Are Energy Drinks Vegan – Are B-Vitamins Vegan?

B-Vitamins are a category of 6 vitamins that are normally added to Energy Drinks. Manufacturers will add B -Vitamins to Energy Drinks to help your body convert all the sugar contained in the drinks into energy. Examples of B-Vitamins include thiamin, folate and folic acid, and riboflavin. The most common sources of B-Vitamins are meat-related products. However, they can also be synthetically made. These synthetic versions will most likely be used in Energy Drink manufacturing and therefore are usually vegan.

Are Energy Drinks Vegan – Is L-Carnitine Vegan?

L-Carnitine is an amino acid naturally found and produced in the body. L-Carnitine is involved in helping to support energy production, converting fat into energy, and maintaining brain function. It is primarily produced by the liver and kidneys and is involved in the oxidation of fatty acids and therefore linked to metabolism and energy levels. Vegan-friendly supplements of L-Carnitine do exist and most likely any versions used by Energy Drink Manufacturers will be vegan.

Are Energy Drinks Vegan – What About Sugar in Energy Drinks?

Ah, sugar. We come back to you once again. The topic of whether sugar is vegan is a constant reoccurring subject on my blog. The fact is that sugar can sometimes not be vegan. Sugar can be processed using Bone Char to turn it white. Whilst this doesn’t affect the ingredient of sugar itself, the sugar is processed with it and is therefore not strictly vegan. It is impossible to tell the type of sugar that has been used in many drinks as it is simply listed as sugar. However, if you want to make sure the sugar in your energy drink is vegan try to find one made with raw and/or organic sugar or beet sugar.

What about other drinks – are they vegan?

Have you ever wondered if your favorite coffee or tea is vegan? If you love Energy Drinks then how about Sports Drinks or Vitamin Water – are they vegan too? But, wait it doesn’t stop there how about your favorite soda – is it vegan? Spoiler alert if you like Pepsi. If you want to find out more then read some of my other articles such as:

Are Energy Drinks Vegan – Red Bull, Monster, and Bang

Now you have an idea of what makes up Energy Drinks let’s break down the main brands – Red Bull, Monster, and Bang.

Are Energy Drinks Vegan – Is Red Bull Vegan?

Are Energy Drinks Vegan

In 1997 Red Bull was the first energy drink introduced in the US. Since then it has become synonymous with all things sports-related – Red Bull F1, Sports teams like RB Leipzig, FC Red Bull Salzburg, FC Liefering, Red Bull Bragantino, and New York Red Bulls, Red Bull Air Race, and on and on and on.

Apparently, Red Bull gives your wings. For years, I have had no idea what on earth this meant. But, apparently, it is meant to mean that Red Bull can give you so much energy that it will make you want to fly … . Okay, but is Red Bull Vegan?

Red Bull appears to try and answer this with the following statement on their website:

‘Red Bull Energy Drink is suitable for Vegetarians because the Red Bull Energy Drink uses only non-animal ingredients.’

The good news doesn’t end there, there is another statement on the Red Bull website stating that the sugar used is produced from sugar beet. It is just cane sugar that can be processed using bone char – beet sugar is always vegan, so nothing to worry about there.

Is Red Bull Vegan – Things to Watch Out For?

There are, however, two potential non-vegan ingredients to watch out for in Red Bull:

Red Bull – Natural Flavors

Red Bull contains natural flavors. Natural flavors can be extracted from animals or plants. However, anything that is derived from dairy must be listed as an allergen on the label. To this extent, it seems very unlikely that natural flavors would not be vegan.

Red Bull – Artificial Colors

Red Bull does contain artificial colors (which are normally routinely tested on animals). Interestingly, at the time of writing if you type “is red bull vegan?” into Google the featured snippet that comes up is from PETA stating that:

“we cannot include Red Bull on this list (of Vegan Energy Boosters) because although it’s a vegan product, the Red Bull GmbH company continues to support tests on animals, which are unnecessary, cruel and not required by law.”

However, conflicting with this is the fact that Red Bull is on PETA’s list of approved beverages. The PETA energy drink article was written back in 2015 and the approved vegan beverages list was updated in 2019.

Is Red Bull Vegan – conclusion?

Red Bull is suitable for most vegans as it uses only non-animal ingredients. The only potential non-vegan ingredient is artificial color (as artificial colors are often routinely tested on animals). The Organic Red Bull range is vegan as it does not contain any artificial colors, as well as contains organic sugar.

Are Energy Drinks Vegan – Is Monster Energy Drinks Vegan?

Are Energy Drinks Vegan

Most Monster Energy Drinks are vegan. There are some exceptions to this:

Monster – Java Range

Monster has a range of coffee-themed drinks called the Java Monster Energy range – these are not vegan as they contain milk.

Monster and Carmine

In the UK Carmine, which comes from crushed beetles, is used to give the Monster Ultra Red its red color making it not vegan.

Monster and Artificial Colors

Artificial colors are routinely tested on animals – most Monster Drinks contain artificial colors.

Monster and Sugar

It is possible that the sugar in Monster Energy drinks could have been processed with bone char.

Are Energy Drinks Vegan – Are Bang Energy Drinks Vegan?

Researching whether Bang energy drinks are vegan on the internet is very confusing and initial Google searches imply that Bang Energy Drinks are not vegan. However, I did some digging around online and have gotten to the bottom of it.

Bang has reformulated their drinks and now uses vegan EAA aminos in the place of BCAAs (allegedly the old Bang drinks used BCAAs derived from feathers – although this may just be hearsay).

The newly reformulated Bang Energy Drinks are certified vegan. To make sure that you are buying a certified vegan Bang Drink just double-check the label that it contains EAA aminos and not BCAA aminos. These Bang Energy drinks on Amazon contain EAA amino acids and so are vegan.

Vegan Energy Drinks

In this final section, I wanted to talk about two alternative energy drink options: Guru, and Yerba Mate.

Guru Energy Drinks

Are Guru Energy Drinks Vegan?

Guru Energy Drinks hold the accolade of being the World’s first natural energy drink. Unlike most energy drinks they do not contain taurine. Guru energy drinks are organic energy drinks made from plant-based ingredients and they are certified vegan. You can treat yourself to some Guru energy drinks from Amazon here.

The ingredient list for Guru looks like the below:

Sparkling Water, Organic Cane Syrup, Organic White Grape Juice Concentrate, Natural Flavors, Apple Acid, Citric Acid, Organic Green Tea Leaf Extract, Organic Guarana Seed Extract, Organic Echinacea Flower Extract, Organic Panax Ginseng Root Extract.

You can see that it does not contain Taurine and instead focuses on using green tea leaf extracts, ginseng, and guarana for its energy-boosting effects. Also, there are no potential sugar bone char issues with the use of organic cane syrup and grape juice as a sweetener.

Yerba Mate Energy Drinks

Yerba Mate is one of my personal favorite forms of energy drink. Yerba Mate is a herbal tea commonly made in South America. It is made by drying the leaves and twigs of the Yerba Mate Plant and steeping them in hot water. The plant naturally contains caffeine so when brewed produces a natural energy-boosting drink. It traditionally contains slightly less caffeine than a cup of coffee (FYI some Yerba Mate brands will add additional caffeine to their energy drinks).  The tea is also rich in antioxidants and a whole host of other health benefits (like lowering LDL cholesterol).

My personal favorite thing about this drink is that you can buy it in its raw unbrewed tea form or as a pre-made energy drink. Whilst there are some flavored versions with a whole host of added ingredients I personally like to opt for the traditional unsweetened version. That way you know what you are getting.

If you want to learn more here is a link to Amazon to check out Guvaki – my preferred brand choice.

Are Energy Drinks Vegan – The Final Sip

Are Energy Drinks Vegan

Are Energy Drinks Vegan? The short answer is yes, most do appear vegan. Whilst I have never been a huge drinker of energy drinks and personally would never mix a Red Bull with Vodka as the choice of my alcoholic beverage – I do see the occasional benefit in boosting my energy. The most ironic thing is that the people who consume energy drinks the most don’t use them for what I thought they would be used for – boosting energy. Most just consume them for enjoyment. In any event, if you don’t trust the ingredients or just don’t like long ingredient lists there are alternative options such as Yerba Mate, and if you are looking for a certified vegan choice then Guru it is. If either of those fail – just make a strong cup of coffee and remember Light Roast contains more caffeine than Dark Roast – don’t believe me then read my post Is Coffee Vegan? How to Find Out The Truth?

Are Energy Drinks Vegan

… now you know.

Beverage makers may change ingredients and/or manufacturing processes. Always double-check ingredients before purchasing any beverages.

Like What You Are Reading

Like this article, want to find out more? Want to know if your favorite Root Beer, Soda, Wine, Beer, or even if your morning coffee (yes, your morning coffee) is vegan? Then check out some of our other articles:

Editorial Team

The Vegan Bev HQ Editorial Team - helping you find the best vegan drink out there!

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