The first idea concerning energy drinks is simple: DON'T. Most of them taste like absolute crap. Furthermore, these "beverages" are for fools who have been bamboozled into thinking that jump-boosting your heart is a legit alternative to getting sufficient rest. It's Christian Crank. It started with little 8 ounce cans of Red Bull in an obscure corner of the corner mart. Now there's an entire section dedicated to an unthinkable variety of 40 ounce monsters (figuratively and nominally). If you are a parent and your kid is drinking these, then I say without reservation that you are either negligent brainless. (Thanks to my son, I've been both).
On the other hand, it might be the best way to get the young started early on their participation in the national caffeine addiction. How else to make sure they make their quota? Seriously, try and tell even ONE coffee cranker that they have a habit. Even the good natured ones will feed you screed. Many will even raise it to the level of a harangue. Most of them--even as they drag their feet and say pitiful things like "don't talk to me, I haven't had my coffee," or even--as I once myself observed--when all work stops at the office until they find an alternative source of artificial pep to replace their broken Mr. Coffee--they consider themselves immune to criticism. They're dedicated to finding "studies" to support the idea of having this one little chemical that you absolutely can't live without. It's the socially acceptable fix.
But this is not the place to combat the caffeine craze. In fact, the above paragraphs only make what I really have to offer here all the more shameful.
See, I work nights for Mental Health (4 nights a week), and teach during the day. Every day. Teaching beginning guitar can be mind-numbing on a full head of steam. Driving a thousand miles a week on the same roads day in and day out on little to no sleep is a recipe for disaster. So I excuse myself in a little energy drink consumption, and have, in fact, become the state's leading connoisseur. I'm the Energy Drink Czar. And for anyone wedged into the same financial corner as myself, I offer the following tutorial.
Once you've broken the prime directive and find yourself needing to consume, the first consideration is, of course, TASTE. Red Bull is a great example of the taste you want to avoid.
The second consideration is, as with so many things in life, SIZE. You want to consume as little as possible. More jolt with less junk. More pep with less poison. These are words for the consumer of energy drinks to live by.
The final consideration is HEALTH. Is the juice in question merely metaphorical? Or might your energy drink actually contain something beneficial to offset the toxins? Let's begin.
On this scale, the greatest energy drink of all time was the BooKoo Mini Shot. It was the cutest little can on the shelf. 5 ounces of fruity refreshment that kicked like a red bull without tasting like the bull's urine. The calories were minimal. And did I mention how cute the can was? You'll notice I'm speaking in the past tense. Alas, the Shot has disappeared. If you work for the company, consider this request official: Reinstate the Shot. If you are a civilian and you happen to see some, buy them all and call me.
Even so, the 5 ounce Shot was lacking in the health rubric. And this brings us to second place. The FRS. The letters stand for Free Radical Scavenger. Essentially a mildly caffeinated vitamin drink, (with more flavanoid antioxidants than 6 helpings of blueberries), the FRS weighs in at 12 ounces, and tastes a little like drinking a vitamin--but with minimal calories it delivers a sustained pep sans crash. It has a variety of flavors, the best of which being the lime and the orange, because the berry flavor is good but has chunks of stuff at the bottom and the peach mango is just plain gross. Even in the presence of the BooKoo, (and despite Lance Armstrong's endorsement) FRS would make a strong case for the top spot.
Next up is the Extreme Energy Shot from the people who brought you Arizona Ice Tea. It is ten percent fruit juice and has a rather pleasant taste. It is one of the few offerings that has stuck with the 8 ounce can. It is listed, however at a mere 99 cents, and even says "trial offer" on the can. It doesn't seem to be restocked once it disappears from the shelves. So I'm stockpiling it. It may be going the way of the BooKoo mini.
In a three-way tie for fourth place is the Sobe Adrenaline Rush, which comes in this high because of the pleasant taste and the 8 oz can, ditto the bizarrely named but grapetastically delicious Hyphy (tastes like grape crush if you can find it) and the elegant Go Girl Glo. I cannot brook the normal Go Girl in the pink can, but the teal tinted Glo is a thing of beauty. A little bulky at 12 ounces, it nevertheless boasts ingredients like Aloe, star fruit, and vitamin E (whence the titular glo[w]). There may even be some pomegranate in it. It is only mildly carbonated, which is very pleasant, and is low in calories. There is an annoying artificial sweetener aftertaste, but that's a small price to pay for a drink that you can hand to a sexy lady and say "Come and glow with me." To be fair, I should mention that I've only been able to find the Glo at one gas station and nowhere else.
And that's it. Everything else has gone the way of the monster and is a 20 to 40 ounce sugary abomination. They taste bad and are bad for you. There is a sub-genre I haven't mentioned (and with good reason): the little energy boosters in vials next to the check out stand. The prime offender is the 5 Hour Energy fraud. Simply a concentrated overdose of B-vitamins and caffeine, you only need to experience the troubling "niacin rush" once to wish to avoid it forever. One of the other vials I tried tasted so bad I actually vomited a little.
So if you absolutely MUST partake, like if it's a choice between crashing your car and sipping a little boosty beverage, then I hope this helps. The best option is (OBVIOUSLY) sufficient rest, abundant exercise, and diligent nutrition.