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The Lowdown on Energy Drinks

MF examines six of the most popular energy boosters on the market

Energy drinks generally don't offer much in terms of nutrition, yet there's no denying the popularity of these caffeine-packed elixirs. We sat down with Arizona State nutrition professor Jeff Hampl, Ph.D., R.D. to get the lowdown on six of the most popular high-energy formulas on the market.

LO-CARB MONSTER
20 calories, 6 g carbs
Our thoughts: Seems supersweet at first, but after a few sips, the caramel-ish flavor ends up tasty and thirst quenching.
The expert's: With just 10% of the calories in regular Monster, you still get the same buzz, thanks to stimulants like caffeine and guarana, but don't fall for the hype on any herbal or "energy blend" ingredients: Most have iffy research backing them up.
GURU LITE
10 calories, 2 g carbs
Our thoughts: Carbonated cough syrup, the lingering taste of gummy bears, and a chemical afterburn once you finish. Gross.
The expert's: Guru's calories come from organic sugarcane juice, plus a few sweet, potent herbs like guarana and gingko, which help with energy, memory, and concentration. But the flavor's not great. End of story.
RED BULL SUGAR-FREE
10 calories, 3 g carbs
Our thoughts: The gold standard isn't necessarily solid gold. Even if you drink it a lot, the vodka's likely disguising the tart medicinal quality that's similar to aspirin dissolving on your tongue.
The expert's: Only 10 calories, but keep in mind how small the can is. Plus, the formula is pretty average: taurine., B vitamins, and, of course, caffeine.
AMP SUGAR-FREE
10 calories, 0 carbs
Our thoughts: Just as the company claims, Amp has an "intense citrus flavor," but it's too much like the lime-flavored syrup that tops street-fair snow cones.
The expert's: An eight-ounce can has only five calories, but it masquerades as a nutrition supplement. You can get the B vitamins like niacin and pantothenic acid from regular food.
JOLT ULTRA SUGAR-FREE
15 calories, 0 carbs
Our thoughts: Tastes nearly identical to Mountain Dew, but for some reason, the drink is oddly lacking fizz. Weird.
The expert's: Caffeine and guarana provide the steam, and Jolt masks their bad taste with sucralose, which tastes like sugar but has zero calories. Just don't kid yourself into thinking you drink Jolt for health reasons. It's all about the buzz.
NO FEAR SUGAR-FREE
20 calories, 2 carbs
Our thoughts: Think Kool-Aid with a supplement kick. It definitely tastes sugar-free, but for staffers who already drink diet soda, No Fear was a worthy high-energy alternative.
The expert's: Packed with stimulants and nutrients like folic acid, vitamins B6 and C, selenium, it won't replace a healthy meal — or even a multivitamin — but it's not bad, either.

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