Is A Green Tea Energy Drink A Good Idea?
Green tea is synonymous with a healthy lifestyle - it's low in caffeine, high in antioxidants, and sugar-free. So is a green tea energy drink a good idea? Can you transfer the health benefits of green tea into an energy drink?
This is what we're exploring this week at Zest Tea! We have created a handful of successful energy drinks with our green tea flavors and there's a reason they work so well. You might even find that they're better than black tea and coffee alternatives.
What is Green Tea?
To make an energy drink with green tea, it helps to know what green tea is.
The leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant are used to create all traditional tea types, from black tea to white tea to matcha. To create green tea, the leaves are quickly fired and dried to prevent oxidation. This keeps the leaves green and fresh, with grassy, mellow and light flavor notes.
Learn more about the properties of green tea in our article Green Tea: What's In It and Why It Matters.
Green tea is also a source of natural energy. Compared to a cup of coffee (96mg of caffeine) a cup of green tea contains just 28mg on average.1
Black tea contains more caffeine than green tea, but far less than coffee, with approximately 47mg per cup. That's a small energy boost!
Green tea differs from black tea in other ways too. Green tea is known for:
- EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate) is a natural antioxidant and catechin found in high quantities in green tea. It's linked to reducing inflammation, reducing cancer risks, and preventing heart disease.2
- L-Theanine, an amino acid found in all tea types including green tea, can increase focus, mental alertness and attention.3 It also has a synergistic relationship with caffeine, which we'll explain further along in this article.
- Green tea catechins inhibit enzymes, which may stimulate thermogenesis and fat oxidation to help you shed excess weight.4
- Polyphenols in green tea can impact cognitive deficits, which means it could be used as a treatment for neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.5
To enjoy these great health benefits from green tea through an energy drink, it's important that you pick an energy drink that contains a good proportion of green tea (not just green tea flavoring). You should also watch out for some of the other ingredients that go into energy drinks, which may not be as good for your health!
What Goes In Green Tea Energy Drinks
Not all energy drink brands include green tea in their "green tea flavored" energy drinks. Some use green tea extract while others contain a small amount of green tea in a blend of other ingredients.
Checking the ingredients list on the back of the can is important! Favor organic, healthy ingredients wherever you can. Common ingredients found in energy drinks include:
- Citric acid - an organic acid (the kind you find in lemons, for example) that's often used to preserve food, including energy drinks.
- Stevia leaf - a naturally sweet leaf that adds a sweet flavor without needing sugar or other calorie-rich components,
- Carbonated water - this is what puts the fizz in the drink. It's simply water infused with dissolved carbon dioxide gas.
- Erythritol - a sugar alcohol derived from breaking down corn with enzymes and fermentation. It's often used to add extra sweetness without adding calories, affecting blood sugar levels, or causing tooth decay.
Nutrition and Calories
While you can say that all green teas made from just tea leaves and water will have roughly the same nutritional value and calorie content, you can't say the same for green tea energy drinks. Some contain sugar, others use fruit juices and other brain foods, and others may not even contain green tea.
To give you an example of a healthy, sugar-free energy drink, here's the nutritional value of Zest Tea's Cucumber Melon:
- Serving size 12 fl oz (355 ml)
- 0 calories
- Total Fat 0g (0% DV)
- Sodium 0mg (0% DV)
- Total Carbohydrate 3g (1% DV)
- Erythritol 3g
- Protein 0g
- Not a significant source of saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, dietary fiber, total sugars, added sugars, vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium
DV = daily value. In terms of energy, this green tea energy drink provides 120mg of caffeine and 100mg of L-Theanine.
Energy Drink Caffeine Levels
Energy drink caffeine levels vary widely. Some contain just 50mg while others can contain several hundred milligrams per product. To make it even more confusing, not every energy drink is exactly 1 cup/8oz for easy comparison.
What separates the caffeine levels in an energy drink compared to a normal tea beverage (e.g. teabags brewed in water) is that it often contains added caffeine extract as well as sugar and other energizing ingredients to give your brain a boost.
How Much Caffeine is Too Much?
Caffeine, particularly in energy drinks, gets a bad rep in the media. It's true that consuming a vast amount of caffeine can be very bad for you. But let's just examine how much caffeine you'd need to drink to reach dangerous levels.
According to the FDA, the recommended limit for your daily caffeine intake is 400mg for healthy adults. For pregnant women, some people recommend consuming no more than 200mg per day - but you should talk to your doctor for medical advice.
400mg is equal to roughly:
- 14 cups of green tea OR
- 10 cups of black tea OR
- 4 cups of coffee.
Energy drink caffeine levels range from 40 to 250mg of caffeine.6 Our Zest Sparkling Energy Tea contains up to 150mg of caffeine per serving, so you could drink approximately 2 and a half cans before reaching the recommended daily limit.
Drinking too much caffeine (over 400mg in one serving) can result in some undesirable side effects. Jitters, uncontrollable energy, insomnia, a fast heart rate (hearing it beat in your ears), and nausea are all common side effects of consuming too much caffeine.
What to Look for In A Good Energy Drink
A good energy drink can provide you with energy, motivation and a range of nutrients... without giving you a monumental sugar high. To be precise, here are the key factors that make an energy drink beneficial for your healthy lifestyle as well as your tight Friday work deadlines.
Low to No Sugar
Sugar tastes great and it does provide energy, but not the kind you want. Sugars are certain types of carbohydrates, namely monosaccharides and disaccharides. There's a common misconception that by consuming a vast amount of these carbs, you'll get a "sugar rush" that provides a burst of energy.
However, a meta-analysis of these carbohydrates found that sugars do not improve your mood and motivation. In fact, 30 minutes after consumption your fatigue will increase. A further 30 minutes after that, you'll experience lower levels of alertness and concentration.7
Adding too much sugar to an energy drink can actually drain your energy once that initial sugar high has quickly worn off. So, avoid any energy drink that has a high sugar content.
The only flavors in your energy tea should be natural. First, it's more beneficial for your health to consume products flavored naturally. Although the nutrients you'll get from a tiny concentration of real passion fruit juice are small, they're still more than the artificial synthesized chemical passion fruit flavorings (which have no nutritional value whatsoever).
Furthermore, artificial sweeteners and flavorings have been linked to numerous side effects and long-term illnesses, including headaches, cancer and seizures.8
Our advice? Stick to naturally flavored products.
As energy drinks are mostly made from tea (or another caffeine source), sugar, water and chemical flavors/colors/vitamins, you'd assume that they're totally vegan and plant-based. But that's not always the case.
Tying back to natural flavors, many artificial flavors and colors are derived from lab-created chemicals which may be tested on animals. Red food coloring may be made from carmine too, which is insect-based. And many chemicals (or their product processes) rely on by-products of petroleum.9
Not only are chemically-produced ingredients bad for the environment (the water pollution alone is a huge problem) but they may be harmful to your health.
To avoid the ethical and health issues associated with these ingredients, choose energy drinks marked as vegan or made from entirely plant-based, non-GMO ingredients (like Zest Tea).
Caffeine is the best source of energy in energy drinks. Not only is it a natural product created by plants, but it is also linked to numerous other health benefits including weight loss and heart health.10
A good energy drink will provide a source of caffeine that's moderate to high (it must contain at least 100mg to compete with a cup of coffee) but not so high that it becomes dangerous (above the 400mg recommended limit by the FDA).
This amino acid is found naturally in tea. It works with the caffeine to provide a better energy boost than coffee, for example.
L-Theanine and caffeine create a synergistic relationship. The L-Theanine slows the onset of caffeine for a smoother energy boost. Rather than getting hit with a wave of energy, followed by a sharp crash, L-Theanine ensures your energy comes on smoothly, lasts longer, and drops off naturally as the day goes by.
Read more about L-Theanine and why it makes tea energy so much better than coffee energy in our article Caffeine in Tea vs. Coffee.
Zest's Green Tea Energy Drinks
A Zest Tea beverage provides all of the benefits mentioned above, with none of the nasties. We want our energy drinks to taste great and help you feel great. To create our sparkling energy teas, we use natural and organic ingredients and natural tea extract to boost the caffeine levels.
All our sparkling teas are:
- Vegan, keto and paleo friendly,
- Made with gluten-free, plant-based and certified non-GMO ingredients,
- Formulated with low to no sugar, and never any artificial sweeteners,
- Provide up to 150mg of caffeine and 100mg of L-Theanine per serving.
Having transparent ingredients lists is important to us. We want you to know exactly what you're drinking every time you crack open a can of Zest Tea. We currently have 3 green tea based energy tea flavors to enjoy, with a mix of natural ingredients and great flavors.
If you want to try all our flavors (including 3 black tea blends) check out the variety pack.
Fresh mint flavors and berry notes create this super refreshing energy drink. It's made with natural flavor elements and contains our highest caffeine content - 150mg of caffeine per serving.
We also add some extra B vitamins to this drink to provide a little extra spring in your step. B vitamins B3, B5, B6 and B12 are included.
Blood Orange Mango
If you've got that sweet tooth but are looking to avoid sugar completely, then Blood Orange Mango is your savior. As well as providing natural energy, this drink contains organic fruit through natural mango and blood orange flavors.
To keep it tasting great without sugar, we use stevia leaf extract to add just a little healthy sweetness.
Last but certainly not least, is Cucumber Melon. This organic tea blend is refreshing with natural melon and cucumber flavors. It's not sickly sweet like most energy drinks. Instead, it's subtle, crisp and juicy.
If you need a morning tea with a gentler flavor but still a good dose of energy, this is the one for you.
Is green tea energy drink bad for you?
The green tea component of an energy drink is good for you, but the other ingredients may not be. It depends on what's in the bottle or can. The "bad" components are usually too much sugar, artificial flavors, sweeteners and colors.
Do energy drinks have green tea?
Some energy drinks do contain green tea, like our Blood Orange Mango, Cucumber Melon and Pomegranate Mint flavors. Find an energy drink that contains a good source of green tea (not just a dash of green tea extract) if you want to enjoy the health benefits every day.
What is the safest energy drink?
If you are worried about consuming too much caffeine, choose a low-caffeine traditional tea. A cup of green tea or black tea will provide a little energy without knocking your socks off.
If you're looking for a high-caffeine drink that's made with safe, plant-based and natural ingredients, check out Zest Energy Tea.
What energy drink is the healthiest?
Any sugar-free, plant-based, vegan energy drink that uses natural extract from the tea plant to provide a natural caffeine boost is healthiest. Avoid sugar, artificial colors/flavors and chemical ingredients.
Is green tea better than energy drinks?
A cup of green tea is better for your health than a sugary energy drink, but not better for providing energy. A sugar-free, high-caffeine green tea energy drink provides the best of both options.
Is green tea an energy drink?
Technically, yes, green tea provides a small amount of energy that may give you a tiny boost to your day. However, compared to coffee, black tea and other energy drinks, it doesn't provide much energy at all.