Not all energy drinks are created equal. Jack Hart analysed the best performance-enhancing glugs on offer, from natural sources to those fizzing with electrolytes.


by Trail Running |


103kcal | Sugar: 23g | Caffeine: 0mg

As the most hyped ergogenic (read: performance-enhancing) aid of recent years, beetroot juice - like Beet It - has a lot of expectation to live up to. Its nitrate content is the cause of the excitement – the body converts this into nitrite and nitric oxide, which simultaneously dilates blood vessels and increases the efficiency of muscle cells’ mitochondria. Which means? Your muscles and cardiovascular function will work more effectively, increasing your speed and stamina at the swig of a bottle.


1kcal | Sugar: 0g | Caffeine: 95mg

Beetroot juice may be the centre of attention right now, but caffeine still rules supreme – and not just for longevity. Research published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition & Metabolism studied the comparative effects of caffeine and beetroot juice on aerobic performance, and coffee’s primary ingredient blew beets out the park. A cautionary word, though – the combination of coffee and running can have, ahem, unwanted side effects.


10kcal | Sugar: 1g | Caffeine: 0mg

With little in the way of sugar or caffeine, what does NUUN bring to the table? Well, electrolytes, which are intended to replace vital sodium and potassium lost through sweating, and help keep muscles functioning efficiently. Also, according to a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, sports drinks with a high electrolyte content were better at rehydrating people than water – we still won’t advise giving up on pure H2O, but it’s impressive.


45kcal | Sugar: 11g | Caffeine: 80mg

Beyond an F1 team, extreme cliff-diving and other adrenaline-fuelled sports, Red Bull still have an impressive foothold in the world of health and fitness, including the Red Bull Steeplechase trail run. Nor is that unfounded – a study in Amino Acids journal found that Red Bull significantly improved aerobic performance and mental alertness. Caffeine and sugar are clearly a potent combination, but watch out for too much of the good stuff.


90kcal | Sugar: 0g | Caffeine: 0mg

We’d always advise being wary of ‘low-calorie water’ (hint: natural water has no calories), but the 20g of protein you get in each bottle is novel. That’s about the same as three eggs and comes courtesy of whey protein, which is balanced by an array of sweeteners. Topping up on protein before, during and after a run will help to accelerate your recovery and prevent breakdown of muscle mass, for energy during long-distance races.


27kcal | Sugar: 25g | Caffeine: 0mg

If you don’t follow @barefootaleks on Instagram, check him out – he’s running the length of Europe for charity. He’s also running it fuelled by Tailwind’s endurance fuel, which immediately grabbed our attention. This powder mixes with water to power you up with calories and electrolytes, without the stomach upsets associated with energy gels. A caffeinated version is available, depending on your own preference.

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