Which energy drinks are vegan? What is taurine, and is it really made from bull testicles? Are the BCAAs in Bang energy drink really sourced from animals? Today we’re talking all about vegan energy drinks!
If you want to check if a specific brand of energy drink is vegan, click the brand to skip to that section:
Before I get into all the different brands of energy drinks and whether they’re vegan, first let’s talk about taurine. It’s in a lot of energy drinks, and it’s a common concern that vegans have.
Is the Taurine in Energy Drinks Vegan?
Taurine in energy drinks is vegan. Although taurine is only naturally found in meat, most taurine today is synthetically made. In addition, the most popular energy drink companies, such as Monster, Red Bull, and Rockstar have all confirmed that their taurine is vegan.
If you don’t know what taurine is, it’s an amino acid. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. We eat proteins that get broken down into amino acids in our bodies, and then our body can make new proteins out of those amino acid building blocks.
There are some amino acids that we need to consume through our diet (essential amino acids) and some that our body can actually produce on its own. Taurine is not an essential amino acid—our bodies can produce it.
Why do energy drinks contain taurine? There is some research suggesting that taurine may improve athletic performance and that, in combination with caffeine, it can improve mental performance.
Is Monster Energy Drink Vegan?
Most Monster energy drinks are vegan, but there are exceptions. Monster has confirmed its taurine and L-carnitine are vegan. Java Monster, however, is not vegan, as it contains milk. Also, in some countries, other non-vegan ingredients like carmine are used in some Monster flavors.
For example, the version of Monster Ultra Red that is distributed in the UK contains carmine (red #4 coloring), which is made from crushed up beetles (yuck)—so that flavor would not be considered vegan. That said, even carmine is a more minor ingredient that some vegans overlook.
That said, the whole Monster Ultra line is vegan in North America, so don’t worry about the carmine if you’re in North America.
Other Monster product lines, such as Juice Monster, Monster Hydro, and just classic Monster Energy Drink are all vegan, too.
The bottom line is that pretty much all Monster drinks are vegan except the Java Monster line. But here is a pretty good source if you want more detailed info on the different lines of Monster Energy Drink.
Is Red Bull Vegan?
Red Bull is vegan, as is confirmed on the company’s website. The company’s Q&A page specifically says the energy drink “uses only non-animal ingredients.”
Here is the screenshot:
The only ingredients in Red Bull that some vegans may object to are the artificial colors, which have been tested on animals. However, most vegans are okay with consuming artificial colors.
If you are opposed to consuming artificial colors, you can just opt for Red Bull’s organic line (“Organics by Red Bull”). Those drinks do not contain any artificial colors whatsoever.
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Is Rockstar Energy Drink Vegan?
Rockstar Energy Drink is vegan, as confirmed on the company’s website. The taurine in Rockstar Energy Drink is synthetically made, not derived from animals. Therefore, vegans can drink Rockstar Energy Drink.
Is NOS Energy Drink Vegan?
NOS Energy drink is vegan. I sent an email to NOS Energy to check, and they confirmed that they use no animal by-products in any of their product lines.
Previous to asking the company, I was a little concerned about seeing “glycerol ester of wood rosin” and possibly “guanine” as potentially non-vegan ingredients in their products. (Many ingredients like these can be sourced from plants or animals.)
But if the company says they use no animal byproducts, I am confident enough that NOS is vegan. Here is the email I got back:
Thank you for visiting the NOS Energy Website.
We use no animal bi-products in any of our products line. However, they are not vegan certified.
Is Bang Energy Drink Vegan?
Bang energy drink is vegan. Some sources online claim that the BCAAs and creatine in Bang are not vegan. However, if you email the company, they will directly tell you that Bang energy drink is vegan-friendly.
Here is the short email I got back from Bang when I asked whether their products are vegan:
We appreciate your interest in our company. Yes, Bang is Vegan friendly.
Customer Service Representative
So what were these online sources that claimed the BCAAs in Bang are not vegan? Well, a vegan powerlifter named Nick Squires Tweeted it once in 2018. And then, a blog used his Tweet as a source to make the same claim again.
What’s funny is, Nick Squires also Tweeted later that he was looking for a source showing that Bang isn’t vegan, and he just found the blog post that cited his own Tweet.
So this is not great data if the source being cited (Nick Squires) is Googling to find another source to cite, and then he just finds himself.
There is also a Reddit thread where someone claims to have emailed the company and gotten a response that “none of their bang products are vegan-friendly.” But that was a while ago (2018), so the company must have changed its recipes since then.
Because all these sources felt weak to me, I just emailed the company to ask directly. And they put it to rest: Bang is vegan-friendly.
So don’t worry about the misinformation out there. Maybe Bang used to have BCAAs made from animals (?), but they’re vegan now.
Is Reign Energy Drink Vegan?
Reign energy drink is vegan. If you contact the company, they respond confirming that all Reign product lines are free of animal byproducts. In addition, you can find examples online of high-profile vegans promoting Reign.
I actually sent Reign myself to check if they were vegan, and this was the precise response I got back:
Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.
We use no animal bi-products in any of our product lines. However, the product is not vegan certified.
Notice it’s almost word-for-word the same response as I got from NOS Energy (above). Are they owned by the same company? I don’t know, but I’m comfortable saying both Reign and NOS are vegan.
Is Venom Energy Drink Vegan?
Venom energy drink is generally considered vegan. However, there are a few ingredients that some vegans would consider a gray area, such as natural flavors (can come from plants or animals) and sucralose (it was heavily tested on animals in development). That said, the average vegan would consider Venom to be vegan.
Here is a picture of the full ingredients list on a can of Venom. Personally, there’s nothing here that I would avoid:
Some vegans may take issue with sucralose, an artificial sweetener (a.k.a. Splenda) that is used in Venom. I wrote a full blog post all about that. It can have some potential health risks along with the history of animal testing.
Some vegans may also take issue with “Natural flavors,” as it can sometimes be taken from animals (source). However, in this case, I would just expect it to be some flavor from fruit or something. I wouldn’t be worried about it!
Is 5-Hour Energy Vegan?
5-Hour Energy is vegan. The company’s website states, “No animal products are added to 5-hour ENERGY® shots.” The ingredients are mostly just water, vitamins, and caffeine. The taurine in 5-Hour Energy is synthetic and vegan.
5-Hour Energy is not exactly an “energy drink” in the same style as the other drinks included in this guide. It’s just a small “shot” you take. But I wanted to include it because it’s a common product, and there are some misleading posts about it online.
I saw two different social media/forum posts online where people said 5-Hour Energy is not vegan. But the company explicitly states on its website that there are no animal products in it.
Some people spread misinformation without even checking into their sources! But if you look into it, 5-Hour Energy is vegan, according to the company itself.
Is Guru Energy Drink Vegan?
Guru Energy Drink is certified vegan. The company clearly promotes that their drinks are vegan, organic, non-GMO, and gluten-free.
Here is what it says in the Q&A on the Guru Energy Drinks website:
This goes above and beyond what most other energy drink companies can say. GURU Energy drinks don’t just happen to be vegan. They are certified vegan and they are proudly touted to be vegan.
Healthy Vegan Alternatives to Energy Drinks
Even though many of the common energy drinks are vegan, you might be cautious about the health impact of drinking them regularly.
What are some more natural energy boosters you can use instead to stay awake and energized?
- A Good Vegan Multivitamin. Many vegans say they have better energy after they start supplementing vitamin B12 and a few other key nutrients. Personally I recommend the Future Kind Essential Vegan Multivitamin. Read my full review of it here.
- Fruit. Whether it’s eating dried fruit like dates, or making a banana smoothie, take a page from the high-carb low-fat vegan playbook and get some sugar from fruit! It comes packaged with water, fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants.
- Exercise. Sometimes just getting up and doing a set of jumping jacks or running around the block can get you feeling much more awake and aware, so you don’t need energy drinks to stay awake.
- Coffee. This one is pretty obvious. Coffee contains caffeine, but it can also be quite healthy. Coffee consumption seems to be protective against diabetes, Alzheimers, and depression. The coffee beans also are loaded with antioxidants.
- More alternatives recommended by PETA. Here are some more tips from PETA on alternatives to energy drinks.
How Picky to Be About Animal Byproducts in Energy Drinks?
Different vegans feel differently about how strictly they want to avoid minor animal ingredients and byproducts in their foods. How strict you choose to be is entirely up to you.
Some vegans try to avoid every single animal-derived ingredient, no matter how small. Some of these vegans will even try to avoid all ingredients that were ever tested on animals in development, including things like artificial colors.
In contrast, some other vegans decide to only really focus on avoiding the main animal-based foods: meat, dairy products, and eggs.
There are debates over whether vegans should avoid eating honey or not. There are debates over whether vegans should eat oysters or not.
Some vegans avoid refined sugar because it’s commonly refined with animal bone char—but other vegans feel that this is overly picky and not necessary.
I just mention all of this to emphasize: Even if you read online somewhere that “[Energy Drink] isn’t vegan,” that honestly could be based on criteria that differ from yours.
I actually find it quite frustrating when I look up online which products are vegan, and I find an answer that doesn’t include any of this nuance.
This happens because people are making websites and pages about veganism who aren’t even vegan. They’re using a definition of vegan that they read somewhere—but they don’t actually have experiences navigating the world as a vegan.
So, as a 12-year vegan, here is my practical guidelines for vegan energy drinks:
Practical Guide for Vegan Energy Drinks
When you scan the ingredients of an energy drink, there will probably be some chemicals you haven’t heard of. Should you look up every single one of them? It’s really up to you.
Being vegan should be a practical way of living that actually makes a positive impact. It should NOT be about an obsessive attachment to the idea of never, ever consuming any ingredient that touched an animal in any way.
Honestly, I think it makes sense to just try to be mostly vegan, like 98% vegan. Obsessing over the last few percentage points is not going to make a difference for the animals.
When you avoid an energy drink because of a minor animal byproduct in it—or something that COULD’VE been sourced from an animal—do you really think the company notices the lower sales and actually starts making the drinks without that ingredient?
Maybe if you started a letter-writing campaign to the company about it, then you could have some impact in that regard. But even so, the impact would be so small. Tiny impact.
Literally billions of farm animals are being slaughtered for food around the world every year. In that kind of context, it seems like missing the point to obsess over something like some possibly non-vegan BCAAs in an energy drink.
Instead of obsessing over whether all the minor ingredients in 5-Hour Energy are vegan, you could just have a conversation with a family member about why they should try eating vegan with you. Or you could donate a few dollars to an animal rights organization.
There are so many ways to have a bigger impact than by obsessively avoiding every minor animal ingredient in every single thing you eat.
I have a certain level of respect for all different views of veganism—but personally, I think it should be about having a positive impact. It’s not about having the purest vegan diet in the world.
So, keeping that in mind, I would say it’s fine to err on the more relaxed side when trying to figure out which energy drinks and other products are vegan.
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