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Are energy shots the new energy drinks?


Another thing I’ve noticed twenty-somethings like are energy drinks, which made me wonder about this new product in the US: energy shots. According to a recent study, “Energy shots: birth of a new premium-priced, high-growth category” by Julian Mellentin, the energy shot was created by Living Essentials who also made the very innovative Chaser-Plus Freedom from Hangover tablets. The company's 5-hour energy—and energy shots in general—are targeted at anyone who needs an energy boost instead of catering specifically to young people who want to party all night long on Red Bull and vodka (or Monster and beer) before they mountain bike or play water volleyball for 6 straight hours the next day. Yes this is a stereotype, but, hey, if the energy drink fits. I do know people like this.
I must admit that the energy drink lifestyle no longer suits me now that I’m in my late 20s and realize that still being completely awake during sunrise, after a night of partying, isn’t all that special. You can catch a more convenient showing of a similar event later in the day anyway—just in reverse. Also, partying with the same people for 10 straight hours shows that conversations tend to become fully exhausted by the time most people go to sleep and slamming energy drinks all night so you can stay up can actually get somewhat boring. However the energy shot idea appeals to me for the same reasons that Mellentin believes 5-hour energy is the market leader in the US: the shots are small so you don’t have to drink a lot of excess liquid, they’re usually sugar free, they fit conveniently into a purse or bag, and they supposedly give you the jolt you need to get through the typical office day.

So I decided to put energy shots to the test. I tried an energy shot for every work day of the week to see how each performed. I took a cross-section of the best-selling energy shots, and most well-known/ best-selling brands of energy drinks that have recently unveiled a shot version. 5-hour energy, the creator of the category, is the best-selling energy shot in the US. The Red Bull brand, which just unleashed its long-anticipated energy shot in April 2009, has the most well-known and best-selling US energy drink. I also tried Monster Hitman, which branched from one of the best-selling energy drinks in the US, and I tried Full Throttle because I wanted to try a Coca-Cola product and NOS was sold out; NOS is another energy shot by Coca-Cola which is selling-well in the shot category according to Mellentin's report, which may explain why I wasn’t able to find one.

The Energy Shot Experiment

Day 1: Extra Strength 5-hour energy: I should’ve heeded the recommended dosage for moderate energy by taking only half a bottle as my first dose to test my reaction to this energy shot. I also shouldn’t have taken this at 6pm on a work night as I did not sleep after receiving 10 hours of energy instead of 5. But this is my fault for merely grabbing the first 5-hour energy shot I saw at a nearby gas station without studying it carefully. I should’ve tried the regular-strength 5-hour energy shot first, which was a nice comfortable shot of energy. I still didn't have enough self-control to only drink half the bottle but with the regular strength, this didn't matter. This shot is true to its advertising: I didn’t have the jitters; I didn’t crash. The taste is tolerable but by no means fantastic, even in the new orange flavor.

Day 2: Red Bull Energy Shot: With only 80mg of caffeine (which is defined on the bottle as being equivalent to a cup of coffee) I was quite comfortable on this energy shot in full dose form. I took it at 9am in the morning and got through an entire day of work with energy and no coffee cravings. I also love the Red Bull taste above all other energy drinks/shots so far. I was bummed that I couldn’t find the sugar free version, however.

Day 3: Monster Hitman (Hansen Beverage): Certainly a monster of a shot amongst products with much smaller packaging, this one gave me the stamina to write 2 complicated, research-heavy articles in one day. It also didn’t cause me any anxiety, which surprised me because of its size. It didn’t make me want to hop up and run laps like the Monster energy drink does, but I did feel as though my brain was functioning on a higher level than usual. Could it be the ginseng? Overall, I’d say it’s a nice manageable shot of energy. 

Day 4: Full Throttle Quick Shot (Coca-Cola): I tried the citrus flavored shot at 9 am. It tasted horrible. I thought perhaps it was just that flavor so I tried Blue Agave around 6pm. It tasted less horrible but I suspect the makers of the drink are having trouble masking the guarana. I wouldn't say it made me feel particularly awake either, which surprised me since it contains 125mg of caffeine, but I'll be sure to update that if I run around the block in the next few hours....Nope.

Day 5: NOS Powershot: I finally found a NOS shot at a far away convenience store, though it was mixed in with the Monster Hitman shots and did not have its own display case. There was also only one. This shot was only tolerable tasting, but it was much better than Coca-Cola's Full Throttle. It was also much more effective. It gave me a good shot of energy that lasted for a few hours.

*If you’re concerned about the size or caffeine content of an energy shot, it’s always a good idea to start with just half a dose. It’s also usually recommended not to exceed one full energy shot per day.


  • Craig 5 years ago

    Kelly, I would like you to try Cyclone Energy Shot and tell us what you think.

  • Dave 5 years ago

    All of these shots taste like garbage. My local convenience store carries On Go Energy Shot, which has electrolytes and ginseng... and it tastes amazing. Check them out at

  • Big Red Boots 5 years ago

    Hey - this is the caffeine examiner ( - and Dave is right on. On Go Berry has got to be one of the best shots I have tried - and I have tried a ton

  • KellySaxtonLindner 5 years ago

    Thanks for the tips guys. I'll see if I can find these.