GQ has a fabulous YouTube series in which the magazine asks celebrities about the ten things they can’t live without. A while back, I was watching Jonah Hill's “10 Things” video when the incredibly charming actor revealed that one of the 10 things he couldn’t live without was Celsius, an energy drink.

celsius cat
celsius/facebook

At that point I had seen Celsius in a handful of TikTok videos, but I wasn’t super aware of the brand. Upsettingly susceptible to celebrity suggestion, I headed to my nearest CVS and picked up two flavors: sparkling orange and watermelon. Now, I’ve choked down a Red Bull or two in my day, and while the flavor doesn’t grate on me as much as it does on others, I’m fully aware of the fact that it tastes like battery acid. Celsius, on the other hand, is delicious. I’m partial to the orange flavor, but I’ve since tried—and liked—the kiwi guava and raspberry acai as well.

What sets Celsius apart from the pack, from my perspective, is its branding. The clean, white can features illustrations of the fruits supposedly in the flavors, and the brand has aligned itself with an army of ultra-fit, ultra-beautiful influencers whose job it is to make consumers believe that if the drank Celsius too, they might get one step closer to looking like said influencers. Celsius also describes itself as a healthy energy drink, writing on its site, “CELSIUS stands out against other brands because it’s made with healthier ingredients such as ginger, guarana, green tea and 7 essential vitamins. Our drinks contain no sugar, no aspartame, no high fructose corn syrup, and no artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors.”

But still, I had to wonder: Is Celsius—and other so-called “healthy” energy drinks—actually healthy, or are they just really good at marketing and convincing customers that their product is totally different from, say, a Red Bull or Monster?

Let’s first compare the nutritional information of a can of Celsius to a can of Red Bull.

One 12-ounce can of Celsius contains:

  • Calories: 10
  • Carbs: 2 grams
  • Sugar: 0 grams
  • Caffeine: 200 milligrams

One 8.4-ounce can of Red Bull contains:

  • Calories: 112
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbs: 27 grams
  • Sugar: 27 grams
  • Caffeine: 75 mg

Right off the bat, the most glaring difference is in the sugar content. Red Bull’s original flavor is sweetened with regular sugar, while Celsius is sweetened with a blend of artificial sweeteners like stevia, erythritol and sucralose. That high sugar content in Red Bull is one reason consumers should be wary of energy drinks, says celebrity chef, certified nutritionist and Reiki master Serena Poon, when I asked her. Poon notes that many energy drinks contain a lot of added sugar, which tacks on unnecessary calories and if consumed regularly can contribute to chronic illness. “Naturally sweetened, low sugar options would be the best choice,” she notes. “Additionally, take a look at the list of ingredients. Maybe do a quick google search of what’s inside and what it does to your body.” Overall, though, she recommends sticking to drinks that have simple and recognizable ingredient lists. “Many energy drinks contain B vitamins, which can be a good source of natural energy, but as with all supplements you want to consume them in moderation.”

Beyond the sugar, Poon told me that when it comes to any energy drink, consumers should be aware of just how much caffeine they’re drinking. “Energy drinks are often very high in caffeine and usually contain other stimulants, so people’s reactions to them tend to be a little more variable than with the same amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee” she notes. “Keep in mind that experts recommend around 400mg of caffeine as an upper limit for healthy adults, so I suggest noting this and using caution when consuming energy drinks. If you do drink an energy drink, stick to a brand that contains simple and recognizable ingredients, that is low in sugar and that doesn’t make you feel jittery.”

As for whether or not she would personally pick up a can of Celsius, Poon says she wouldn’t, but that’s not because of Celsius itself—it’s an aversion to energy drinks in general. “I feel that the caffeine is too concentrated, which makes me feel jittery and I’ll experience a crash later in the day. I usually drink organic ceremonial grade matcha in the morning and then work with my natural daily energy by getting enough sleep, exercising, eating fresh, high-quality foods, keeping stress levels down and drinking a lot of water.”

So while Celsius isn’t a miracle beverage that’s going to turn you into a 25-year-old Pilates instructor, it is a healthier alternative to many of the energy drinks on the market that tastes great and contains some beneficial ingredients, like vitamins B and C, ginger root and more. (So yes, I will continue to drink it when I need an extra boost of energy—and not feel too bad about it.)

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