Disclaimer: None of the information in this article constitutes medical advice. All statements are merely the opinion of the writer(s). We recommend that people follow their doctor’s guidance in regard to energy drinks.
Celsius is one of the most popular energy drinks on the market. The brand positions itself as a healthier alternative to commercial energy drinks, providing “functional energy” that’s “made with only the best ingredients.”
But is Celsius really healthier than older-generation energy drinks like Red Bull or are these just marketing claims? Does it have any questionable additive ingredients? Do you really need so many vitamins from an energy drink? And why was Celsius sued over its ingredient claims?
In this article we’ll answer all of these questions and more as we review every ingredient in Celsius and Celsius Heat to give our take on whether the products are healthy or not, and compare the brand to older energy drinks like Red Bull and Monster.
Celsius drinks have a large Supplement Facts label which we’ll analyze in three separate sections: energy ingredients, vitamins and minerals, and inactive ingredients.
We'll also share our take on the taste and energy effects from Celsius after trying it ourselves, and explain why Celsius settled a lawsuit over its ingredient claims in early 2023.
Ingredient Analysis - Energy Ingredients
Celsius contains a number of active ingredients meant to increase energy. These are listed in a proprietary (prop) blend called “MetaPlus Proprietary Blend.”
Taurine is an amino acid. We haven’t come across any medical studies suggesting that taurine increases energy. We recommend that children and adolescents avoid this ingredient in products that also contain caffeine (such as Celsius), because a medical review detailed that this combination may pose risks to the adolescent brain.
Guarana seed extract is the next-listed ingredient. We consider this an effective ingredient for increasing energy. A meta-study published in the PLoS One journal found that it provided additional stimulation beyond caffeine alone when the two ingredients were combined.
Caffeine is one of the most well-studied stimulants in the world. As we documented in our review of Gatorade Fast Twitch, caffeine is clinically proven to increase physical and mental energy, and the 200 milligram (mg) dose in Celsius is an effective dose, equivalent to around two cups of coffee.
Glucuronolactone is another stimulatory ingredient. While this compound is likely effective for improving energy and attention, we recommend avoiding it when it’s used in combination with caffeine and taurine (as in Celsius).
A medical review published in the Journal of Nutrition found that this combination caused negative changes to blood pressure and insulin sensitivity in healthy volunteers.
Ginger extract was shown in an animal study to increase energy, but this study used a dose vastly higher than that in Celsius.
Green tea leaf extract is another ingredient we recommend avoiding. A Health Canada review indicated that this ingredient may be associated with liver injury when used at high doses, so we recommend avoiding it, especially when its dose isn’t listed as in Celsius.
Ingredient Analysis - Vitamins & Minerals
Biotin and chromium are two of nine vitamins and minerals added to Celsius.
We haven't come across any clinical evidence that taking large doses of added vitamins and minerals increases energy in those without a vitamin or mineral deficiency, and the practice seems illogical.
As the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported in early 2022, a different wellness company had to recall their milkshakes because the added vitamins were causing toxicity in some consumers.
Ingredient Analysis - Inactive Ingredients
Celsius contains three inactive ingredients that we recommend avoiding.
Citric acid was shown in a medical review published in the Toxicology Reports journal to cause whole-body inflammatory reactions in some individuals.
Citric acid can be derived from citrus fruit, but the majority of the citric acid used in food manufacturing is derived from a fungus called Aspergillus niger as detailed in the above-linked review.
Natural flavor is a broad categorization that fails to describe the specific chemical compounds used as flavoring agents. As we discussed in our recent article, is Naked Juice healthy, there have been medical studies suggesting potential toxicity concerns with some flavoring chemicals.
Sucralose is an artificial sweetener. A clinical trial found that this ingredient caused unfavorable changes to insulin levels in young and healthy adults.
Are Celsius Drinks Bad for You?
Whether or not a food or drink is healthy is certainly relative, but we don’t consider Celsius to be healthy due to the energy ingredient combinations that may have negative synergistic effects, the added vitamins and minerals and the questionable additive ingredients.
Celsius may not be actively harmful, but we certainly don’t recommend drinking it regularly.
Even with all of the questionable ingredients we highlighted in this review, we still consider Celsius to be healthier than commercial energy drinks like Red Bull.
Red Bull contains a significant amount of added sugar (26 grams – nearly as much as a Coke), as well as artificial flavors and artificial colors.
We also consider Celsius healthier than Monster Energy, which is arguably the most popular energy drink on the market and contains added sugar, artificial sweeteners, preservatives and artificial colors.
We Tried Celsius: Our Thoughts
As the author of this article, I wanted to try a Celsius energy drink to give my take on its effects and flavor. I tried the Sparkling Orange flavor.
The flavor is more artificial than I'd like, but not bad. It tastes better than most commercial energy drinks that I've tried. Much better than a Monster or Red Bull.
I didn't notice as much of the stimulation and energy that I'd get from the same caffeine dose from coffee (around two cups). This could be because coffee contains other stimulatory chemical compounds like theobromine that work synergistically with the caffeine.
The drink has a "light" feel to it that I like. It could make a good pre-workout because it doesn't feel heavy in the stomach like some energy drinks.
Overall I wouldn't purchase Celsius again and prefer coffee or energy drinks that taste less artificial.
Celsius Sued Over Label Claims
In 2022, Celsius was sued over the fact that their label claimed "no preservatives."
Citric acid is technically a preservative even though it may be used primarily for its flavor. According to USA Today, this was the subject of the lawsuit as Celsius maintained that this ingredient was used for flavor but agreed to settle for nearly $8 million.
This lawsuit does not represent any added risk about Celsius products in our opinion, because it has to do with marketing and not consumer injury. Citric acid is transparently published on the ingredient label, so consumers can choose whether or not they want to ingest this ingredient.
At the time of updating this article, consumers who were affected are not able to receive a refund as the full settlement has been distributed.
Our Clean Energy Picks
Energy drinks are used to achieve two things: improved physical energy and improved mental energy. There are natural compounds which are shown in medical studies to be effective in achieving these outcomes.
Ginkgo biloba extract is derived from the leaves of a tree native to China, and has been shown to improve memory, cognition and focus in hundreds of published medical research studies.
A medical review published in the Psychopharmacology journal found ginkgo biloba supplementation to improve attention and cognitive performance in healthy, young adults.
Illuminate Labs sells a ginkgo biloba extract supplement which is standardized to the same potency as used in medical research, and which is third-party tested to ensure purity, potency and label accuracy. Interested consumers can check out ginkgo biloba extract at this link to its product page on our website.
Panax ginseng extract can be used to improve energy naturally, and doesn’t have the crash of traditional stimulants like caffeine. Panax ginseng has published clinical backing for its ability to reduce mental fatigue and reduce physical fatigue (1, 2).
Illuminate Labs sells a panax ginseng extract supplement which is standardized to the same potency as that in medical studies, and which is third-party tested to ensure purity, potency and label accuracy. Interested consumers can check out panax ginseng extract at this link to its product page on our website.
For consumers who dislike supplements and prefer a drink, we would recommend black coffee as a healthy option for increasing energy. Bulletproof Coffee is our top coffee brand due to its clean sourcing, relative affordability and lack of any unhealthy additives like flavoring ingredients.
Is Celsius Heat Healthy?
Celsius sells a different product line called Celsius Heat with a similar formulation to Celsius. We do not consider this product to be healthy either.
Celsius Heat has the same blend of vitamins and minerals that we recommend avoiding, as well as the same proprietary blend containing the ingredients caffeine, taurine and glucuronolactone that we recommend avoiding in combination. It also contains green tea extract.
The inactive ingredients that we find to be questionable from a health perspective are also included in this formulation: citric acid, natural flavor, sucralose.
The caffeine dose in Celsius Heat is 300 mg. This is equivalent to 3 cups of coffee, and we would recommend that consumers speak with a doctor prior to taking this high of a caffeine dose.
Overall, Celsius Heat is almost identical to regular Celsius but has a higher caffeine dose, so we consider it a less healthy option than regular Celsius and not worth the extra money.