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Best Functional Beverages For Van Life (Health & Well Being)

Best Functional Beverages For Van Life

Living the van life embodies freedom, adventure and simplicity, but maintaining health and well-being on the road presents unique challenges and opportunities. We’ve found the best functional beverages are the answer.

Van life for us is not just about exploring new landscapes but also about embracing a minimalist, intentional way of life that prioritizes health and wellness amidst ever-changing surroundings.

Staying active while on long drives, van lifers like us must adapt their health routines in creative ways – particularly when it comes to improving mental health on the road.

It’s important to have a balanced diet and regular exercise, despite living without the conveniences of a traditional home setup.

On our journey, we’ve uncovered some innovative solutions to keep feeling our best, and some more traditional ways too. Functional beverages have been one of the most important on our travels.

Functional Beverages: What Are They?

It’s a good place to start…by defining (for us at least) what a functional beverage actually is because it is a bit of “faddy” name for something not actually that specific.

In simple terms, it’s a drink that includes additional ingredients meant to provide specific health benefits beyond basic nutrition.

The benefits can range from increased energy and mental alertness to improved digestive health and immune system support.

Under the “functional beverages” niche, you’ll find things like energy drinks that are infused with caffeine and other stimulants, probiotic drinks with live bacteria to aid digestive health and enhance the gut microbiome and protein shakes for muscle repair and growth.

They can also be electrolyte drinks to supporting hydration and physical performance, vitamin-enhanced waters and other types of beverages.

Types of Functional Beverages

Choosing the right functional beverage depends on your individual health needs and lifestyle as there are many different options.

They are designed to provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition, often containing vitamins, minerals, herbs and other supplements and we’ve broken them down into the different types.

Energy Drinks


  • Boost Energy: Typically contain caffeine which can enhance alertness and performance.
  • Improve Mental Focus: Ingredients like taurine and B-vitamins may support brain function and concentration.


  • High Sugar Content: Many energy drinks are high in sugar, which can lead to weight gain and metabolic issues.
  • Overstimulation: Excessive caffeine can cause jitteriness, anxiety, heart palpitations, and disrupt sleep patterns.

Probiotic Drinks


  • Gut Health Support: Contains live bacteria which can enhance the gut microbiota, improving digestion and immune function.
  • Nutrient Absorption: May help in better absorption of nutrients from food.


  • Cost: Often more expensive than regular dairy products.
  • Limited Regulatory Oversight: Health claims are not always supported by robust scientific evidence.

Protein Shakes


  • Muscle Maintenance and Growth: High in protein, which is essential for muscle repair and growth.
  • Convenience: An easy and quick way to get a high amount of protein, especially post-workout.


  • Can Be High in Calories: Some shakes can be calorie-dense and may contribute to weight gain if not balanced with exercise.
  • Potential Digestive Issues: Some people may experience bloating or gastrointestinal discomfort, especially from shakes that contain lactose or artificial sweeteners.

Green Juices


  • High in Nutrients: Often made from a variety of vegetables and fruits, providing vitamins and antioxidants.
  • Support Detoxification: Ingredients like kale, spinach, and other greens promote detoxifying processes in the body.


  • Sugar Content: Some green juices can be high in sugars when fruits are added for flavor.
  • Expensive: Juicing requires a lot of produce, which can make these beverages pricey.

Electrolyte Drinks


  • Hydration: Help replenish electrolytes lost through sweat during exercise.
  • Support Athletic Performance: Can enhance endurance and recovery in athletes.


  • Added Sugars and Artificial Ingredients: Some electrolyte drinks contain high levels of sugars and artificial flavors.
  • May Not Be Necessary for Casual Exercise: Generally only needed for prolonged or high-intensity physical activities.

Best Functional Beverages For Van Lifers

Red Bull Energy Drink


  • Instant Energy Boost: Provides a quick surge of energy from caffeine and sugar, making it popular for both mental and physical stimulation.
  • Enhances Focus: Contains caffeine which can improve concentration and alertness.


  • High Sugar Content: Contains a significant amount of sugar, which can lead to crashes and potentially contribute to long-term health issues like diabetes.
  • Health Risks: Overconsumption can lead to caffeine overdose, which may cause heart palpitations, anxiety, and sleep disturbances.

Huel Ready-to-Drink Meal Replacement


  • Nutritionally Complete: Huel provides a balanced mix of carbohydrates, protein, fats, fiber, and all 27 essential vitamins and minerals, making it a comprehensive meal replacement.
  • Convenience: Ideal for busy lifestyles, offering a quick and easy meal solution that requires no preparation.
  • Vegan-Friendly: Completely plant-based, making it suitable for vegans and those looking to reduce their meat consumption.


  • Texture and Taste: Some users find the texture a bit grainy and the taste somewhat bland, which might not appeal to everyone.
  • Price: It is relatively more expensive than conventional meal options, reflecting its balanced nutritional profile.
  • Adaptation Period: New users might experience digestive adjustments like bloating or gas as they adapt to the high fiber content.

GT’s Organic Kombucha Gingerade


  • Gut Health: Contains live probiotics that can aid digestion and enhance the microbiome health.
  • Organic Ingredients: Made with organic tea and ginger, offering a natural approach to flavor and health benefits.


  • Varies in Consistency: Being a naturally fermented product, each batch can vary in taste and probiotic content.
  • Acquired Taste: The vinegar-like taste from fermentation may not be appealing to everyone.

Muscle Milk Genuine Protein Shake


  • High Protein Content: Packed with protein, which helps in muscle repair and growth, ideal for post-workout recovery.
  • Lactose-Free: Suitable for those with lactose intolerance or those avoiding dairy.


  • Caloric Density: Can be high in calories, which might not be ideal for those trying to lose weight.
  • Artificial Additives: Contains artificial flavors and sweeteners, which might be a concern for those seeking natural ingredient profiles.

Suja Organic Green Juice


  • Rich in Nutrients: Loaded with vitamins and minerals from organic greens and fruits.
  • No Added Sugars: Contains only natural sugars from fruits and vegetables, making it a healthier choice.


  • Expensive: The price point is high compared to other beverages, reflecting its organic ingredients and production methods.
  • Taste: The strong vegetable taste might not be enjoyable for everyone, especially those new to green juices.

Gatorade Thirst Quencher


  • Electrolyte Replenishment: Designed to quickly replace electrolytes lost during intense exercise.
  • Variety of Flavors: Available in many flavors, offering options for different palates.


  • High in Sugars: Contains a lot of sugars, which while helpful for athletes recovering from intense exercise, can be excessive for casual consumption.
  • Artificial Colors and Flavors: Includes artificial ingredients, which might be a concern for those preferring natural products.

Why are Functional Drinks so Popular with Van Lifers?

It isn’t always easy to get your five-a-day of fruit and veg when living the van life. If you’re cooking easy one pot campervan meals, or have limited hob rings, then you might not get your daily quota.

Equally, the same can be said about getting enough water and drinks to keep you hydrated if there is a shortage in your fresh water tank until you next get to fill up.

The functional beverage market is continuously innovating with new flavors and ingredients, attracting consumers interested in trying the latest in food and beverage trends.

This includes exotic flavors, superfoods, and organic or all-natural ingredients that appeal to health-conscious consumers, many of us in the van life community.

Functional beverages often contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other supplements that can help boost energy, enhance mental focus or improving digestion.

They are easy to consume anywhere and often save time compared to preparing a traditional meal or snack and that is why they have become so popular as a van life essential.

Benefits of Functional Drinks for Van Life?

As we briefly touched upon, functional beverages can significantly enhance the van life experience by providing nutritional support all while fitting into the mobile and often compact lifestyle of van living.

Van life requires maximizing limited living space, and functional beverages are a compact way to maintain nutrition without needing a lot of storage.

They replace bulky ingredients and supplements, freeing up precious space in a van.

Preparing balanced meals can also be challenging when living in a van, especially while on the move. These beverages provide a quick and easy way to get the benefits you need from a meal without having to cook.

Equally, energy drinks and waters can boost stamina and focus during long drives or after exercise, while probiotic drinks can be especially useful for maintaining gut health.

What Equipment Do You Need for Making Functional Beverages?

Making functional beverages at home is easier than in your van, simply because of the equipment you need. But don’t let put you off and thinking you can’t have them while on the road.

That equipment depending on the types of drinks you are thinking of having. We’ve detailed the types of things we have in the van to make the range we enjoy.

Blender & Juicer

Essential for smoothies and any drink requiring thorough mixing of solids and liquids. A high-powered blender is particularly useful for incorporating fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and ice.

A juicer, meanwhile, is ideal for making drinks from vegetables and fruits in your functional beverages. Cold-press juicers are excellent for preserving nutrients too.

Kettle or Hot Water Dispenser

Everyone (well 99% of us) has a kettle for making teas or hot drinks, such as those containing herbs. If you like a fruity or herbal tea, you should already have a way of making them.

Shaker Bottle

Handy for protein shakes or any powdered functional drink mixes, shaker bottles often come with a ball whisk to help thoroughly mix ingredients without clumping.

Measuring Cups & Spoons

Important for accurately measuring ingredients like powders, oils, or liquids to ensure the correct dosage and nutritional content.

Strainer or Nut Milk Bag

Useful if you’re making nut milks, herbal infusions, or need to strain out pulp from juices to achieve a smoother texture.

Fermentation Vessels

If you’re planning to make kombucha, kefir or other probiotic-rich fermented beverages, these should be food-grade and often need airtight seals to maintain the correct anaerobic environment.

pH Meter or Test Strips

Important for those making kombucha or similar beverages where pH levels need to be monitored for safety and optimal fermentation results.

Bottles & Storage Containers

You’ll need containers for storing your beverages if you are making them in batches for the next few days ahead.