Energy Drink of the Month — December 2014

I am writing this in a car. Seriously. Remember when you were a kid and December meant a few weeks off school? Then you get a job and December means all your weekends are booked. Solid. Of course, your downtime and stress level vary by your religion, the size of your your family, the proximity of your home to your work, and other things. It is this crazy level of business that inspired my pick for this month.

The Energy Drink* of the Month for December 2014 is Mio Energy.

*Technically this is not an energy drink, nor is it a shot. Consuming this as-is would be a horrible idea, and is strongly discouraged. Small enough to fit into a purse or a large pocket, this is THE essential holiday tool to help you keep your energy level up through the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. This portability is why Mio wins December.
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5 Fast Facts About Mio Energy

ONE– Mio Energy is only a few ounces more then the most popular energy shot, but instead of 2 servings, you get almost 20. You’re supposed to add it to water, so if you’re smart about your squirts, you can make one Mio container last a whole month (which is exactly how long you’re advised to keep it once it’s been opened).

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TWO– Mio Energy features no ordinary caffeine warning label. Like other energy shots and drinks, Mio warns the consumer about using caffeine in moderation, and drops the novel idea of talking to a doctor if you’re pregnant. But then Mio goes one step further. I applaud Mio for specifying that the product is not to be combined with alcohol. Combining alcohol and caffeine is another awful idea, and it’s one of the reasons energy drinks get reported as more dangerous than they truly are (See the DAWN Report — Energy Drinks and the ER). It’s also interesting that the Mio warning label specifies “For Adult Use Only” because other energy companies have been accused of marketing to kids and teens. Mio is watching its back. It’s worth noting:

…the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a caffeine limit of 100 milligrams per day for adolescents…Canada’s caffeine recommendations are even more strict: the daily limit is 60 milligrams for 7-9 year olds and 85 milligrams for 10-12 year olds. Health Canada recommended 400 milligrams per day as the maximum dosage considered safe for ages 13 and up. — Excerpt from Are You a Monster or a Rock Star: A Guide to Energy Drinks — How They Work, Why They Work, How to Use Them Safely. (available here)

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THREE– Mio doesn’t exactly have a clean label, but what do you expect from something that’s the flavor of “Green Thunder”? Now don’t panic when you read the label. Don’t avoid any ingredients out of fear; get the FACTS first. In Mio Energy’s case, most of the ingredients are either vitamins or extracts associated with ergogenics. It takes a few ingredients to preserve this wonderful caffeine concoction, one or two to make it that gorgeous green color I love so much, and another one or two to keep the whole thing homogenous. Since caffeine, guarana and B-vitamins can taste bitter on their own, it also helps to have a few sweeteners in the mix.

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FOUR– Mio means “mine” in Italian and Spanish, and it’s precisely this customization that Mio was intended for. Mio represents innovation, from the name to the size to the method of launching the product. If you’re curious about the behind-the-scenes strategy, I highly recommend this article:

 

FIVE– Mio is simultaneously one of the safest and most dangerous energy product available. How is this possible? Consumer responsibility. As Caffeine Informer points out, Mio contains 60mg caffeine per 0.5 teaspoon (the recommended dosage), or 1,080mg caffeine per bottle. Some will say, “now who would be silly enough to try to consume the whole container at once?” And yet, I have asked myself that same question about those 20 oz energy drinks, and THERE ARE people who consume that in one sitting. Caffeine safety IS a matter of product design, but it is also a matter of personal responsibility.

Please enjoy. Responsibly. Happy Holidays!

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Mio Resources

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Energy Drink of the Month — Nov 2014: The NO Editition

This month I thought I’d switch it up and talk about the products I DON’T recommend. What they are and what they stand for bothers me. Some of the following products may be outdated, their formulas revamped or phased out entirely. Yet, my concern over these products is still valid as their wannabe’s still live among us.

4 Products That Put the “NO” in November

The Alcoholic Energy Drink

When you drink too much alcohol, your body has an automatic safety feature: you fall asleep. This is your body’s way of saying “Stop drinking, Doofus!” When you have caffeine with your alcohol, that safety feature doesn’t work anymore, and you can literally stay up and drink yourself to death. To make matters worse, when you do get rushed to the ER, people write stories about the Dangers of Energy Drinks (see “Energy Drinks and the ER”), and you ruin energy drinks for the rest of us. Don’t do that.

Not Cool Meme

The Green-Eyed Guide Solution — Have caffeine first

Look, I’m not an old lady yet but I’m usually ready for bed around 10 pm (and ready to wake up, without an alarm clock, by 7 am). If I’m going to enjoy the night with friends, I’m going to need some form of caffeine. If I’ll be drinking any alcohol at all, the caffeine needs to come first. Sticking to a 100 mg caffeine limit and consuming zero caffeine with or after the alcohol makes it easier to enjoy the buzz. Combining caffeine and alcohol either mutes the tingly feeling that you’re buzzed, or makes you go from zero to plastered without warning. Also, this combo poses a greater risk to everyone because it makes people wrongly assume that their reflexes are not impaired.

For a longer, more detailed and more colorful rant discussion on alcoholic energy drinks, check out the Energy Drink Guide.

The Caffeine-Loaded Pre-Workout Supplement

Caffeine may actually help someone get a more efficient workout, or muster up the energy to NOT skip the gym. However, too much caffeine before a strenuous workout may push the body too far, too fast. Think of how many times a super-set or a cardio-combo has left you winded. Caffeine can definitely make that worse. Caffeinated workout supplements are the THIRD Most Dangerous Caffeinated Product, according to Caffeine Informer.

Caffeine per bottle from all sources - 250mg. Glad they label it!

Caffeine per bottle from all sources – 250mg. Glad they label it!

The Green-Eyed Guide Solution — Know how much you’re lifting and consuming

You wouldn’t walk over to the weight rack and pick up any weight without checking the number on the side, would you? Probably not. So why would you do that with your workout supplement? Many caffeinated products nowadays list the amount of caffeine per serving. Even if they don’t, you can check the amount of caffeine in Caffeine Informer’s caffeinated workout supplement database – here. Just like with bicep curls, the answer to “How much is enough?” will vary from person to person. Keep in mind that a healthy, non-pregnant/nursing adult can have up to 400 mg caffeine per day. Try not to max out all in one shot.

The Dehydration-Hydration Combo, aka Caffeinated Coconut Water

I can’t stand the taste of coconut water — it reminds me of the first time I stood up on a surfboard and subsequently got a mouthful of ocean water. If you do like coconut water, don’t let me change that, just let me say that I don’t understand combining something that is known to be a (mild) diuretic, with something that’s supposed to enhance hydration.

20141112_211151The Green-Eyed Guide Solution — Pick one: coconuts or caffeine

If you’re someone that sweats profusely when you workout, coconut water can be a good substitute to the sugary sports nutrition drinks. However, many companies have taken advantage of the fad — beware of products containing a wee-bit of coconut water and just as much sugar as the more popular sports drinks. Also keep in mind that if you ARE dehydrated, (Fatigue Level 1), try hydrating yourself BEFORE you have any caffeine (save the caffeine for Fatigue Level 2 and above).

The Caffeine Toxicity Challenge

"Drink Half Bottle Only" -- So why not make the bottle half as big? #Liability!

“Drink Half Bottle Only” — So why not make the bottle half as big? #Liability!

If you’re you’re not pregnant, nursing, sensitive to caffeine, under 18, or Canadian (see #5 here), you can have up to 400mg caffeine per day. This number isn’t arbitrary, it comes from a carefully designed scientific study [See “Effects of Caffeine on Human Health“]. It’s up to the consumer to know their own limits and keep track of how much caffeine they’ve had in one day. That’s personal responsibility. HOWEVER, it irks me to no end when a company decides to provide a day’s worth of caffeine in one container. At this point, personal responsibility shifts from the person consuming that product to the person who said it was okay to put that much caffeine in one handy little bottle. “But we have clear instructions that say you should only consume half.”

Not Impressed

Here’s what I think about that.

The Green-Eyed Guide Solution — Learn how to find the caffeine on the label

Due to the political controversy involving energy drinks many companies are now including caffeine content on the label. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to learn how to find the caffeine on the label. If you want to learn how to read a label like a pro, check out this video, or use the “How To” section in your copy of the Energy Drink Guide. If all else fails, Caffeine Informer’s database lists the caffeine and sugar amounts of thousands of food, beverage and supplement products.

This info-graphic from Compound Interest helps put things in perspective. Disclaimer, this article is about the amounts consumed all at once. Nonetheless, it’s a great resource.

Bottom Line

Know your limits, know how to read a label, learn to love (and use) the 5 Levels of Fatigue, and you’ll be a living, breathing example that it’s possible to consume caffeine safely.

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Food Science in the News: The INFORMATION edition

Do you believe “information is power” or “ignorance is bliss”? In my opinion, it depends on whether we’re talking about accurate or misleading information. I bring you two news stories which both involve providing more information to the consumer, and let you decide whether this information helps you in any way.

 

Food Science in the News – Information is Power

Nutritional Outlook recently posted an article describing the results of a test on different Front of Pack label formats. The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation conducted a study in which they gave consumers four different packages, quizzed them on the nutrient amounts, and asked them which labeling system they preferred. Here were the options, excerpted from the Nutritional Outlook article (full article here):

“The study asked participants to look at four different packages, each featuring a nutrition facts panel as well as a unique FOP label:
1) a control version without any nutrition information on the FOP,
2) an FOP listing calories only,
3) an FOP listing calories plus nutrients to limit, and
4) an FOP listing calories, nutrients to limit, as well as nutrients to encourage.

After looking at these labels, participants were asked to identify the nutrient amounts and percent daily values per serving in each product, rate the ease at which they were able to answer those questions, and pick which product was the best choice nutritionally.”

*SPOILER ALERT* the fourth option won. The key here is not just providing the information, but also answering the question, “What am I supposed to do with this information?” Information is almost always useless without context.

Food Science in the News – Ignorance is Bliss

If you haven’t heard this story yet, give it time. This is just the type of story that mass media loves to jump all over — a new tool to help consumers with their food choices, combined with the right amount of fear-tactics.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG, not to be confused with Eric Will Gymnastics aka my second home) recently published a food database which contains a scoring system for nutrition, ingredients of concern, and degree of processing. Every product in the database has an overall score, which consumers can use to find “greener, healthier and cleaner food choices.” A database like this is a phenomenal tool with the potential to help consumers identify smarter choices for themselves and their families.

How “healthy” is this?

HOWEVER, anytime a database involves a rating system, it must also have specific criteria to remove the gray areas for assigning a one score or another. Case in point, how would you rate a vegetable smoothie that has 47g of sugar and contains ingredients with inherently high heavy metal counts (think seaweed) and pathogenic bacterial contamination (think leafy greens and E coli)? What metrics do you use to weight the severity of the “ingredients of concern”? Any ingredient also found in a yoga mat is obviously toxic, but what about salt? Sugar? Caffeine? For the degree of processing ranking, what about raw milk and the dangers associated with it’s lack of processing?

I urge you to read the short rebuttal to the EWG ratings system from the Grocery Manufacturers Association (available here). A few of their most crucial points are excerpted below:

“The Environmental Working Group’s food ratings are severely flawed and will only provide consumers with misinformation about the food and beverage products they trust and enjoy. The methodology employed by EWG to develop their new food ratings is void of the scientific rigor and objectivity that should be devoted to any effort to provide consumers with reliable nutrition and food safety information. Their ratings are based almost entirely on assumptions they made about the amount, value, and safety of ingredients in the products they rate. Adding insult to injury, EWG conducted no tests to confirm the validity of any of their assumptions. Not only will the EWG ratings provide consumers with inaccurate and misleading information, they will also falsely alarm and confuse consumers about their product choices. Embedded in the ratings are EWG’s extreme and scientifically unfounded views on everything from low-calorie sweeteners to the nutritional value of organic foods.”

 

BOTTOM LINE

Information can be empowering, when provided in the right context. Watch out for fear tactics and overly simplified assumptions as to what constitutes “healthy food.” As I tell myself every time I do a Risk Assessment for a new ingredient, CONSIDER THE SOURCE. Also, “keep an open mind, but not so open that your brain falls out.”

Related Posts and Links:

I Ate the Whole Thing – Food Label Renovation perspective

FACTS and Fear - how they influence consumer perception

The Dosage Makes the Difference – Lessons from the Father of Toxicology

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Energy Drink of the Month — October 2014

Food Scientists, Quality professionals and those in marketing (“Marketeers”) don’t always see eye to eye. As the Green-Eyed Guide, my goal is to challenge myself and others to expand perspectives, to try to see a situation from another’s eyes. Thus, for this month’s energy drink pick, I wanted to provide my interpretation of how three different professionals in the food industry would see the same product.

The Energy Drink of the Month for October 2014 is Rockstar Roasted with Almond Milk

Ever since my first exposure to energy drinks (back in 2003), I wanted others to see what I saw, wanted them to know the tips and tricks I know when it comes to reading labels and deciphering the contents of an energy drink. In place of my usual written review for the Energy Drink of the Month, I present this review:

Three-Point Perspective on Rockstar Roasted Energy Drinks with Almond Milk

Perspective Energy Drink Rockstar Roasted GreenEyedGuide

Caffeine in Rockstar Roasted – Caffeine Informer
Rockstar Energy Drink – main site

Five Levels of Fatigue –booklet on Ebay; excerpt from Are You a Monster or a Rock Star: A Guide to Energy Drinks — How They Work, Why They Work, How to Use Them Safely

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