When it comes to food, I’m not a fan of the term “clean energy”. I get what this term is trying to convey, but as a food scientist, the term makes me laugh inside. Same thing with the concept of a “zero-calorie energy drink” (because a calorie is a measurement of energy). “Food Science v Marketing” rant over, let me tell you about a new source of “clean energy”.

The Energy Drink for the Month of February is Runa Clean Energy.

Energy Drink of the Month GreenEyedGuide Runa
Energy Drink of the Month — February 2015

The Berry flavor is my favorite (shocker, if you’ve been following my other monthly picks). I prefer not to drink my calories, but I much prefer the sweetness of the Berry flavor than the zero-calorie version. I tried the “Original Zero with a hint of lime” and, my word, it has an interesting flavor profile. It starts with a carbonated zing akin to citric acid, then the hint of lime shows up, followed by some earthly botanical notes that are reminiscent of iced tea but slightly different, and not unpleasant. The berry flavor is much more my style – short, sweet, and subtly strong.

5 Reasons to Recharge with Runa Clean Energy

ONE — Alternative Energy

Ever heard of guayusa? Pronounced “gwhy-you-sa”, this plant is the Amazonian cousin of yerba mate. While the leaves of guayusa are brewed like tea leaves, the lack of tannins means less of the bitter, astringent taste that’s characteristic of green, black and white teas.

This new source of caffeine has two benefits: First of all, yerba mate and guarana have developed negative connotations due to their use in energy drinks (and the controversy surrounding them). If you want to avoid the bitter taste of tea and the “save-your-liver” lectures from those who believe all energy drinks are bad for you, this new source of caffeine is your answer. The second benefit to guayusa is that because it’s novel, there are less people trying to source it and thus, more of it to go around. When demand of ginkgo biloba started to skyrocket, so did the cases of economic adulteration. Not enough supply to meet demand? Someone’s going to start providing knock-offs to reap those unmet sales requests. Finding new sources of America’s favorite drug (caffeine), means there’s less chance of depleting natural resources.

TWO — Caffeine with a Cause

I love energy drinks with a good story. There are some energy drinks that donate proceeds of each sale to charity, and then there are those who give back in other ways. Runa is fair-trade certified, and supports the small farmers and local communities to build a sustainable supply chain. To learn more about the Runa Foundation, see below.

Runa Foundation
http://www.fundacionruna.org/our-work.html

THREE — Guayusa Your Way

A big part of consuming caffeine safely is about slowing your rate of consumption. In the Energy Drink Guide, Mr. Swift and Mr. Thrift demonstrate that nursing your caffeine instead of chugging it makes the effects of caffeine last longer, and helps mitigate an energy crash. While Runa Clean Energy comes in an 8.4 ounce can, there’s also a bottled version. If you’re trying to wean your caffeine intake, you can take a sip, reseal the bottle, and try to make one serving last a whole day (or two). Note – the glass bottles show a bit of particulate at the bottom so if you’re a “no-pulp” person like me, the cans might be a better option. You could also get fancy with your brewing and try the pyramid infusers or looseleaf tins, or just go the traditional route and get a box of tea bags.

Runa Clean Energy and Other Guayusa Produts
The Runa Family – http://runa.org/products/#Products

FOUR — Polyphenols (antioxidants), Amino Acids, and Liquid Courage

While isolated antioxidants have failed to show the same health benefits in the human body as they do in a test tube, there’s plenty of credible evidence on the health benefits of drinking green tea. Guayusa contains twice the antioxidants of green tea, according to the Runa website. The “super-leaf” also contains essential amino acids (though the energy drink itself contains zero grams of protein). If none of that encourages you to try Runa Clean Energy, perhaps this will: traditional use of guayusa includes consumption before nighttime hunting trips, as the guayusa gave the hunters mental strength, courage and focus. Who doesn’t want more of that?

FIVE — 5 Levels of Fatigue = Level 3.99

Knowing your Level of Fatigue will help you find the right energy drink for your situation. Always reaching for the same caffeine concoction is a good way to build a tolerance or habitual craving. Furthermore, you can mitigate caffeine over-consumption by NOT reaching for caffeine when you are tired due to dehydration, or when you’re so tired that only sleep will save you. This is the 5 Levels of Fatigue system, and each level matches a specific set of recommendations.

Caffeine Informer Runa Clean Energy
If this is too much caffeine for you, the bottled versions have less caffeine and can be re-sealed and saved for later.

Runa Clean Energy provides more caffeine than the most popular energy drink of this size. If 80 milligrams of caffeine isn’t enough for you, or if you want something that tastes a little more like tea and less like over-sweetened juice, Runa Clean Energy is a good option. However, it is on the very cusp of Level 3. Caffeine contents greater than 120 milligrams per serving are considered Level 4, but the lack of carbonation is the reason Runa Clean Energy is still on the high end of Level 3. Carbonation irritates the stomach lining slightly, allowing caffeine to get absorbed that much quicker. You’ll want to save those Level 4 drinks for energy emergencies like all-nighters, swing shifts, and long road trips.

Bottom Line

Runa Clean Energy is not the energy drink you should reach for when you are bored or dehydrated. With 120 milligrams of caffeine per serving, it is best saved for those Monday mornings when you would give up $100 if it meant sleeping one more hour. It’s no coincidence Runa means “fully alive”. Runa Clean Energy is an energy drink you can feel good about drinking, not just because it’s rich in antioxidants, but because the makers of Runa are actively supporting the guayusa farmers to ensure fair-trade and sustainable growth. Finally, when someone inquires about that beverage you’re drinking with the healthy looking leaf on the can, you’ll get encouraging nods (or blank stares) instead of concerned frowns when you respond, “It’s ‘gwhy-you-sa’ “.

— Green-Eyed Guide

References and Related Reading:

Caffeine Informer on Runa Clean Energy

National Geographic: “Ecuador’s ‘Superleaf’ Tea: Could it Replace Your Afternoon Coffee?”

Runa Main Site and Runa Facebook Page

Caffeine Safe Limits: Determine Your Safe Daily Dose

5 Most Shocking Risk Assessments (***including ginkgo biloba***)

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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