I’ve been reviewing the Energy Drink of the Month for over two years now and each month I’ve appointed a product that beats the stereotype. For the first time, I am compelled by nerdy fascination to nominate something non-liquid for this award.

20150914_133457The Energy Drink (alternative) for the Month of September is EliteOps Energy Strips.

Thus far, only Fierce Arctic Mint flavored strips are available, but this product is brand-new! As of this review, the product is available online, in South Florida, and is scheduled to launch nationally in October 2015.

To truly appreciate this product, let’s review (1) The Brand and Its Values; (2) Who and what this is for and (3) What’s in it.

1 – The Brand and Its Values

Do you and the brand value the same things? Mintel research shows 70 percent of Americans consider a company’s ethics when purchasing products[1]. A company’s ethics are not always transparent, but knowing what a brand stands for is a good way to determine whether a product (especially a caffeinated one) is a good fit for you. EliteOps emphasizes four attributes of their strips:

  • Convenience: Thanks to its tiny size, you can take a strip anywhere.
  • Portability: These strips beat energy shots. While energy shots are more portable than energy drinks, their small size makes them more susceptible to misuse and subsequent caffeine over-consumption. [See “Caffeine and Volumetrics: 3 Traps to Avoid” – https://fitgurus.com/caffeine-and-volumetrics-3-traps-to-avoid/]
  • Effectiveness: Each strip includes 100 mg caffeine, which is more than one 8 oz can of Red Bull but only 2/3 the amount of caffeine in a Starbucks Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte. NOTE – caffeine absorption varies based on the medium (gum versus capsule versus beverage[2]), and carbonation can change how quickly caffeine gets absorbed through the stomach lining. Therefore, 100 mg caffeine absorbed through a strip may not feel exactly the same as 100 mg of caffeine consumed through a liquid beverage.
  • Flavor: This one is personal so I won’t bias anyone

20150914_133322These strips meet two additional criteria important to consumers:

  • Affordability: The current suggested retail price at $5.99 / box means each strip is only 75 cents! With 8 strips per box and 100 mg caffeine per strip, each box bears two days’ worth of caffeine for those who consume the absolute max considered safe for healthy adults (400mg).
  • Eco-friendly: Judging by the cardboard box and foil package, this product involves less waste than energy drinks and shots. Granted, this observation does not factor in how green the manufacturing process is, just the waste created by the final product package.

2 – Who and What This Is For

How is it different from an energy drink?

This product transcends the typical “eating occasion”. Most people need caffeine first thing in the morning, while some need it to get over the 3 pm hump; others need caffeine in the evening to get them through the night shift. Some energy drinks can irritate an empty stomach, the same way ingesting multivitamins on an empty stomach can make some people nauseous. These caffeinated strips are easily ingested at any time of the day, whether the stomach is full or empty. Another point for convenience.

Who is this for?

It would be a terrible idea to consume the whole box, 8 x 100 mg caffeine. In terms of Volumetrics and portion control, it’s ideal that each strip is individually wrapped. This packaging makes use of a concept Dr. Brian Wansink calls “pause points”. Pause points are moments which make consumers pause during eating, giving their brain time to recognize satiety. One common way to create a pause point is to separate a large container into several smaller containers (like 100 calorie packs)[3]. Dr. Wansink’s research indicates people consume bigger portions from bigger containers. Having each strip in its own sleeve instead of all nestled together in one pouch (like those Listerine breath strips) subliminally sends mental cues of portion control, helping the consumer keep track of how many servings they’ve had.

This product does contain artificial sweeteners and colors, so if that’s not your thing, for whatever reason, this is not the product for you. [For a conversation on natural vs artificial sweeteners and colors, see Panera KNOW-No List Part II and III].

driver safety drowsy driving caffeineHave you ever needed caffeine but didn’t want people around you to know you’re falling asleep? If so, this product is perfect. It’s so easy to pop a strip into your mouth and carry on. This product is also perfect for people who need a caffeine boost but don’t have time for a bathroom break. For example, these strips would be perfect for a long movie, flight or drive. NOTE – This product is not a replacement for road-trip snacks or gum since the strips dissolve quickly and it is strongly advised right on the package not to consume more than two strips (200mg total) in a 3-hour window.

3 – What’s in it?

Ingredient 101: The “Other Ingredients”

20150914_133348FIRST, let’s review the ingredients you may not be familiar with.

  • Hydrogenated soybean oil: Just like oil in your kitchen, in this case, this oil is the matrix or base for all the other ingredients
  • Glycerin (or Glycerol): A thickener 60% as sweet as sucrose (table sugar) that does not raise blood sugar or lead to dental carries. The Environmental Working Group (yes, the people behind “The Dirty Dozen” list) rates this ingredient as a low hazard.[4]
  • Propylene Glycol (PG): Sometimes dramatically referred to as anti-freeze but, in fact, pharmaceutical grade PG is recognized safe by the World Health Organization at 25 mg per kilogram of body weight. The US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) considers PG GRAS (generally recognized as safe) at levels even higher: 50 grams per kilogram body weight. PG breaks down quickly in the body (< 48 hours), and absorbs excess water in foods. It’s a solvent for food color and flavor (the same way water is a solvent for Kool-Aid powder). FUN FACT – while Fireball cinnamon whiskey made headlines for a PG mix-up, the Snopes article correctly points out you’d suffer from alcohol poisoning well before you got sick off the PG.[5]
  • Natural and Artificial flavor: See Panera KNOW-No Project Part 3
  • Hypromellose: Short for “hydroxypropylmethylcellulose” (HPMC), this is just a fancy, modified version of the cellulose you’d find naturally in celery and other plants. The modifications make this thickener a little better than plain cellulose in certain applications, like how olive oil is better for salads and canola oil is more heat-stable and better for frying. HPMC is approved for use in the European Union, the FDA, and the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). [6],[7]
  • Pullulan: A poorly digested polysaccharide naturally occurring in fungi and made from yeast; used for 20 years in Japan and is GRAS according to the FDA; Used as a matrix for edible flavored films. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) noted in their review that people would experience fullness before they experienced any toxicity symptoms (the most common being Gastrointestinal Distress with doses exceeding 10 grams per day). The EFSA assumed people would consume 24 edible films per day, and a strip comprised of 90% pullulan would mean 2.3 grams pullulan per day. Bottom Line: the amount an average consumer would ingest is far below the amount that causes even the mildest side-effect (a full tummy). [8]
  • Menthol: See Chemophobia Case Study
  • Polysorbate 80: See Chemophobia Case Study
  • Sucralose and Neotame: See Panera KNOW-No List Part 2
  • FD & C Blue #1: See Panera KNOW-No List Part 3

Evidence Based Formulation

  • Vitamin E – 20%: natural anti-oxidant which helps preserve color and flavor
  • Vitamin B6 – 100%:
    Excerpt from the Energy Drink Guide: “If niacin is the most popular kid in school then B6 is the second most popular. Niacin participates in at least 200 reactions; B6 participates in more than 100, almost all of them involving nitrogen-containing compounds (read nitrogen, think amino acids and proteins).
  • Vitamin B2 – 100%:
    Excerpt from the Energy Drink Guide: Riboflavin is a redox warrior. In the movie How to Train Your Dragon, wild dragons steal sheep from the local village and carry them to a massive cave where (spoiler alert) they drop the sheep in a hole to feed a gigantic dragon. Riboflavin is like the wild dragons but instead of stealing sheep it collects hydrogen atoms. Those hydrogen atoms get passed along not to a gigantic dragon but to a prominent energy-producing reaction called the Electron Transport Chain (or “ETC”). Where do these hydrogen atoms come from and why does ETC need them for energy?
  • Caffeine: 100 mg
    Puts this product at Level 2 in the Five Levels of Fatigue; In other words, this is one of the first things you can try if you have ruled out dehydration as a cause of fatigue.

BOTTOM LINE

If you’re at an all-day conference and you need a caffeine boost, throwing back an energy shot or cracking open an energy drink is an obvious signal to the speaker that he or she is boring you. Not all scientists are great public speakers, so if you don’t want to hurt their feelings, these strips will help you get your energy boost without hurting anyone’s feelings. Elite Ops Energy Strips offer portability, convenience, effectiveness, and a cool minty flavor. At $6 a box, these strips are affordable and worth a try!

REFERENCES:

Elite Ops Energy Strips Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EliteOpsEnergy/

[1] “84% of Americans Buy “free-from” Foods Because They Believe Them to Be More Natural or Less Processed.” 84% of Americans Buy “free-from” Foods Because They Believe Them to Be More Natural or Less Processed. http://www.mintel.com/press-centre/food-and-drink/84-of-americans-buy-free-from-foods-because-they-believe-them-to-be-more-natural-or-less-processed

[2] “Caffeine Absorption.” Caffeine Absorption. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 2015. http://www.caffeineinformer.com/caffeine-absorption

[3] Wansink, Brian. Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think. New York: Bantam, 2006. Print.

[4] “Propylene Glycol: The Good, the Bad, and the Alternatives.” NaturalNews. http://www.naturalnews.com/023138_propylene_glycol_products_natural.html

[5] “Fireball Whiskey Recall?” Snopes.com. http://www.snopes.com/food/warnings/fireball.asp

[6] Daniells, Stephen. “Whipping up a Better Cream: HPMC Shows Promise.” FoodNavigator.com. N.p., 14 May 2009. http://www.foodnavigator.com/Science/Whipping-up-a-better-cream-HPMC-shows-promise

[7] “FAQ – Food Science Matters.” Food Science Matters. http://www.foodsciencematters.com/faq/#cellulose

[8] “Opinion of the Scientific Panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids and Materials in Contact with Food on a Request from the Commission Related to Pullulan PI-20 for Use as a New Food Additive.” EFSA Journal 85 (2004): 1-32. Web. http://www.efsa.europa.eu/sites/default/files/scientific_output/files/main_documents/opinion_afc15_ej85_pullulan_en1,3.pdf ]

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