There are a handful of “energy drinks in disguise” I’d recommend, but Mountain Dew’s Kickstart is not one of them. It’s certainly not the worst energy drink I’ve encountered, and I’m inspired to give it the full review deep dive because of its rising popularity. We’ll review WHO IT’S FOR (ingredient preferences and avoidances), WHAT’S IN IT (key and interesting ingredients), and WHEN TO CONSUME IT (caffeine and the 5 Levels of Fatigue). At that point, you can decide if this drink appeals to you.
The Energy Drink of the Month is Kickstart Energizing Watermelon.
Energizing Watermelon is one of the Kickstart Hydrating Boost flavors, along with Energizing Strawberry Kiwi. There’s also the Kickstart Recharge flavors such as Energizing Blueberry Pomegranate and Energizing Blood Orange.
There are noticeable and non-trivial differences between Kickstart Hydrating Boost and Kickstart Recharge. If you’re interested in these differences, come nerd out with me in the Kickstart Versus Kickstart post (read it here).
WHO IT’S FOR
Depending on which ingredients you’re trying to limit, this may or may not be for you. This product contains…
- 15 grams of Sugars, primarily from high fructose corn syrup and white grape juice concentrate (see Pet Peeve #2, below, for more on the white grape juice).
- Artificial sugars with the popular combo Ace-K (acesulfame potassium) and Sucralose.
- Artificial colors Red 40 and Yellow 6.
- Natural AND artificial flavors (see Pet Peeve #2 for more on the flavors).
- Juice content of 10% juice, from white grape juice and coconut water (see Pet Peeve #1 for more on coconut water).
- Four ingredients which are potentially “chemical-ly” and “scary-looking”, but DON’T PANIC — we’ll investigate these fully in the WHAT’S IN IT section:
- Sodium hexametaphosphate
- Potassium sorbate
- Glycerol ester of wood rosin
- Calcium disodium EDTA
WHAT’S IN IT
Pet Peeve #1 – “With Coconut Water”, but only kinda-sorta
The FDA DOES consider coconut water a juice. That said, there is more white grape juice in here than coconut water, so why even call it out? Presumably, Kickstart wants you to believe that a product labeled “Hydrating Boost” would have an ingredient famous for rivaling Gatorade in hydration. But drinking coconut water and drinking something that has a teeny bit of coconut water are not the same thing. That’s like expecting a blueberry muffin to have the same healthy benefits as eating straight blueberries.
Pet Peeve #2 – White Grape Juice: when plain sugar isn’t fancy enough
One of the first things I learned as a Food Technologist was about white grape juice’s euphemistic power: when you want to add sugar to a product without really adding “sugar” to a product, use white grape juice. Grape juice contains more sugar than any other type of fruit juice. It’s a nifty way to add sugar from a source that’s more consumer-friendly. SERIOUSLY, next time you’re at a grocery store, pick up a few juice products in the produce aisle and see how many times you can spot white grape or apple juice.
Pet Peeve #3 – Energizing Watermelon: no watermelons need apply
There ARE natural flavors in this product, and I’m assuming some part of those natural flavors bear some relation to the watermelon which gives this product its moniker. However, there is absolutely zero watermelon juice in Energizing Watermelon. After all that research I did on watermelon extract, I am crushed to find zero watermelon juice in this product. SIDE NOTE: If you’re looking for a real watermelon energy drink, might I suggest the previous Energy Drinks of the Month (CEO) or (WTRMLN WTR)?
PANERA KNOW-NO PROJECT FLASHBACKS
Three of the ingredients below were reviewed in great detail previously with my Panera KNOW-No Project. See the Panera KNOW-NO Project for a thorough review of the function, natural alternatives, and safety notes for all 101 ingredients on Panera’s No-No List.
Sodium hexametaphosphate – this ingredient is used to protect flavors, as it says so right on the label. This ingredient is widely accepted as safe in many countries. It has the additive number E452. In controlled studies, it was not carcinogenic in rats, nor did it cause any reproductive or developmental toxicity symptoms. When searching for credible information, I found a great explanation on IsItBadForYou.com. In short, their experts say it’s fine if you consume a little bit every now and then, but consuming it regularly can have some negative effects due to mineral imbalances. MODERATION IS KEY!
Potassium sorbate – this anti-microbial preservative prevents yeast and mold growth in sodas and other foods. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) rates this as safe. If the CSPI, who has a reputation for fear-mongering and chemophobia, rates this safe, you should definitely feel at ease. [See Panera KNOW-No Project Part IV]
Glycerol ester of wood rosin – this emulsifier is the healthier alternative to brominated vegetable oil (BVO). Glycerol ester of wood rosin comes from longleaf pine trees. Its main function is to keep citrus flavors from separating. This ingredient is considered safe, but a few people unfortunately confuse this ingredient with ester gum, or with gum rosin. These last two are definitely not the same thing, and do not have the same healthy, safe reputation as glycerol ester of wood rosin. [See Panera KNOW-No Project Part V]
Calcium sodium EDTA – this ingredient is a chelating agent. “Chelate” means “claw”, and EDTA acts like a claw to grab and trap heavy metals. EDTA is actually administered to people with heavy metal poisoning! In food EDTA is added to trap any metal impurities that may have rubbed off from the metal equipment during food manufacturing. Any metal impurities in the food would promote rancidity and breakdown of artificial colors, so EDTA prevents that. [See Panera KNOW-No Project Part IV]
WHEN TO CONSUME
Kickstart Hydrating Boost and Recharge beverages come with 68 milligrams of caffeine per 12-ounce can. This is less caffeine than the original Kickstart beverages [CaffeineInformer], less than a Red Bull 8 ounce can, and less caffeine than a “typical” cup of coffee (though there is NO SUCH THING since a cup of coffee may range from 90 mg to 180 mg caffeine).
The amount of caffeine in this product makes it a Fatigue Level 2. In other words, when you know that water is not enough, that you’re not tired due to dehydration, you’re at Fatigue Level 2. The point of the 5 Levels of Fatigue is to make sure you’re not reaching for the strongest caffeinated beverage every time, rather, matching the amount of caffeine you consume with your true Level of Fatigue. (For more on the 5 Levels of Fatigue, see the link to my book, below) That said, keep in mind that this drink is NOT to be an everyday beverage, due to the moderation required with sodium hexametaphosphate.
So what do you think, is this product for you? What product should I review next?
- Explore the CAFFEINE INFORMER database
- Need help quitting caffeine? I HIGHLY recommend this guide: Awake: How to Quit from Caffeine for Good
- Want MORE GreenEyedGuide?
- Get your copy of “Are You a Monster or a Rock Star: A Guide to Energy Drinks — How They Work, Why They Work, How to Use Them Safely”