When Does Coffee Become an Energy Drink? Science Behind Starbucks Doubleshot

As a biochemist who researches energy drinks, I get asked all the time why people need energy drinks and why people can’t just drink coffee instead. There’s no easy way to answer these questions, but it helps if we look at the products which blur the lines between “coffee” and “energy drink”. Read more

Uptime Energy, Bawls Guarana, Amp Energy Zero, and V8 + Energy: May Recap of Quick Reviews – Science of Energy Drinks

Here’s a recap of the quick reviews posted this month for the “Science of Energy Drinks” series on the GreenEyedGuide Instagram and Facebook pages: Uptime Energy, Bawls Guarana, Amp Energy Zero, and V8 + Energy.



uptime energy

Science Behind Uptime Energy drink: 3-Ingredients to Focus on:

⛾1-Angelica Root Ext (aka Danggui) is used for female reproductive disorders in Traditional Chinese Medicine. After 15 minutes on Pubmed & SciDirect I DON’T KNOW WHY it’s in here. (Dear science nerds, please help if you do).
⛾2-Bee Pollen has vitamins, polyphenols, and enzymes, and has shown health benefits in studies but ONLY WHEN USED IN GRAM AMOUNTS! This product’s whole “Power Base” combined is only 20% of a gram. [1 gram = weight of 1 paperclip].
⛾3-Caffeine is the only ingredient that (kind of) “produces energy” but this bugs me. (#stickler #rant #chemnerd) There’s 142 mg caffeine in here = ALMOST a Monster (160mg).

bawls guarana energy

LET’S TALK ABOUT GUARANA. BAWLS Ingredients include caffeine, HFCS, citric acid, sodium benzoate, natural AND artificial flavor, caramel color. No B-vitamins, taurine, carnitine, or other stereotypical energy drink ingredients.

CAFFEINE CONTENT: from guarana and pure caffeine; 100mg Caffeine per can from all sources, according to the CAFFEINE INFORMER database. That’s LESS caffeine than 12 oz Red Bull (114 mg). The limit for those under 18yrs old is 100mg.

GUARANA is a vine from the rainforest bearing orange-red fruit with black seeds. Caffeine is in the seeds. Multiple studies show guarana improves cognitive performance, mental fatigue, and mood, and it is supposed to boost fat metabolism by encouraging the body to burn fat instead of protein and carbs. HOWEVER, the same benefits are true of caffeine in general and caffeine from green tea in particular. So these benefits are not specific to guarana… and this product gives you 50g sugar per can.

amp energy


EDTA, Sodium benzoate, and Sodium hexametaphosphate: All 3 are in this drink. Does a canned drink need so much preservation?
1. EDTA: the ingredient statement says “to protect flavor”…from WHAT? From metal ions of the can, which can oxidize and degrade the natural+artificial flavor and the B-vitamins.
PURPOSE: Chelating agent, meaning it binds metal ions to limit their deleterious effects; EDTA stabilizes food color, aroma, texture, inhibits oxidation of fats, oils.
SAFETY NOTES: Some sources say EDTA “robs the body of nutrients” but EDTA is safe to consume **up to 3 grams per day **and AMOUNTS USED IN FOOD are in the milligram per kilogram or parts-per-million range. CPSI puts this in the “Safe” column.
***FUN FACT: EDTA is actually used to treat people with heavy metal poisoning because EDTA can grab the heavy metals and escort them out of the body.

PART 2 of Amp Preservative review: WHAT does Sodium benzoate do?
Sodium Benzoate: “preserves freshness”… but it’s not like this is a fresh ripe watermelon right? Well, this IS an acidic drink…
PURPOSE: Prevents growth of microorganisms like yeast and mold; used for preservation of sour food pH 4 and lower, often used with other preservatives especially at low pH (meaning acidic food).
SAFETY NOTES: Consumers can ingest up to 5mg per kg of body weight of benzoic acid and its salts
***FUN FACT: Benzoic acid occurs naturally in cranberries, prunes, plums, cinnamon, ripe cloves, and most berries. http://wp.me/p3SHzu-It

PART 3 of AMP preservative review: “Hexa-meta-huh?”
3. Sodium hexametaphosphate: “to protect flavor”… YOU’D THINK AMP’S FLAVOR IS LIKE GOLD with all this PROTECTION!!!
SAFETY NOTES: 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. 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!

v8 plus energy

Energy drinks are dangerous, right? V8 Energy, busting stereotypes since 2011! The caffeine in V8 Energy comes from green tea extract which provides a natural lift as well as the amino acid L-theanine which is believed to provide added focus. [CaffeineInformer.com]
🔹️L-theanine can reduce anxiety and blood pressure increases in high-stress individuals (ie people more susceptible to biological changes when stressed)
🔹️This can contains 80 mg caffeine (as much as Red Bull) BUT…
🔹️ the Academy of Pediatrics says people <18 can have UP TO 100 mg caffeine per day.
🔹️With 34% juice, only 11 grams of sugar, and caffeine from green tea extract, this is one of the BEST healthy alternatives!
🔹️See V8 Energy Drink of the Month http://bit.ly/2p5yykZ

Let’s connect!

US vs Canada Caffeine Limits for Kids: Book Excerpt of the Week 

Why is it a 15 year old in the US can only have 100 milligrams of caffeine a day, while a 15 year old in Canada can have 400 milligrams? For the book excerpt of the week, we consider the difference in caffeine limit recommendations from US and Canada. 

You may need these guidelines if the US presidential race has prompted you to consider moving to Canada. Regardless, it’s interesting to consider Canada’s approach to caffeine safety for kids. 

For more on caffeine regulations and the rest of the conversation on the ABCs of Caffeine Safety, 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”, available wherever books are sold.

Stay tuned for more book excerpts!

Energy Drink of the Month — December 2014: Mio Energy

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 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.

5 Fast Facts About Mio Energy

ONE— Mio Energy is only a few ounces more than 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).


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)


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.


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 products 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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