Energy Drinks and Figure Bodybuilding Training – Part One

My heart was pounding. I was out of breath, but I felt exhilarated. Something inside me was ready to explode with power, like an ocean wave the second before it crashes.

For me, energy drinks and bodybuilding have a lot in common. I’m not talking about the use of caffeine for a workout. To me, it’s much more than that: I’m a biochemist who studies energy drinks and trains for bodybuilding competitions.

One fine day in the gym I had just finished my warm-up when it happened. My competitive drive collided with the realization that my next bodybuilding competition was only 7 weeks away. Like a rubber band being pulled to the limit or the moment of transition after “for meeeeee” in “Bohemian Rhapsody”, I knew I was about to unleash considerable power. I always have caffeine before my workouts, but this energy surge was something new. I turned my music up two notches, took a deep breath, then launched into my set.

[Internal energy = potential energy + kinetic energy = Yay for Laws of Thermodynamics!]

I was doing a long jump/sideways medicine ball throw circuit. I honestly can’t remember the last time my legs have jumped that far and that fast. At one point my legs were springing from one jump to the next so fast, I thought I’d fall on my face. But I kept pushing forward. During the sideways med ball throws I felt I could have punched a hole in the wall, so I used the metal post of the multi-station instead. This surge of energy stayed with me through my entire workout. I hit a new max for deadlifts and didn’t feel tired like I normally do after plyo-pushups.

 

Red Bull Super Power Figure Prep
Caffeine meets Figure Prep: GreenEyedGuide on Instagram

 

For me, hitting a new max in the gym and discovering a new level of strength is very similar to finding a new energy drink. In both scenarios, I feel like I’m acquiring superpowers and the confidence that comes from knowing I can do things that were previously impossible.

I remember the first few times I tried Monster for all-nighters in college: I felt calm and focused despite the fact I was memorizing metabolic biochemical pathways at 3 a.m. I also remember my left bicep would tingle sometimes – not all the time, and not consistently, just like an eye twitch (which I also got when I was stressed: correlation is not causation).

In the gym, a foundation of strength is a prerequisite to the exhilarating energy surge like the one I described above. With energy drinks, the prerequisite is trust in the brand and knowledge of the ingredients. If it’s a brand I know and trust, the science nerd in me gets excited before the caffeine enters my system. When I first laid eyes on Red Bull Purple and Lime sugar-free Editions, I was so excited I literally jumped up and down in the grocery store.

When it’s a new energy drink from a brand I don’t know, or when I don’t understand the logic behind the ingredients, that’s a different story. We’ll save that for Part Two.

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All the Energy at Expo West 2017 – a recap in pictures

Expo West is one of my favorite shows because there’s always a plethora of new caffeinated products and health beverages to sample. Enjoy the highlight reel below, and stay tuned to GreenEyedGuide as we review these products in further detail in the coming months.

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Review the entire ENERGY DRINK OF THE MONTH SERIES

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Energy Drink of the Month — Sept 2016: Six Star Pre-Workout Explosion

Are you setting new resolutions for a new school year, trying to get used to a new schedule, or just trying to get in shape before the holiday season? This month’s pick is dedicated to September, and all the changes it brings.

edm-sept-16-highlights-v2

The Energy Drink of the Month for September 2016 is Six Star Pre-Workout Explosion.

One serving is one scoop of powder, delivering 135 milligrams (mg) of caffeine. Though this is a dry powder and not a Ready-To-Drink (RTD), we’ll review the Who, What, and When as we do for every Energy Drink of the Month.

 

Who is this for? Target Audience

As it says right on the label, Six Star Pre-workout Explosion is for active men and women, bodybuilders, and strength athletes. But to find out if this product is worth a try, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you workout for more than 20 minutes? Does your workout exceed the intensity where you find it hard to talk normally / find yourself out of breath?
  • Are you more concerned about limiting sugar and calories than avoiding artificial colors and sweeteners?
  • How much caffeine can you handle?

What is in it? Ingredients and Function

The key ingredients in this product include caffeine (duh), beta-alanine, arginine and citrulline, creatine, vitamin C, and vitamin B3 (niacin).

Caffeine is a stimulant, but it also has been shown to increase muscle endurance and athletic performance in reliable scientific studies. Have you seen my YouTube presentation, Caffeine in Workout Supplements and the 5 Levels of Fatigue yet?

Arginine and citrulline are ingredients we’ve reviewed in depth during for the Ingredient Focus series. In general, citrulline and arginine help the body remove biochemical waste, and they help improve blood flow. For more detail, see the Ingredient Focus three-part series on citrulline: What It Is, What It Does, Dosage and Side Effects.

Creatine and beta-alanine are both ingredients intended to help build muscle and increase muscle strength. In both cases, total doses of 3-6 grams per day are needed on a regular basis to have an effect. Beta-alanine has some fascinating studies behind it (nerd alert!), especially since one brand (CarnoSyn) owns the market and has been responsibly proactive about proving this ingredient’s benefits. In general, beta-alanine is claimed to increase muscle strength and power output. However, the specifics on how much one really needs and how exactly this ingredient works is worth further investigation. Beta-alanine will be our Ingredient Focus pick for this month, so stay tuned for that!

Niacin is like the person everyone wants at their party. Did you know that niacin participates in over 200 reactions in the body – most of them used to produce ATP (the chemical form of energy)? Did you know that niacin deficiency symptoms include the three Ds: dementia, diarrhea, and dermatitis? Niacin is one of my favorite vitamins to talk about, especially since it disproves the idea you can never have too much of a water-soluble vitamin. It’s a popular vitamin in energy drinks, and yet with a 35 mg dosage, some people experience “niacin flush”.

If you’re a nerd like me and you want to learn more about what niacin does and why its story of discovery and application is so interesting, check out my book “Are You a Monster or a Rock Star: A Guide to Energy Drinks – How They Work, Why They Work, How to Use Them Safely”

 

When to take it? 5 Levels of Fatigue

During grad school, when I was doing research on energy drinks and their ingredients, I developed the 5 Levels of Fatigue. This system is designed to match the type and potency of caffeinated beverage with one’s true level of fatigue. In short, if you always reach for the strong stuff when you’re bored (not tired), it won’t work when you really truly need it.

This product contains 135 mg caffeine per serving, but the label of this product encourages people to have TWO servings! While the EFSA has ruled that up to 200 mg caffeine is safe to consume in one occasion, TWO servings would be 270 mg caffeine. That’s more than a whole can of Rockstar, more than the EFSA recommends consuming in one sitting, and more than half the safe daily max of 400 mg caffeine per day. According to the 5 Levels of Fatigue, this product is Fatigue Level 4. In short, this Pre-Workout Explosion may be too powerful for some people (and there’s no shame in that!).

While the EFSA has ruled that up to 200 mg caffeine is safe to consume in one occasion, TWO servings would be 270 mg caffeine. That’s more than a whole can of Rockstar, more than the EFSA recommends consuming in one sitting, and more than half the safe daily max of 400 mg caffeine per day.

 

Bottom Line

There’s a good reason Caffeine Informer considers pre-workout supplements one of the 8 Most Dangerous Caffeinated Products.  This is a large dose of caffeine per serving — not larger than what is considered safe in one sitting, but large enough to warrant careful consumption by the user.

I’ve been using this product as my pre-workout for about one month (*individual results may vary*) and I have found I don’t need any other source of caffeine the rest of the day. What helps most is that I add one (non-heaping) scoop to a 20 oz water bottle, and it takes me the full 90 minutes of my morning workout to get through the whole drink. Moderation and pacing are critical to consuming caffeine safely and effectively.

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ENERGY DRINK OF THE MONTH YEAR IN REVIEW (YEAR 1 AND YEAR 2…year 3 coming soon…)

Explore the CAFFEINE INFORMER database

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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”

Energy Drink of the Month – June 2016: WTRMLN WTR

What’s going on? Why is WTRMLN WTR on an energy drink blog? Because dehydration causes fatigue, and the solution (pun intended) for Level 1 of the Five Levels of Fatigue is water. With summer in full swing, it’s the perfect time to review the ingredients, hydration power, and food science behind this watermelon hydration drink.

The Energy Drink of the Month for June 2016 is WTRMLN WTR.

GreenEyedGuide.com Energy Drink of the Month for June 2016 is WTRMLN WTR.
GreenEyedGuide.com Energy Drink of the Month for June 2016 is WTRMLN WTR.

Yes, this is literally the water from a watermelon, not water that’s been enhanced with fruit juice extracts or add-ins. Food Waste is a growing concern among food scientists (and consumers!) so I was overjoyed when I learned that this product is made from watermelons that would otherwise be discarded. Read More: http://wtrmlnwtr.com/story

Ingredients

WTRMLN WTR Nutrition Facts and Ingredients - GreenEyedGuide Energy Drink of the Month June 2016
WTRMLN WTR Nutrition Facts and Ingredients – GreenEyedGuide Energy Drink of the Month June 2016

This drink is a little bit sneaky with its serving size. One bottle is actually one AND A HALF servings, and the Fact Panel pretends you’re only going to drink two-thirds of the container (8 of 12 ounces). This is a pet peeve of mine, but the new FDA food labeling regulations should resolve this.

One reason this serving size decision bothers me is that the label compares the sugar and electrolyte content of WTRMLN WTR, orange juice, and coconut juice. These comparisons are “per serving”, but that is not helpful because the serving size is arbitrary. If you Googled “what is one serving of fruit juice”, you’d find the American Heart Association explain that one serving of fruit is one whole medium-sized fruit or one-half cup (4 ounces!) of fruit juice. And yet one whole 12 oz bottle of orange juice can also be labeled one serving.

With this inconsistency, it’s better to compare the nutrients per ounce than per serving.

WTRMLN WTR vs Gatorade vs Vita Cocoa vs Tropicana Orange Juice
Nutrient comparisons per ounce, not by serving size — Gatorade vs VitaCocoa vs Tropicana Orange Juice vs WTRMLN WTR

Hydration Power

WTRMLN WTR label GreenEyedGuide Energy Drink of the Month June 2016
WTRMLN WTR lays out the people and situations this product is suited for…

The ideal hydration beverage has 6-8% carbohydrates, according to the research review article, “The effectiveness of commercially available sports drinks.” In the table above, Gatorade falls in that ideal range – shocker – but so does WTRMLN WTR. When are these hydration beverages most effective? According to this same research review article:

  • Consumption during short duration high-intensity exercise may enhance performance
  • Consumption during prolonged intermittent exercise can improve performance
  • Consumption during prolonged exercise (meaning 1-4 hours) may enhance performance

For more interesting hydration comparisons, see the “Guide to Hydration Beverages” I wrote for The Scientific Parent

Food Science – What is Citrulline?

WTRMLN WTR What is Citrulline - GreenEyedGuide Energy Drink of the Month
Did you notice the “bedroom” claim on the label? Citrulline has some pretty interesting use cases involving the Urea Cycle, Nitric Oxide Metabolism, and muscle fatigue!

The more I read about citrulline, the more I wanted to learn about it. A “deep dive” on this ingredient is forthcoming later this month, but here are some key facts you should know.

  1. Citrulline is also known as watermelon extract.
  2. Citrulline gets its name from watermelon – watermelon’s Latin botanical name is Citrullus vulgaris.
  3. One average watermelon contains 2.1mg citrulline per gram
  4. In the sports supplement world, people take citrulline (as L-citrulline or citrulline malate) to increase the levels of amino acid arginine in the body
  5. The kidneys turn citrulline into arginine, which is supposed to delay muscular fatigue [Bodybuilding.com’s Complete 2016 Supplement Guide rates this ingredient/function claim as “Great: Inconclusive findings but anecdotal evidence is favorable and the ingredient is considered safe for use”

Comparisons and Conclusions

How does this drink hold up to plain old water? Well, it’s certainly tastier, and potentially more expensive. If you’re one of those people that have a hard time drinking enough water throughout the day, this product could be one way to drink more.

How does this drink hold up to orange juice? Comparing ounce-per-ounce instead of tripping over serving sizes, WTRMLN WTR has fewer calories and fewer grams of sugar. It also has less Vitamin C.

How does this drink hold up to other watermelon beverages we’ve reviewed at GreenEyedGuide? Well, WTRMLN WTR is not caffeinated, so if you’re one of those people who need help getting up for your 5 am workouts, WTRMLN WTR may not be the best pre-workout drink.

My initials are DR but I’m not a doctor, so take my insight with a grain of salt and take all caffeinated beverages with a tall glass of water.

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ENERGY DRINK OF THE MONTH YEAR IN REVIEW (YEAR 1 AND YEAR 2)

Explore the CAFFEINE INFORMER database

Visit the Energy Drink Guide Facebook page (Woo-hoo!!! 100 Likes!)
Follow the GreenEyedGuide on Twitter
Follow GreenEyedGuide-the-NPC-Figure-Athlete on Instagram and Tumblr

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”