Energy Drink of the Month – May 2017: Zevia Zero Calorie Energy

Sometimes we just want life to be simple. In high school, life was not simple, but at least my schedule was predictable. Each hour was dedicated to a specific subject; a chiming bell was enough to break my To Do list into neat little blocks of time. With graduation season upon us, many will leave their predictable schedules and somewhat-organized world for the unpredictable chaos that comes with adulthood. As a tribute to that unavoidable complexity, this month we review (yet another) energy drink with clean, simple ingredients. If you’re familiar with my mission on, you know I love nothing more than busting the energy drink stereotype.

This month’s pick is another “energy drink in disguise” that doesn’t fit the water, juice, tea, or soda category. With 120 milligrams of caffeine per can, it’s undeniably an energy drink but also undoubtedly not “a deadly concoction of caffeine and sugar”.  

The Energy Drink of the Month for May 2017 is Zevia Zero Calorie Energy.  

Zevia’s new energy drink line

At the time of this post, there were four flavors available: Grapefruit, Kola, Mango/Ginger, and Raspberry/Lime. They all have 120 milligrams of caffeine per can, zero Calories, zero grams of sugar, zero vitamins, zero preservatives (not counting the acids), and nearly identical ingredient lists. As you might’ve guessed from our other Energy Drink of the Month winners, I’m a berry person, so my favorite is Raspberry/Lime.

Zevia energy facts panels

Key Ingredients 

Carbonated Water

We’ve talked about carbonation many times before, so here’s some refreshing (pun!) insight from Popular Science’s article on why humans like fizzy drinks

“Chemically, adding CO2 to water creates carbonic acid, which is tasted by sour-sensing taste cells. Research has suggested that a certain enzyme, carbonic anhydrase, sits on those cells and reacts with the acid to cause carbonated water’s familiar popping sensation. (Fun fact: climbers who take altitude-sickness drugs that block the enzyme, then drink champagne, report the bubbly as having a dishwater-y taste.”

Citric Acid and Tartaric Acid

The Kola flavored Zevia Zero Calorie Energy has tartaric acid and citric acid, whereas the other three just have citric acid. This excellent infographic from our friends at Compound Interest explains the science behind these two popular acids.


Compound Interest Acids


Stevia Leaf Extract

Finding a high-quality stevia extract is no simple task. Oh sure, we know what molecule is responsible for the sweetness, but isolating that molecule and delivering it is far more complicated than producing table sugar. Sugar is sugar is sugar, right? But water doesn’t always taste the same, even if it’s just water. The same goes for Stevia. In fact, tasting Stevia samples was one of the tasks I dreaded most while I worked as a product developer for a major supplement company. One bad sample, and you’d be experiencing a bitter metallic aftertaste the rest of the day (or week: See “A Food Science Horror Story”).

It turns out that some people are Stevia Super Tasters so they will get a bitter metallic aftertaste with Stevia when many others would taste only sweetness. This bitter metallic aftertaste is why stevia is often paired with another natural sweetener, erythritol.

Caffeine Comparison 

The top three best-selling energy drink brands are Red Bull (80 mg caffeine per 8 oz can; 114 mg caffeine per 12 oz can), Monster Energy (160 mg caffeine per 16 oz can), and Rockstar Energy (240 mg caffeine per can, most flavors). Since Zevia Zero Calorie Energy is an “energy drink in disguise” that breaks the energy drink stereotype, it makes more sense to compare its caffeine content to similar products, other healthy alternatives.  Below are the caffeine contents listed in the Caffeine Informer database:

When to Consume = Fatigue Level 3 

When it comes to caffeine content, 200 and 400 are special numbers. Quoting from the “Scientific Opinion on the safety of caffeine” from the European Food Safety Authority:

“Following a request from the European Commission, the EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies was asked to deliver a scientific opinion on the safety of caffeine, providing advice on caffeine intakes, from all dietary sources that do not give rise to concerns about adverse health effects for the general healthy population and subgroups thereof. Possible interactions between caffeine and other constituents of so-called “energy drinks”, alcohol, p-synephrine and physical exercise should also be addressed. Single doses of caffeine up to 200 mg (about 3 mg/kg bw for a 70-kg adult) do not give rise to safety concerns. The same amount does not give rise to safety concerns when consumed < 2 hours prior to intense physical exercise under normal environmental conditions. … Habitual caffeine consumption up to 400 mg per day does not give rise to safety concerns for non-pregnant adults…” 

The 5 Levels of Fatigue is a system I developed during my years of researching energy drinks. The 5 Levels of Fatigue helps people find the product most appropriate for how tired they are, thus minimizing caffeine dependence, toxicity, and tolerance. Anything with more than 200 milligrams caffeine should be saved for more dire energy emergencies like Fatigue Level 4. A product with 100-200 mg caffeine belongs with Fatigue Level 3. Since this product has 125 milligrams of caffeine per can, this product fits Fatigue Level 3. It is a carbonated product, which usually means the caffeine would feel stronger than a non-carbonated equivalent like the caffeinated (still) water from Avitae due to carbonation’s effects on the stomach.

Bottom Line 

If you are looking for a strong, sugar-free, artificial-free carbonated energy drink Zevia is a great option. You don’t have to fret about “the dangerous of energy drinks” with this product. Zevia Zero Calorie Energy is simple. Life is complex enough.



Let’s connect!

GreenEyedGuide Caffeine Challenge Day 6/10 – Fatigue Level 4

For Day 6 of the GreenEyedGuide Caffeine Challenge we talk about FATIGUE LEVEL 4 (out of 5) aka ENERGY EMERGENCIES! What happens when you reach Fatigue Level 4 and what kinds of energy drinks/caffeinated beverages should you use?

***PLAY ALONG – show me your FAVORITE FATIGUE LEVEL 4 drinks on Instagram/ Facebook/Twitter and tag @GreenEyedGuide, or add your pictures to the Caffeine Challenge Event page at

Through this challenge, you’ll learn how to use the 5 Levels of Fatigue to reap the benefits of caffeine while avoiding addiction, dependence, tolerance, and toxicity.

Support GreenEyedGuide on Patreon at

Love energy drinks/coffee/caffeine? Visit

Love Fitness + Caffeine? Visit

Energy Drink of the Month — June 2014: Neuro Sonic

You know you’re in trouble when you wake up tired. You might’ve slept 6 hours but your alarm goes off and you feel exhausted. This is Fatigue Level 3, and June’s Energy Drink of the Month is dedicated to situations like these.

The Energy Drink of the Month for June 2014 is neuro® SONIC™.

energy drink of the month neuro
Energy Drink of the Month – June 2014

It’s one of those mornings that you hit snooze three times before you finally got up. You’ve been awake (technically) for an hour but you still feel like you’re dragging. At this level, a cup of tea isn’t going to do it. You’re not about to run a marathon or pull an all-nighter or work a vampire shift behind the bar, but you do have a full day ahead of you and you need to gear up for it.

– Excerpt from Are You a Monster or a Rock Star: A Guide to Energy Drinks.


Sometimes I need an energy drink that’s going to take me from I-have-to-look-at-videos-of-baby-huskies-to-get-me-through-the-day to I-want-to-drive-85mph-on-the-freeway-singing-“We’ve-all-got-the-spark”.

So why pick Neuro? 

3 Levels and 3 Reasons

1-Closure, Carbonation and Caffeine

When you wake up tired, it’s not easy to tell the difference between I’m-just-not-awake-yet, and I’m-so-tired-my-whole-body-hurts. If you always reach for the strongest source of caffeine, there’s a chance you’ll overcompensate and overconsume caffeine. You should always save the big doses and high-powered energy kicks for the most desperate energy deficiencies.

encouraging road signsSONIC’s uniquely shaped bottle features a twist-off cap, which makes it extraordinarily easy to moderate your intake. Take a sip here and there and you may find you don’t need the whole bottle to get you back on your feet. Feeling the fizz of the carbonation often helps the Placebo Effect, plus carbonation slightly irritates the stomach lining and makes it easier for caffeine molecules to be absorbed.

caffeine informer neuro
Caffeine Informer Database

Finally, the amount of caffeine in SONIC is perfect for those tough mornings. With 100 milligrams of caffeine, carbonation, and no fruit juice (except for color purposes), this is suitable for Fatigue Level 3. This drink is stronger than an 8oz can of Red Bull but doesn’t give you as much caffeine as a 16oz Monster or Rockstar — save those higher levels of caffeine for Fatigue Level 4!

2-Special Ingredients

In my line of work I’ve had the chance to review a plethora of special ingredients; ingredients that are added to a product because of a specific benefit linked to the consumption. Two such ingredients that stand out on the neuro® label are L-TeaActive and choline.
I first discovered the brain-boosting benefits of choline thanks to another energy drink. I’m not entirely sold on the science of choline (because it’s tricky to prove brain health and attribute it to one specific thing), but I enjoy seeing it on labels because it makes me feel good about the product. Very scientific justification, I know. In this case, choline, like glucosamine, is going to do nothing or it’s going to do something positive for your health, so it’s a no-lose situation.
Theanine promotes relaxation and focus, according to numerous studies on the benefits of green tea. It’s not surprising to see it in an energy drink because it’s the manufacturer’s way of making sure you get energized without being jittery. In this case, the theanine is coming from Blue California, who went through the trouble of applying for GRAS status for their brand, L-TeaActive. You can see the GRAS confirmation here: but I also recommend reading more about the implications (and costs!) of applying for GRAS status in this article by Justin J. Prochnow.

3-Another Energy Drink in Disguise

With the variety of energy drinks on the market, it’s always appealing to find one that doesn’t look like an energy drink. As I’ve indicated in several of this year’s Energy Drink of the Month picks, I like to find sources of caffeine without finding myself at the receiving end of disapproving stares or a lecture about how I’m ruining my heart (see Pop Quiz). Yes, I try to get my energy boost from water and tea whenever possible, but sometimes I need something stronger. Since our company mantra is about helping people live healthier lives, I can’t exactly carry a Monster-wannabe around the office. SONIC provides that caffeine boost without the temperature-dependent limitations of coffee or the negative public perceptions of the typical energy drink.

neruo SONIC
I love it when energy drinks have lids!

Bottom Line

If you suffer from restless nights of dreaming about your job, give this energy drink a try. It’s perfect for those days when tea or juiced energy drinks (Level 2) aren’t going to give you the boost you need. Challenge yourself to make the bottle last a whole day — it’s got a twisty cap for easy caffeine moderation! ____________________________________________________________________________________________

Resources and Additional Reading

Caffeine Informer – neuro drink review

Caffeine Informer – Caffeine Content of neuro SONIC

neruo SONIC official page

Get your copy of Are You a Monster or a Rock Star: a guide to energy drinks HERE, here or at your local bookstore with the ISBN codes found here.

“Like” the Energy Drink Guide on Facebook to spread the message of caffeine safety

Ask questions 1:1 with Google Helpout: My Listing

Energy Drink of the Month — May 2014: Vitaminwater Energy

It just stopped snowing in Wisconsin a few days ago but somehow I’ve already missed all the swimsuit sales. Headed to Florida for a 3-day weekend (which is as close as I’ll get to Spring Break in Grown-Up Land) and forced to fork over more than I intended for a nice swimsuit, I was looking for a bargain wherever I could. I found it at 7-11 where, aside from my pre-flight protein shake, I found a collection of tropical-looking energy drinks that were 10 for $10! Colorful, affordable, low-cal and, better yet, they passed the Food Scientist Label Inspection (meaning they actually had substance and not just amateur combinations of caffeine and sugar) – SOLD!

The Energy Drink of the Month for May 2014 is vitaminwater® energy beverage Berry Punch.

vitaminwater energy
Energy Drink of the Month – May 2014

This is not to be confused with the vitaminwater® Energy that comes in a plastic bottle and looks yellow. Other flavors of this vitaminwater® energy beverage product line include Strawberry Lime, Raspberry Citrus, and Orange Mango. I enjoyed all four flavors but I think I prefer Berry Punch, and not just because the can matches the color scheme of my phone, my shoes, my watch and my new swimsuit. Anecdotes and silliness aside, let’s look at the science behind what makes this drink the Energy Drink of the Month.

3 Pros and Cons of vitaminwater® energy drink – from a Food Science, Product Development and Quality Perspective

Read more

Energy Drink of the Month – October 2013

 Name as many famous spiders as you can – GO.

Let’s see, there’s Charlotte, Aragog, the “her” from LOTR, the ones John Goodman had to fight in Arachnophobia, the one that freaked out Little Miss Muffet…What other spiders did you come up with?

How about this one – Spider Energy. With a head nod towards Halloween, this month’s pick is Spider Energy.

Other flavors are available but I prefer Widow Maker for its flavor, its tagline atop the can, and its colors scheme.
Other flavors are available but I prefer Widow Maker for its flavor, its tagline atop the can, and its colors scheme.

Anyone can review a beverage and tell you how they like the flavor, or how the ingredients affect them. I find these reviews helpful and steer you toward those reviews when I can. However, ultimately my goal is to give you the tools so you can go beyond someone else’s review and determine, just by looking at a can, how the product might affect your own body in your particular condition of fatigue.

Give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime. 


Green-Eyed Insight on Spider Energy


1 – Caffeine.

This product has 240 milligrams of caffeine per 16 ounce can, and this information is kindly included on the Nutrition Facts Panel. Keep in mind those under 18 should have less than 100 milligrams of caffeine per day, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, and those 18 and up should keep daily intakes below 400 milligrams, the maximum dosage considered safe by Health Canada and the US FDA. All of this assumes you aren’t pregnant or nursing or have a pre-existing condition that makes you sensitive to caffeine.

To see how this energy drink compares to others, Energy Fiend is ALWAYS a great resource:

Energy Fiend on Spider Energy (caffeine content is the same for all flavors)

2 – Servings per Container.

At one point, Spider Energy was two servings per can (see the picture from my collection, below). Nowadays, Spider Energy labels indicate one 16 ounce can is one serving, but always confirm the number of servings per container before making any judgments on any other nutrients. We’ve all seen the super-sized muffins that are supposed to be three servings, right? If you consume one whole 16 ounce can, you’re getting 240 milligrams of caffeine, which is not a small dose, but nothing obscene or potentially hazardous like some of the other energy products out there. Remember that you are not legally or morally obligated to drink the entire can in one sitting – the label is not the boss of you. This product is not weak so there will be days when half the can will do. Remember the words of Paracelsus: the difference between medicine and a cure is the dosage (this is also a song by Circa Survive).

3 – Carbonation and/or Juice.

Carbonation slightly irritates the stomach lining, speeding up caffeine absorption. Energy drinks with fruit juice are usually non-carbonated or lightly carbonated so those products might be better suited for those seeking a milder pick-me-up. When you want to take advantage of this nifty trick, check the ingredient list: in this case carbonated water is the very first ingredient, so there’s your answer.

Note this can from my collection says 2 Servings per Container and uses a Supplement Facts panel - this product has been reclassified as a beverage so current products feature a Nutrition Facts Panel, and the label has been updated to say 1 Serving per Container. Note all the Green-Eyed Insight here applies to both the previous and the current product.

Note this can from my collection says 2 Servings per Container and uses a Supplement Facts panel – this product has been reclassified as a beverage so current products feature a Nutrition Facts Panel, and the label has been updated to say 1 Serving per Container. Note all the Green-Eyed Insight here applies to both the previous and the current product.

4 – Vitamins.

Vitamins help your body perform reactions that can generate energy, but vitamins are not the source of energy. This is why you should be cautious of products that promise to deliver heaps of energy in the form of vitamin mega-doses. Even some water-soluble vitamins like niacin (vitamin B3) or vitamin B6 can lead to side-effects when you consume too much, so it’s always good to double-check the label for those particular vitamins.

B6 – Side-effects for B6 start at 100 milligrams so even if you did chug the whole Spider Energy, you’re only getting 8 milligrams (twice the Daily Value) of vitamin B6.

Niacin Flush – For this particular product, the amount of niacin per SERVING is 100% Daily Value, which is 20 milligrams. At 35 milligrams, some people experience a “niacin flush” – mild itching and flushing of the skin. Drinking the whole can provides 40 milligrams of niacin, enough to cause the niacin flush in some people. But, if you’re smart and if you’ve been listening to my advice all this time, you know better than to chug the whole can in one sitting. Better yet, perhaps you’ve met Mr. Swift and Mr. Thrift in Are You a Monster or a Rock Star: a guide to energy drinks, so you know how manipulating the speed of consumption can alter the ways caffeine affects your body, giving you, literally, more bang for your buck.

5 – Sugars.

In one 16 ounce can, there are a whopping 30 grams of sugar. For those of us limiting added sugars, there are sugar-free versions of Spider Energy. Then there are some people who might actually benefit from the sugar – people working a swing-shift with no time to eat, bartenders working the Vampire Schedule with no lulls to get real food…you know who you are. In this product, the sugar comes from sucrose (literally, table sugar) and glucose. Skimming the ingredient list all the way through shows no HFCS (if you care about that and if you’ve forgotten that regular sugar can be just as bad in excess as HFCS). Moreover, this product is sweetened with Sucralose (Splenda), and Ace-K but not aspartame (good news for those with PKU). Again, it all comes down to making the best decision for you – your body, your situation, your call.


Other Aspects to Consider:

This product calls out the amounts of other popular energy drink ingredients like ginseng, green tea extract, guarana and taurine. Perhaps you’re thinking, “Wouldn’t it be great if I had some quick little reference guide that explained in plain English what these ingredients do and how much is too much to consume?”

Here’s Your Sign…and your guide to energy drinks


Enjoy with caution. The amount of caffeine per container, carbonation and sugar content put this product at Level 4 in the 5 Levels of Fatigue:

Level 0 – Energizer Bunny

Level 1 – Magic 8 Ball Says “Fatigue Forthcoming”

Level 2 – Too Tired to Go It Alone

Level 3 – Lethargic and Struggling

Level 4 – For the Long Nights and Rough Fights

Level 5 – Barely Alive

For a complete breakdown of these levels and how to use them to maximize caffeine’s effects while minimizing your intake, check this out: 5 Levels of Fatigue.


Other Resources:

Spider Energy Main Site

Caffeine Informer – Spider Energy Review and Caffeine Content

Spider Energy on Facebook

-Green-Eyed Guide