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 GreenEyedGuide.com, 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.  

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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.

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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
http://www.compoundchem.com/2016/02/25/a-guide-to-common-fruit-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.

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Review the entire ENERGY DRINK OF THE MONTH SERIES

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Energy Drink (alternative) of the Month – May 2016: Beachbody Performance Energize

The Energy Drink (in powder form) of the Month is Beachbody Performance Energize. We discuss its caffeine content and the food science behind its key ingredients. I also discuss why I’ve chosen a powder for the first time in the nearly three years I’ve been doing this series. Follow the “Energy Drink of the Month” series right here on GreenEyedGuide.com
PS- I’m wearing my Invisalign like a good girl. ;D

Links:
OFFICIAL BEACHBODY Video: Dr. Nima discusses the science behind Energize

Confessions of a Shady Supplement Supplier (how to spot red flags and ask the right Qs before you buy supps)

Energy Drink of the Month series

Follow my training for Figure on Instagram

Energy Drink of the Month – April 2016: Clean Energy On-Demand

This is one of those times that reminds me of a South Park episode: when I use the words “clean energy” to describe a healthy alternative to the stereotypical energy drink, my computer starts showing me ads for solar power. As suggested in the South Park episode “Sponsored Content”, ads have evolved. But then so have energy drinks.

The Energy Drink of the Month for April 2016 is Clean Energy On-Demand (CEO).

clean energy on demand CEO greeneyedguide energydrink
Clean Energy On-Demand – YET ANOTHER Energy Drink in Disguise!

Currently, Watermelon Coconut is the only flavor available, but this product is brand new as of this post. For an in-depth Q & A with Founder Jason Petrou, including their Steven Covey-eque Mission Statement and a peak into just how difficult it can be to bring a healthy beverage to market, CLICK HERE.

THE CAFFEINE

This product contains 70 milligrams of caffeine per bottle, and it says so right on the label. The caffeine comes from organic green coffee beans — Arabica coffee beans that are spared from the roasting that turns them brown and delivers the signature coffee flavor profile. Of course, caffeine is caffeine is caffeine, but that’s specifically the molecule itself. When caffeine is extracted from different sources, different compounds may come along with it – sometimes called conjoiners. This is why a food scientist may find different microscopic compounds mixed in with their caffeine extract if that extract comes from a coffee bean or a coffeeberry.

Thankfully CEO treats one whole bottle as one whole serving (how realistic), but with a screw-cap lid you can moderate your dosage and save some for the next day. This 70 mg dose of caffeine is slightly less than the 80 mg in an 8 oz Red Bull and less than HALF that of a SHORT cup of brewed coffee from Starbucks. (PS – Please note that using “a standard cup of coffee” as an indicator of caffeine content is one of the worst measurement devices on the planet.  Those who respect your business will tell you EXACTLY how much caffeine is in their product without hiding behind this euphemistic, deceptive measurement. )

5 levels of fatigue greeneyedguide
The 5 Levels of Fatigue provides guidelines for matching caffeine content and other factors (like carbonation) with how tired you ACTUALLY are.

THE INGREDIENTS

Other ingredients in this product include watermelon juice concentrate, coconut water concentrate, and lime juice. These ingredients and the corresponding sodium and potassium electrolytes are what make this drink so refreshing and hydrating.  [For more on hydration, see this article from Food Insight]

There are no artificial colors or flavors in this product, and no added sugar. The watermelon juice provides the sweetness, and vegetable juice is added to enhance the drink’s slight red hue.

The most chemical-sounding ingredients in this product are sodium citrate and malic acid, but even those are very clean and non-scary to the worst case of chemophobia. Sodium citrate is a form of the citric acid that gives lemons their characteristic sourness, and malic acid is naturally found in watermelons and stone fruits. See this amazing infographic from Compound Interest for more details on those natural acids:

http://www.compoundchem.com/2016/02/25/a-guide-to-common-fruit-acids/
Common Fruit Acids: http://www.compoundchem.com/2016/02/25/a-guide-to-common-fruit-acids/

THE COMPARISONS

Not all energy drinks are created equal, and whether an energy drink is right for you depends not just on your level of fatigue, but on your diet goals and lifestyle choices. For example, some people are more concerned about artificial ingredients than their sugar intake, while others would rather have stevia or artificial sweeteners and a zero-sugar, zero-calorie beverage.

CEO v Similar Energy Drinks

CEO has no artificial colors or flavors, and each bottle contains just 50 Calories and 11 grams of sugar. Even if you drank the whole bottle, the sugar and Calorie impact is still minimal, which makes this energy drink a great healthy swap for some of the strictest diets. Compared to Starbucks Refreshers, which is also made with green coffee beans, this CEO beverage has more juice and caffeine (50%, 70 mg versus 25%, 50 mg). CEO also has less sugar than both Starbucks Refreshers (11 grams versus 13 grams).

Compared to BAI Antioxidant Infusion, which we reviewed February 2016, CEO has more sugar (11 grams versus 2* grams). However, that 2-asterisk-grams doesn’t include the 16 grams of sugar alcohol erythritol per bottle of BAI. CEO doesn’t use any sugar alcohols (or any other sweeteners for that matter). Furthermore, CEO is 50% juice per bottle and is aimed at hydration, while BAI is only 8% juice per bottle and is aimed at providing a dose of coffeeberry antioxidants.

CEO v Similar Hydration Drinks

I, personally, cannot stand the taste of coconut water. If you enjoy coconut water and are interested in other hydration drinks, CEO is worth a try. It bothers me immensely when people group energy drinks into one giant basket. Thus I will not make that mistake here with coconut waters. Instead, I will advise you to compare labels for Calories and sugar content when finding the beverage that works best for your diet goals and lifestyle. First and foremost you should find a sports drink that doesn’t cause you any tummy discomfort or sabotage your whole day, diet-wise. The next step in finding the perfect hydration beverage is to find one you will actually drink! For more on hydration, see this handy guide I prepared for The Scientific Parent.

BOTTOM LINE

Behold – yet another “energy drink in disguise” that breaks the energy drink stereotype. I wouldn’t recommend this product unless I was confident in its safety – and I do highly recommend this product. I got the chance to ask CEO about their food safety program and quality testing, and I am satisfied that this is a safe, healthy alternative to the stereotypical energy drink. At 70 mg per bottle, this would make a great swap to those used to the caffeine of a single 8 ounce Red Bull.

Unless you live in Boston, you can get this drink here on the CEO site.

CEO on Facebook on Instagram and on Twitter

CEO featured in Food Navigator’s “Beverage Entrepreneurs and Trends to Watch”

~GreenEyedGuide

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

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Q and A with energy/hydration drink Clean Energy On-Demand

One of my favorite things to do as an energy drink expert is highlight products that prove how much the energy drink market has evolved. Oh sure, terms like “nutraceuticals” and “functional food” were around in 2003 when I started my college studies in biochemistry, but the stereotypical energy drink was the only energy drink.  My, how far we’ve come. Read more

Energy Drink of the Month – Jan 2016: Cran-Energy

If your New Year’s Resolution is to consume fewer energy drinks, you may be looking for some healthy swaps. How healthy is fruit juice, really? Obviously, it’s not as healthy as whole fruit, but usually healthier than soda. This energy drink (alternative) of the month is a healthy alternative to the stereotypical energy drink, but it is also an example of how “healthy” and “good for you” is a matter of context and perspective.

The Energy Drink of the Month is Cran-Energy Cranberry Energy Juice Drink.

On their own page, Ocean Spray’s clever distinction, “energy JUICE drink” highlights the ambiguity of how to classify this product. Since this product walks the line between the JUICE category and the ENERGY DRINK category, we’ll compare how healthy this product is relative to other products in each category.

Is it Juice or an Energy Drink? Product Category Confusion

If it was your job to tally the annual sales of different types of beverages, would you put this in the “energy drink” category or the “juice” category? In their article “Juice Gone Wild”, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has effectively put this in the juice category. However, on their own site, Ocean Spray compares this product to “other energy drinks”. Furthermore, BevNet’s product assessment definitively puts this drink in the energy drink category as this product was specifically designed to give people energy.

Cran-Energy versus the stereotypical ENERGY DRINK

Since Red Bull is the number one selling brand in the ENERGY DRINK product category, we’ll compare Cran-Energy to Red Bull.

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Click here to open and download the Cran-Energy vs Energy Drink DATASHEET

Against a stereotypical energy drink, Cran-Energy IS a healthy swap. The 2015-2016 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommends sodium intake not exceed 2300 mg per day. With such a low limit, the lower sodium of Cran-Energy is a healthier option than Red Bull.

Furthermore, the 2015-2016 DGA recommendation is to limit intake of added sugars (like those in the Red Bull) to less than 10% of total calories per day [Source – FoodInsight.org].  It’s also important to note that since the sugars in the Cran-Energy come from grape and cranberry juice, they’re not TECHNICALLY “added sugars” because they’re natural in grape juice. (Though grape juice isn’t naturally added to cranberry juice, is it? Hello, loophole!)

But what about the Sucralose in Cran-Energy? The 2015-2016 DGA agrees with leading global authorities including the European Food Safety Authority that sweeteners like sucralose are safe to consume, though the DGA does note that “replacing added sugars with high-intensity sweeteners may reduce calorie intake in the short-term, yet, questions remain about their effectiveness as a long-term weight management strategy.” [Source – FoodInsight.org].

Cran-Energy versus Cranberry JUICE

To the rushed shopper, Cran-Energy might pass as fancy cranberry juice. Comparing Ocean Spray’s Cran-Energy to Ocean Spray’s Cranberry 100% Juice, Cran-Energy IS NOT a healthy swap.

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Click here to open and download the Cran-Energy vs Cranberry 100percent Juice DATASHEET

While the Cran-Energy offers a cluster of B-vitamins, it also contains artificial colors and sweeteners that aren’t in the Cranberry 100% juice. Furthermore, consider the juice content itself! Looking at the front of the label, you might think Ocean Spray Cranberry 100% juice is 100% cranberry juice when in fact other fruits like grape, apple, and pear are also used to make this 100% juice. (When you can’t add plain sugar, grape juice is a very sweet natural source) Cran-Energy is only 23% juice and is mostly filtered water. If you wanted to reap the benefits of cranberry juice, Cran-Energy is not going to help you.

BOTTOM LINE

It’s short-sighted to call anything (even 100% juice) healthy because a term like this deserves context. With proper context, we can see that Cran-Energy IS NOT a healthy swap for 100% juice (let alone whole fruit), but it IS a healthy swap for the stereotypical energy drink.

~GreenEyedGuide

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