Energy Drink of the Month – Oct 2017: Clean Energy Organics

Following your passion requires vision, commitment, persistence, and long hours. October challenges your vision and commitment because it brings shorter days, midterms,  the distractions of a looming Holiday Season, and the time crunch to meet End of the Year company objectives. This month, we review an energy drink-in-disguise designed to “complement your work hard/play hard lifestyle” with green coffee beans, monk fruit, erythritol, and coconut water. Read more

Energy Drink of the Month – December 2016: Core Organic

How do you describe a beverage that is a hybrid of juice, water, and tea? This month we’ll review a beverage that aims to give you the health benefits of tea, the hydration of water, and the flavor of fruit juice. While the caffeine content is negligible, there is tea in it, and Fatigue Level 1 is dehydration! We’ll review WHO IT’S FOR (per diet/lifestyle and ingredient preferences), WHAT’S IN IT (key ingredients), and WHEN TO CONSUME IT (per caffeine content and the 5 Levels of Fatigue).

*Spoiler Alert* I’ve got three minor Food Scientist pet peeves with this beverage, and I would love to hear your thoughts on these observations.

The Energy Drink (alternative) of the Month is Core Organic Pomegranate Blue Acai.

Other flavors available include Peach Mango, Watermelon Lemonade, Orange Clementine, Coconut Colada, and Orchard Pear. If you’re familiar with my Energy Drink of the Month series, you know I almost always pick the pomegranate blueberry flavors.


This Core Organic “fruit infused beverage” is certified Organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, low glycemic, and Vegan.


  • PET PEEVE #1: Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.
    • Why would any of those be in a fruit-infused beverage? Does anyone else feel like Core Organic is trying to win consumers by tapping into that fad?

This beverage could appeal to you if:

  1. You are limiting your sugar intake and your “liquid calories” – This drink has less than 1 gram of sugar per serving and only 5 Calories per serving (10 Calories per bottle)
  2. You are avoiding artificial sweeteners – This drink is sweetened with Stevia and Organic erythritol (we’ll review this below)
  3. You are avoiding artificial colors and/or flavors – The color comes from Organic vegetable juice and fruit juice, and the flavor comes from a combination of natural flavors
  4. You are not really a tea drinker but still want the benefits of drinking tea – This drink has 75 milligrams of polyphenol antioxidants, which is “the antioxidants of half a cup of blueberries or cherries” according to the press release in BevNET



Fruit Juice

  • PET PEEVE #2: This is a “fruit infused” beverage but the fruit juice doesn’t play a very big role. 

There’s only 4% juice per serving. The FDA does consider coconut water a juice, but since it’s behind erythritol in the ingredient’s list, we know there’s more erythritol than coconut water in this drink.

The Organic lemon juice is behind the Stevia extract, which is very telling! Since Stevia is something you can’t use in large amounts, there can’t be more than one lemon’s worth of lemon juice in here. Since the lemon juice comes before citric acid, it seems both the lemon juice and the citric acid are in this drink to control acidity. If you want to keep mold out of your fruit juices, you have to either control the acidity or use preservatives.

The last two fruit juices are the last two ingredients in the list, meaning they’re the smallest portions of the recipe. There’s fruit juice used for color, and Maqui berry juice powder used to deliver antioxidants.

5-in-1 weight loss supplement combo IS effective, but thanks to WHICH combo?

White Tea, Maqui Berry, and Polyphenol Antioxidants

The good news is consumption of polyphenol antioxidants is associated with improved cardiovascular health and reduced risk of cancer. Consumption of green and white tea is associated with lower risk of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. The bad news is white tea is such a small portion of this recipe, and Maqui berry is literally the last/most sparse ingredient!

Maqui berry is a “Chilean blackberry”, according to a paper in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. It might have a lot of antioxidants in nature but one paper suggests the juice making process results in a “substantial loss” of the polyphenol antioxidants in Maqui. If you can figure out how to minimize these losses, there are some encouraging (but still uncertain) health benefits. A group of antioxidants called “anthocyanins” extracted from Maqui berry improved fasting blood sugar levels in (wait for it) obese diabetic mice.

“Animal research can be useful, and can predict effects also seen in humans. However, observed effects can also differ, so subsequent human trials are required before a particular effect can be said to be seen in humans. Tests on isolated cells can also produce different results to those in the body.” – see the Compound Interest infographic on Scientific Evidence


Erythritol is one of my favorite sweeteners, and we’ve talked about it before in other reviews. Erythritol makes Stevia better when they’re combined. Some people get a bitter-metallic sensation with Stevia extract, but erythritol masks the unfavorable attributes of Stevia. Erythritol is 60-70% as sweet as sucrose and has a very similar taste. It does not raise blood glucose levels and it delivers a cooling effect. While it’s non-caloric like Stevia, it has a molecular size that gives it more mouthfeel. Think fruit juice versus fruit smoothie: the fruit smoothie has a heavier “mouthfeel”.

Erythritol occurs naturally, like monk fruit and Stevia. It’s made through natural fermentation. It’s a sugar-alcohol, like the Xylitol often used in sugar-free gum. With xylitol, however, too much of it can really upset a person’s stomach. With erythritol, a person could consume twice as much – at least 0.66 grams per kilogram of body weight – before they started getting same stomach issues. Additionally, erythritol has been proven through clinical studies to reduce plaque build-up.

Core Organic beverage nutrition facts ingredients caffeine content
Caffeine content is “about the same as a cup of decaf coffee”, so does that mean 45mg? There is no standard for this!


  • PET PEEVE #3: There is no such thing as a standard cup of coffee or cup of tea.
    • It’s not clear how much caffeine is in this product, but we should assume the content is negligible. The white tea is the only source of caffeine, and white tea is not a very prominent ingredient.

Core Organic is not promoting itself as a drink that would give you energy, but since it includes white tea extract, I wish they could include some caffeine information on the label.

Dehydration is Fatigue Level 1, so picking a beverage with negligible caffeine content is a great way to ensure you don’t reach for the caffeine too soon. If you always reach for the same caffeinated beverage, and if caffeine is always your first solution when you’re tired, there will come a day when the caffeine no longer works for you. This is precisely why I developed the 5 Levels of Fatigue!

Bottom Line

This water/juice/tea hybrid is not marketed as an energy drink, but it’s a good solution (pun intended) for beating the fatigue that comes with dehydration. While you will not get the full benefits of drinking plain tea, you still get the benefits of the 75 milligrams of polyphenol antioxidants per serving.

Core Organic main site




Kickstart Recharge versus Kickstart Hydrating Boost: Two strategies to fight fatigue

While Kickstart Recharge and Kickstart Hydrating Boost offer mostly the same ingredients, there are some non-trivial differences that show they target fatigue in different ways. To understand these differences in these caffeinated beverages, we need to review the connection between hydration and fatigue, and the relationship between fatigue and vitamins C and E.

But first, a closer look at the ingredients

Kickstart Recharge and Kickstart Hydrating Boost are very similar in terms of ingredients. They both contain 68 milligrams of caffeine per can, which is less than the caffeine in a can of Red Bull. There are more Kickstart flavors available, but let’s focus on two flavors from the Recharge group and two from the Hydrating Boost group. As shown in the table below, all four have the same first three ingredients. After that, the Recharge group differs from the Hydrating Boost group, but the two Hydrating Boost products have identical ingredients lists.


Blood Orange has blood orange juice, Blueberry Pomegranate has blueberry juice, but Watermelon has no watermelon juice, and Strawberry Kiwi has no strawberry juice. Unlike the Recharge group, the Hydrating Boost group has to rely entirely on the added flavors to make it taste like the fruits it’s named after. This seems to explain why the Hydrating Group has both natural and artificial flavors. Natural flavors are usually less potent and less permanent than artificial flavors. Perhaps natural watermelon flavors were not enough in the absence of any watermelon juice.


Hydration and Fatigue – The Hydrating Boost Strategy


Hydrating Boost aims to give you energy by giving you coconut water to fight fatigue from dehydration.

“By the time a person loses 1% to 2% of body weight in fluids, he or she will be thirsty. Even this small water deficit can cause one to feel tired. At 4% loss of body weight, muscles lose significant strength and endurance”
[Straus, L. The Liquid Diet: Role of Water. Introduction to Human Nutrition BILD 22. 2006;8:126].

There’s a reason the solution (pun intended) for Level 1 in my 5 Levels of Fatigue system is water! If you’re tired, you should reach for water before you reach for any caffeine. If you’ve already tried that, perhaps a caffeinated hydration beverage will do?

If you’re doing moderately strenuous activity for at least one hour or high-intensity activity for at least thirty minutes, an electrolyte beverage is preferred to plain water. Ironically, the strongest arguments for electrolyte beverages over water have to do with the fact that electrolyte beverages taste better. Athletes only replace about half the water lost during exercise [Noakes, T. Fluid replacement during exercise. Exerc Sports Sci Rev 1993; 21:297]. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics agrees that the increased fluid intake using flavored electrolyte beverages is probably beneficial [American Academy of Pediatrics. Pediatrics 2000; 106:158-59]. The important thing is you’re drinking more fluids, even if the electrolytes aren’t needed.

Keep in mind Kickstart Hydrating Boost only has 10% juice, and coconut water isn’t even one of the three most prominent ingredients. If you feel Kickstart Hydrating Boost’s coconut water (and caffeine!) gives you energy by keeping you hydrated, I will respect your opinion. Then I will encourage you to drink one glass of water for every can of Kickstart. When the Kickstart can is empty, maybe you should fill it with water and drink it all before you recycle the can.



Vitamins C + E and Fatigue – The Recharge Strategy

Kickstart Recharge aims to give you energy by giving you antioxidants to fight muscle damage. Endurance exercise increases the amount of oxygen we breathe. This increased exposure to oxygen means an increase in free radicals.

“…free radicals can cause damage by joining with other body chemicals and changing their character, sometimes even producing a chain reaction by creating new free radicals that carry on.”
[YouTube video, “Oxygen, Antioxidants, and Free Radicals” watch here]


Free radicals are involved in fatigue and damage to muscle cells. Antioxidants like vitamin E attract these free radicals, slowing down the chain reaction and thus limiting the damage. In the process, vitamin E becomes a radical. Vitamin C can restore vitamin E so it can go back to attracting more free radicals. In turn, vitamin C can be restored by niacin (vitamin B3), which is also included in Kickstart Recharge at 60% of the Daily Value.


Clinical trials providing antioxidants to treat or prevent various diseases have largely been unsuccessful. But don’t discount the Placebo Effect. If you believe that, for you personally, Kickstart Recharge’s antioxidants (and caffeine!) are giving you energy by limiting muscle fatigue and free radical damage, I won’t debate you.

Bottom Line

If you haven’t already, read the Energy Drink of the Month review for Kickstart Hydrating Boost. That should help you determine whether or not Kickstart is for you. If it is, you can use the power of science to determine whether you like the Hydrating Boost or Recharge fatigue busting strategy better.

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Energy Drink of the Month – Nov 2016: Kickstart Hydrating Boost

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. Read more