If you were looking for a definitive guide for all your energy drink questions, this is it. Standard energy drinks. Pre-workout drinks. Drinks with all-natural ingredients. CaffeineMan and GreenEyedGuide cover it all. With this series, you’ll get science-based, no-BS answers to the big question, “Are energy drinks bad for you?”
In Part One, you’ll find information about the stereotypical energy drinks and their ingredients.
Part Two focuses on caffeinated pre-workout drinks. These types of drinks have ingredients intended to give exercise benefits.
The final episode, Part Three, features healthy energy drinks that even the worst energy drink hater would enjoy.
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 →
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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:
“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.
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.
This month we examine another energy-drink-in-disguise, the health benefits of the ingredients, and the caffeine comparisons to similar products. This product has one of the simplest ingredient lines I’ve ever seen, and it lives up to the “Healthy Energy” proclaimed on the label. Read more →
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 istea 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.
WHO IT’S FOR
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:
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)
You are avoiding artificial sweeteners – This drink is sweetened with Stevia and Organic erythritol (we’ll review this below)
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
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
WHAT’S IN IT
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.
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.
WHEN TO CONSUME
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!
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.