To say it was difficult getting good grades in high school while balancing competitive sports, family obligations etc. feels as silly as admitting I cried over a difficult physics exam. Now I laugh at my previous concept of “difficult” with the context of college, grad school, and adulthood. But balancing everything in high school was hard, and I was in high school during the early 2000s, before energy drinks and Starbucks took over the world. Then energy drinks came along, and I balanced two jobs while I was a full-time student in college, then two different jobs while I was in grad school. Caffeine changed my life in more ways than one, and I’ve been studying the science behind energy drinks since the day I declared myself a biochemistry major back in 2003. Read more
Caffeine may not seem like a “must-have” for a workout, but there are three major reasons why people at all fitness levels benefit from consuming caffeine before exercise. Check out this article I wrote for the Avitae blog!
Don’t miss this article, featuring three major reasons to add caffeine to your next workout:
- Caffeine Improves Performance and Endurance
- Caffeine Improves Focus
- Caffeine Encourages Fat Burning
We associate caffeine with being hyper and tea with being calm, so what happens when a person has caffeine and theanine together? I reviewed a paper by the Department of Psychology at Tufts University in which they gave 36 people caffeine, theanine, or both. These participants had to watch disturbing episodes of Band of Brothers to get them all emotional, then take tests to rate their mood and attention. The results indicate just how well theanine and caffeine play together (or against each other). Read more
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.
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.
- Get your copy of 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”
- SUPPORT ME ON PATREON
Here’s a recap of the quick reviews posted this month for the “Science of Energy Drinks” series on the GreenEyedGuide Instagram and Facebook pages: Uptime Energy, Bawls Guarana, Amp Energy Zero, and V8 + Energy.
Science Behind Uptime Energy drink: 3-Ingredients to Focus on:
⛾1-Angelica Root Ext (aka Danggui) is used for female reproductive disorders in Traditional Chinese Medicine. After 15 minutes on Pubmed & SciDirect I DON’T KNOW WHY it’s in here. (Dear science nerds, please help if you do).
⛾2-Bee Pollen has vitamins, polyphenols, and enzymes, and has shown health benefits in studies but ONLY WHEN USED IN GRAM AMOUNTS! This product’s whole “Power Base” combined is only 20% of a gram. [1 gram = weight of 1 paperclip].
⛾3-Caffeine is the only ingredient that (kind of) “produces energy” but this bugs me. (#stickler #rant #chemnerd) There’s 142 mg caffeine in here = ALMOST a Monster (160mg).
LET’S TALK ABOUT GUARANA. BAWLS Ingredients include caffeine, HFCS, citric acid, sodium benzoate, natural AND artificial flavor, caramel color. No B-vitamins, taurine, carnitine, or other stereotypical energy drink ingredients.
CAFFEINE CONTENT: from guarana and pure caffeine; 100mg Caffeine per can from all sources, according to the CAFFEINE INFORMER database. That’s LESS caffeine than 12 oz Red Bull (114 mg). The limit for those under 18yrs old is 100mg.
GUARANA is a vine from the rainforest bearing orange-red fruit with black seeds. Caffeine is in the seeds. Multiple studies show guarana improves cognitive performance, mental fatigue, and mood, and it is supposed to boost fat metabolism by encouraging the body to burn fat instead of protein and carbs. HOWEVER, the same benefits are true of caffeine in general and caffeine from green tea in particular. So these benefits are not specific to guarana… and this product gives you 50g sugar per can.
EDTA, Sodium benzoate, and Sodium hexametaphosphate: All 3 are in this drink. Does a canned drink need so much preservation?
1. EDTA: the ingredient statement says “to protect flavor”…from WHAT? From metal ions of the can, which can oxidize and degrade the natural+artificial flavor and the B-vitamins.
PURPOSE: Chelating agent, meaning it binds metal ions to limit their deleterious effects; EDTA stabilizes food color, aroma, texture, inhibits oxidation of fats, oils.
SAFETY NOTES: Some sources say EDTA “robs the body of nutrients” but EDTA is safe to consume **up to 3 grams per day **and AMOUNTS USED IN FOOD are in the milligram per kilogram or parts-per-million range. CPSI puts this in the “Safe” column.
***FUN FACT: EDTA is actually used to treat people with heavy metal poisoning because EDTA can grab the heavy metals and escort them out of the body.
PART 2 of Amp Preservative review: WHAT does Sodium benzoate do?
Sodium Benzoate: “preserves freshness”… but it’s not like this is a fresh ripe watermelon right? Well, this IS an acidic drink…
PURPOSE: Prevents growth of microorganisms like yeast and mold; used for preservation of sour food pH 4 and lower, often used with other preservatives especially at low pH (meaning acidic food).
SAFETY NOTES: Consumers can ingest up to 5mg per kg of body weight of benzoic acid and its salts
***FUN FACT: Benzoic acid occurs naturally in cranberries, prunes, plums, cinnamon, ripe cloves, and most berries. http://wp.me/p3SHzu-It
PART 3 of AMP preservative review: “Hexa-meta-huh?”
3. Sodium hexametaphosphate: “to protect flavor”… YOU’D THINK AMP’S FLAVOR IS LIKE GOLD with all this PROTECTION!!!
SAFETY NOTES: This ingredient is widely accepted as safe in many countries. It has the additive number E452. In controlled studies, it was not carcinogenic in rats, nor did it cause any reproductive or developmental toxicity symptoms. It’s fine if you consume a little bit every now and then, but consuming it regularly can have some negative effects due to mineral imbalances. MODERATION IS KEY!
Energy drinks are dangerous, right? V8 Energy, busting stereotypes since 2011! The caffeine in V8 Energy comes from green tea extract which provides a natural lift as well as the amino acid L-theanine which is believed to provide added focus. [CaffeineInformer.com]
🔹️L-theanine can reduce anxiety and blood pressure increases in high-stress individuals (ie people more susceptible to biological changes when stressed)
🔹️This can contains 80 mg caffeine (as much as Red Bull) BUT…
🔹️ the Academy of Pediatrics says people <18 can have UP TO 100 mg caffeine per day.
🔹️With 34% juice, only 11 grams of sugar, and caffeine from green tea extract, this is one of the BEST healthy alternatives!
🔹️See V8 Energy Drink of the Month http://bit.ly/2p5yykZ