I declared myself a biochemistry/chemistry major in 2003 – right at the beginning of the Energy Drink Boom. Fascinated by these drinks and all the fears surrounding their use, I’ve applied my education (and basically all my free time) toward understanding the science behind energy drinks and their ingredients. In 2003, energy drinks contained synthetic caffeine as well as caffeine extracts from guarana and yerba mate. While synthetic caffeine was often criticized for being synthetic, guarana and yerba mate were often criticized for being “dangerous stimulants”. Then along came green coffee bean extract and coffeeberry/coffee fruit. As a caffeine consumer, you may be wondering, what is it about green coffee beans and coffeeberry that make it special? I encourage you to geek out with me over these game-changing energy drink ingredients.
Winter is coming. Do you need a little help keeping your energy up as the day winds down? How about a caffeinated beverage that doesn’t have the same stereotypical cocktail as the typical energy drink? How about something you can feel good about drinking – something with a little pizazz, or dare I say a little BING…
The Energy Drink of the Month for October 2016 is Bing Crisp.
It has apple and cherry juice, but there is also Bing original (cherry) and Bing Black (blackberry). The green one is my favorite (shocker), but your taste preference may vary.
Between the three flavors shown and mentioned above, the WHO, WHAT, and WHEN is consistent, but I will refer to the ingredients of Bing Crisp specifically.
Who is this for? Target Audience
Bing Crisp contains 100 milligrams of caffeine per serving / per 12 ounce can. This is about the caffeine content of a tall Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, or an 8 ounce Red Bull. Unlike the PSL, Bing Crisp only has 8 grams of sugar – which is nice and low. Ingredients include cane sugar and sucralose, but there are no other sweeteners. Of course, apple juice does contribute its own sweetness, though.
There are no artificial colors, nor artificial flavors, and the preservatives used include consumer-friendly, CSPI-approved potassium sorbate. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has been accused before of fear-mongering and cherry-picking scientific studies, so if THEY say potassium sorbate is okay, that’s a great sign. (We’ve talked about potassium sorbate before during the Panera KNOW-No Project)
What is in it? Ingredients and Function
This drink contains caffeine and an insignificant amount of ginseng (see PS at the end). Unlike typical energy drinks Bing Crisp also has beta glucan, grape skin extract (as resveratrol), and cherry juice. SPOILER ALERT: The amounts aren’t enough to really change your life, but enough to make this a better choice than other energy drinks.
Beta glucan from oat fiber has been proven to reduce cholesterol and to reduce the risk of heart disease. To see this health benefit, you’d have to consume 3,000 milligrams of beta glucan a day, and Bing Crisp only contains 10 milligrams.
“Because oat beta glucan is a soluble form of fibre it dissolves inside the digestive tract where it forms a thick gel – a bit like wallpaper paste. This gel is able to bind to excess cholesterol and cholesterol like substances within the gut and help to prevent these from being absorbed into the body. The gel and the cholesterol is then excreted as part of the body’s waste.” – Health UK Fact Sheet – Beta Glucan
Grape Skin Extract and… STORY TIME
Have you ever thought about what happens to grape skins during wine making? The total tonnage of grape skin waste generated might make you sad. When I was in grad school, my thesis project was to prove you could use those wasted grape skins to get antioxidants which you could then use to prevent fruit from turning brown.
YOU’D SAVE FOOD WASTE AT BOTH ENDS!
Sadly, I never got the antioxidant extraction quite right (it’s hard to prove that a food isn’t turning brown from spoilage if you’re using a brownish-purplish coating to preserve it but that’s a story for another day). Bing DOES use grape seed extract, but only for coloring purposes and not in amounts large enough to mean anything in terms of antioxidant potential.
Cherry juice has some interesting real-world research behind it. Cherry juice has been associated with reduced gout symptoms, improved arthritis, and boosted immune support. The research that interests me most involves running. Have you ever gone for a run and felt your throat get sore and dry afterward?
Prolonged and exhaustive exercise can cause upper respiratory tract symptoms – in other words, all that heavy breathing of polluted air with your mouth open can irritate your throat! Cherries have been shown to reduce that irritation because of the kinds of antioxidants they contain. [Reference – JISSN article]
If you’re the kind of person that only runs because you have to, the cherry juice in Bing might help your post-run dry mouth. However, if you’re a legitimate runner, you probably need legitimate, straight cherry juice.
When to take it? 5 Levels of Fatigue
During grad school, when I was doing research on energy drinks and their ingredients, I developed the 5 Levels of Fatigue. This system is designed to match the type and potency of caffeinated beverage with one’s true level of fatigue. In short, if you always reach for the strong stuff when you’re bored (not tired), it won’t work when you really truly need it.
According to the 5 Levels of Fatigue, this product, with its 100 mg caffeine per serving, is Fatigue Level 2. Fatigue Level 1 is when you’re only tired because you’re dehydrated. Level 2 means you’re tired enough to need real caffeine, but not so tired that you need something with a big kick. Note – Different Bing flavors may have more caffeine, for example, Bing (cherry) and Bing Black (blackberry) have about 120 milligrams of caffeine, while Bing Crisp (reviewed here) and Bing Raz (not shown) have 100 milligrams caffeine.
Bing has some interesting ingredients that make this a healthier option than the more stereotypical energy drinks. If you’re someone that has to have caffeine every single day, you can feel good that the grape extract, beta glucan, and cherry juice are contributing to your health through a long-term, additive effect.
PS – If you’re a nerd like me and you want to learn more about what ginseng does (allegedly) and why it’s so hard to prove its health benefits, check out 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”
Explore the CAFFEINE INFORMER database
What’s going on? Why is WTRMLN WTR on an energy drink blog? Because dehydration causes fatigue, and the solution (pun intended) for Level 1 of the Five Levels of Fatigue is water. With summer in full swing, it’s the perfect time to review the ingredients, hydration power, and food science behind this watermelon hydration drink.
The Energy Drink of the Month for June 2016 is WTRMLN WTR.
Yes, this is literally the water from a watermelon, not water that’s been enhanced with fruit juice extracts or add-ins. Food Waste is a growing concern among food scientists (and consumers!) so I was overjoyed when I learned that this product is made from watermelons that would otherwise be discarded. Read More: http://wtrmlnwtr.com/story
This drink is a little bit sneaky with its serving size. One bottle is actually one AND A HALF servings, and the Fact Panel pretends you’re only going to drink two-thirds of the container (8 of 12 ounces). This is a pet peeve of mine, but the new FDA food labeling regulations should resolve this.
One reason this serving size decision bothers me is that the label compares the sugar and electrolyte content of WTRMLN WTR, orange juice, and coconut juice. These comparisons are “per serving”, but that is not helpful because the serving size is arbitrary. If you Googled “what is one serving of fruit juice”, you’d find the American Heart Association explain that one serving of fruit is one whole medium-sized fruit or one-half cup (4 ounces!) of fruit juice. And yet one whole 12 oz bottle of orange juice can also be labeled one serving.
With this inconsistency, it’s better to compare the nutrients per ounce than per serving.
The ideal hydration beverage has 6-8% carbohydrates, according to the research review article, “The effectiveness of commercially available sports drinks.” In the table above, Gatorade falls in that ideal range – shocker – but so does WTRMLN WTR. When are these hydration beverages most effective? According to this same research review article:
- Consumption during short duration high-intensity exercise may enhance performance
- Consumption during prolonged intermittent exercise can improve performance
- Consumption during prolonged exercise (meaning 1-4 hours) may enhance performance
For more interesting hydration comparisons, see the “Guide to Hydration Beverages” I wrote for The Scientific Parent
Food Science – What is Citrulline?
The more I read about citrulline, the more I wanted to learn about it. A “deep dive” on this ingredient is forthcoming later this month, but here are some key facts you should know.
- Citrulline is also known as watermelon extract.
- Citrulline gets its name from watermelon – watermelon’s Latin botanical name is Citrullus vulgaris.
- One average watermelon contains 2.1mg citrulline per gram
- In the sports supplement world, people take citrulline (as L-citrulline or citrulline malate) to increase the levels of amino acid arginine in the body
- The kidneys turn citrulline into arginine, which is supposed to delay muscular fatigue [Bodybuilding.com’s Complete 2016 Supplement Guide rates this ingredient/function claim as “Great: Inconclusive findings but anecdotal evidence is favorable and the ingredient is considered safe for use”
Comparisons and Conclusions
How does this drink hold up to plain old water? Well, it’s certainly tastier, and potentially more expensive. If you’re one of those people that have a hard time drinking enough water throughout the day, this product could be one way to drink more.
How does this drink hold up to orange juice? Comparing ounce-per-ounce instead of tripping over serving sizes, WTRMLN WTR has fewer calories and fewer grams of sugar. It also has less Vitamin C.
How does this drink hold up to other watermelon beverages we’ve reviewed at GreenEyedGuide? Well, WTRMLN WTR is not caffeinated, so if you’re one of those people who need help getting up for your 5 am workouts, WTRMLN WTR may not be the best pre-workout drink.
My initials are DR but I’m not a doctor, so take my insight with a grain of salt and take all caffeinated beverages with a tall glass of water.
Explore the CAFFEINE INFORMER database
You know that scene in Wall-E where he tries to put the spork in the right pile? (Fork? Not quite. Spoon? Not quite. Okay then just set it in the middle.) Wall-E’s struggle in this scene is actually a very real problem for the makers and consumers of caffeinated beverages.
If health writers want to know if products like Mio and Crystal Lite stick packs have increased water consumption, what should count as “water”? When does water stop being water? When parents want to know if minors are drinking fewer energy drinks, do we include the caffeinated waters? It’s not really an energy drink, is it?
At GreenEyedGuide.com, we’ve been highlighting “energy drinks in disguise” for a long time. When Beverage World came out with their list of Beverage Disruptors, I was very happy to see a few familiar faces. These “disruptors” are not just causing classification problems, they’re creating sporks.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A DISRUPTOR?
In the fitness world, we say, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t CHANGE you!” Beverage World’s list of beverage disruptors features “people driving the enormous degree of change that’s reshaping the beverage business.” These people are driving change and breaking stereotypes. If I had GreenEyedGuide jackets to distribute, these people would be in my club for sure.
MEET THE SPORKS
1—Avitae (Norman Snyder)
Food Dive predicted a trend in 2016 of a DECREASE in sugar-sweetened beverages and the INCREASE in tea and water. Food Dive also reported that caffeinated water will impact not just soda consumption, but energy drink consumption as well! Avitae is the ace up one’s sleeve in any “energy drinks are toxic” debate because this product is water and caffeine. It’s certainly closer to water than anything else, but it serves to both hydrate and energize. Oh sure, we can use the incredibly vague term “Functional Beverage” to categorize products like this. But if the function is to provide energy, it is an energy drink. [Avitae was the Energy Drink of the Month for April 2014 and April 2015]
2 – Bai (Ben Weiss)
Take the press’ love for the word “superfruit” and the public’s love for coffee, then sprinkle in the food scientists’ concern for reducing food waste and VOILA! Behold, the coffee fruit, or “coffeeberry” as it’s also known.
Bai poses problems for juice and water categories as well. It’s only a tiny faction (<10%) juice, but it’s more,…well…exciting than water. Guess we’ll call this one another “Functional Beverage”, but what, exactly, is the function? Hydration? Not quite. Delivery of antioxidants. Kinda. Energy. With 78 mg of caffeine per bottle, this is another energy drink in disguise! [Bai was the Energy Drink of the Month for February 2016]
3 — Runa (Tyler Gage and Dan MacCombie)
In a world where cell phone carriers constantly slander their competition to improve sales, Runa sells their primary ingredient to their competition! Runa’s mission is to “lift the living standards of the Ecuadorian farmers who harvest the company’s supply of guayusa leaves” (Beverage World Jan 2016). Therefore, the more people who buy the leaves, the better. So even when you buy Runa’s competitors, Runa wins. [Runa was the Energy Drink of the Month for February 2015]
4 – Steaz (Eric Schnell)
Steaz co-founder Eric Schnell is on the Beverage World disruptor’s list for his current entrepreneurial efforts, but it’s worth noting that he first made the Beverage Disruptors list with the production of Steaz. Steaz is soda and tea, hence the clever name. It’s “green-tea soda”, and it’s organic-certified.
Organic green-tea soda. Did you ever think those words together would make sense (or cents)? [Steaz was Energy Drink of the Month for January 2015]
5 – Elite Ops Energy Strips (Ray Welch)
These caffeinated versions of those convenient Listerine dissolvable strips aren’t beverages, so they could not make the Beverage World disruptors list. However I would be amiss if I didn’t include these game-changers in my own list. I haven’t seen anything like these strips, but they are absolutely essential for long drives, sequential flights, and boring lectures. These are what you use when you want the caffeine boost without opening that tell-tale PSST of an energy drink, the long wait for gross-yet-pricy convention center coffee, or the concentrated caffeine delivery of an energy shot. [Elite Ops Energy Strips were Energy Drink (alternative) for September 2015]
I was just starting college when Monster Energy came along. Back then I had two part time jobs and the determination to get my Biochemistry degree in four years. Nowadays, my energy needs have evolved, just like the needs of so many other energy drink consumers. The modern energy drink consumer is looking for energy drinks with added functionality such as hydration and extra protein, says Mintel research (Beverage World Jan 2016), Fortunately, for caffeine lovers everywhere, the energy drink market is evolving to meet our needs. My challenge to you is to consider these disruptors next time someone implies that (all) energy drinks are the same.
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