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
Energy drinks are a spectrum. While there are some that look exactly like the stereotypical energy drinks from the early 2000s, there are a growing number which look nothing like their forefathers. Every month I try to highlight an energy drink which doesn’t fit the stereotype. This month, we’ll review the science behind a drink which could be considered an energy drink, a pre-workout, maybe even a tea. Read more
Like ginkgo, ginseng is in THOUSANDS of products, not just energy drinks… Why? What does it do? Read more
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: Cool Blue Revitalizer, Red Bull (sugarfree) Purple Edition, Iconic Protein Coffee Drink, Monster Hydro Mean “Green” (more like yellow), F’Real Frappe Coffee, and West Coast Chill (caffeine free!) energy drink.
Cool Blue Revitalizer
- Caffeine Content 100 mg = Fatigue Level 2
Science Behind Cool Blue Revitalizer: This drink makes a big deal about 3 natural ingredients but it’s UNNATURALLY blue.
✔1. “Real Sugar” – true, but it ALSO has sucralose.
✔2. “Natural Flavor” – I guess BLUE drink =BLUE-berries? To me this drink tasted like CITRIC ACID OVERLOAD!!! WOAH BUDDY!
✔3. “Natural Caffeine” – From where? The label doesn’t specify but it’s 100 mg caffeine [#fatiguelevel2]
🤓PET PEEVE: 1 container= 1.3 Servings? Really…you couldn’t change your formula or can size?
🔬SODIUM BENZOATE— Did you know that benzoate salts like this one prevents growth of microorganisms like yeast and mold; it’s used for preservation of sour food (pH 4 and lower) and is often used with other preservatives especially at low pH (acidic food).
🔬SODIUM BENZOATE SAFETY NOTES — Consumers can ingest up to 5mg per kg of body weight of benzoic acid and its salts according to European Commission – Scientific Committee on Food. There are safety concerns suspected but unconfirmed for benzene formation from benzoic acid with ascorbic acid. However, this risk “cannot be reliably assessed on basis of data available” per BfR Expert Opinion. [More Info on the “Panera KNOW-No List“]
Red Bull Purple Edition (sugarfree)
- Caffeine Content 114 mg = Fatigue Level 3
The Science Behind RED BULL PURPLE EDITION: Red Bull has less caffeine and fewer ingredients than Monster and Rockstar. No guarana, carnitine, glucuronolactone, ginseng, or ginkgo; NO PRESERVATIVES! NO SUGAR!
🤓Since Red Bull has been around a long time there are mounting scientific studies testing its effectiveness
🤓Red Bull is not only the NUMBER ONE SELLING ENERGY DRINK BRAND on the PLANET, they also set the standard for energy drink industry SAFETY GUIDELINES. Red Bull was the FIRST ENERGY DRINK Company to list caffeine content on their cans several years ago, paving the way for other companies to follow suit.
🤓FURTHERMORE Red Bull has been open about their commitment to food safety and quality – you can read all about that HERE: ⚡ Red Bull on Caffeine Safety and Transparency ⚡
✔This MAY NOT BE FOR YOU IF you are trying to avoid artificial flavors and/or sweeteners – This drink has Sucralose and Ace-K but I am more concerned about the KNOWN effects of high sugar intake than the DEBATABLE effects of these two sweeteners.
✔Ace-K has been USED AROUND THE WORLD for 15 years and used in the US since 1988.
✔Sucralose was approved by FDA in 1998, and it’s considered safe by government/regulatory agencies worldwide.
✔As far as caffeine interactions that (maybe?) make energy drink more dangerous than coffee, I enjoy Red Bull’s simple ingredients, sugarfree options, and moderate caffeine content. 🤓💚⚡⛾⚡🔬⚡
Iconic Protein + Coffee Drink
- Caffeine Content 180 mg = Fatigue Level 3
If caffeine is best for PREworkout and protein is best for POSTworkout, what do you do with a CAFFEINE+PROTEIN COMBO?
🤓 DRINK IT!
But seriously, here’s what you should know:
✔ This drink has 180 mg caffeine per container. That’s as much as a Monster Energy (160 mg)
✔Caffeine doses of 3-6 mg caffeine per kg bodyweight are the best for pre-workout. That’s the range used in “[X] Til Exhaustion” studies (cycling, running, rowing…)
✔ Protein doses of 20-25 grams* protein taken in the 30 min window after workout is ideal for muscle growth but overall protein consumption matters too. *NOTE bigger protein doses don’t mean bigger results
✔ONLY 3 GRAMS SUGAR from Agave. Sweetness also comes from MONK FRUIT (aka Luo Han Guo) & STEVIA! I LOVE seeing these natural sweeteners used in caffeinated beverages 🤓💚🔬➕⛾➕🏋️♀️
Monster Hydro Mean Green
- Caffeine Content 125 mg = Fatigue Level 3
As the GREENEyedGuide I’m bummed “Mean GREEN” is yellow.
As a Food Scientist, I know artificial green is hard to keep green and natural green often involves spirulina, which has the slightest seawater taste. I don’t normally talk about taste in my reviews bc it’s subjective, but this tasted like flat Moutain Dew or old lemonade to me. 🤓💚🔬⛾
✔Sugar sources include sucrose (table sugar), glucose, and artificial sweetener sucralose. 23g! Not awful but <10g is my sweet spot (food pun!)
✔NO GUARANA OR TAURINE OR CARNITINE so really different than the typical Monster Energy Blend.
✔125 mg caffeine per bottle, compared to 180mg in most flavors of Monster Energy.
Is Monster Hydro a healthier alternative to Monster Energy?
YES in terms of lower caffeine content and FEWER Caffeine-(other ingredient) INTERACTIONS, which some people* think make some energy drinks more dangerous than coffee.
*I’m on the fence about this. Caffeine-Taurine-glucuronolactone combos are fine but no data for or against caffeine-carnitine combos yet.
F’real Frappe Coffee
- Caffeine Content not disclosed – Unknown Level of Fatigue
That Moment When you want to hide your CAFFEINE CONTENT so badly, you COMPARE yourself to something AMBIGUOUS. “2x caffeine as leading frozen coffee”
Who is the leading FROZEN coffee and HOW MUCH caffeine do they have? It is FALSE to assume a cup of coffee has a standard amount. 1 cup at Starbucks doesn’t equal 1 cup at Pikes or 1 cup at your hotel.
Neat concept with the DIY F’Real Blender machine but if we’re going to GET REAL (or “f’real”) ABOUT CAFFEINE SAFETY we need EVERYONE to report caffeine content.
Have you ever seen a bottle of ALCOHOL that DID NOT disclose the %?
PS – sixty-one grams of sugar y’all. Sixty. One. But look at how clean and simple the ingredients are. Too bad simple doesn’t = healthy. 🤓💚⛾🔬
West Coast Chill (caffeine free energy drink)
- Caffeine Content = ZERO! Fatigue Level 0-1 Energy Drink
An energy drink with NO CAFFEINE?!? Does the term “energy drink” mean anything anymore!?!
Let’s inspect it: 🤓💚⛾🔬Active ingredients include:
🤓Ribose – a compound that participates in an odd (pun) energy producing reaction called the Pentose phosphate pathway. Promising science, just hasn’t caught on yet.
🤓Ginseng – be skeptical of benefits!
🤓Arginine – amino acid with important jobs in the body (Urea Cycle Waste Removal). HOWEVER the BEST way to supplement arginine is to TAKE Citrulline!
🤓B-vitamins AND minerals – minerals aren’t usually in energy drinks. Curious… 🤓💚🔬⛾📚
Click HERE to learn more about how to use the 5 Levels of Fatigue.
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The interaction between two ingredients reminds me of the relationship or “synergy” between a wizard and his wand in the world of Harry Potter. Synergy is when two things are stronger together than they are on their own. In other words, the same wizard might feel less powerful using a different wand: the combination of the two makes the difference.
I’ve been seeing a lot about ingredient interaction in the news lately, but this is only half the story. Behold, our Book Excerpt of the Week:
In the world of Harry Potter, a cracked or damaged wand will not be as powerful, even if used by its rightful owner. The quality overrides the synergy or interaction.
In nature, a plant might have a high concentration of caffeine or some other nutrient, but how much of that nutrient survived when that plant was turned into a powder? Some ingredients are commonly adulterated (like ginseng and gingko), and some ingredients are hard to absorb (like quercetin and polyphenol antioxidants).
If someone is telling you two ingredients are powerful or dangerous when combined, they should also address ingredient quality and composition. Poor quality ingredients, poorly absorbed ingredients, or ingredients that have been adulterated will not have the same synergistic/combined effects on your body as they do in a test tube.
Learn More: Get your copy of “Are You a Monster or a Rock Star: A Guide to Energy Drinks — How They Work, Why They Work, How to Use Them Safely” from Amazon, here. (Kindle, paperback, hardcover available).