Caffeinated Water 101

-updated 7/9/2019

Caffeinated water can be a great alternative to the stereotypical energy drink, but there are some important details to consider before trying it.  This is the first of a three-part series on caffeinated water. In this series, we’ll answer the most commonly asked questions including:

  • Is caffeinated water safe?
  • Is caffeinated water healthy?
  • How does caffeinated water compare to energy drinks?
  • Does caffeine make you dehydrated?
  • How does caffeine affect urine output?

I’ve been researching energy drinks for several years now and I’m always amazed at how far we’ve come from the days when Red Bull and Monster were your only alternatives to coffee and caffeinated soda. Caffeinated waters are another way energy drinks have evolved to meet the desires of consumers. In this case, that desire is for an energy drink with simple ingredients and minimal side-effects.

In This Series:

Caffeinated Water 101

Don’t have time to watch the full video? No worries! The key details are below.

What is Caffeinated Water?

Caffeinated waters lie on a spectrum. Some brands of caffeinated water are literally just caffeine and water; other brands of caffeinated water contain caffeine, water, and other ingredients like flavor, colors, and sweetener.

Where does the FDA stand on this?

The FDA’s definition of water includes the fact it’s zero Calorie. The FDA has issued warning letters to companies for using the word “water” to market/label drinks with added sugars because these drinks are not Calorie-free, and therefore can’t be called “water”.

How to Say Leviosa

Hello, Loophole: If it’s not Zero Calorie, it’s “water BEVERAGE”, not “water”.

For the rest of this discussion, I’m going to define Caffeinated Water as a non-carbonated beverage with caffeine and few other ingredients: no vitamins or electrolytes, no added sugars or juice, maybe some flavor or non-calorie sweetener and some citric acid for flavor and freshness.

Is Caffeinated Water Healthy?

In general, caffeinated waters will have less complicated formulas than the stereotypical energy drink. There (probably) won’t be any taurine, carnitine, glucuronolactone, or guarana in caffeinated water. This is good news for those who think energy drink ingredients interact and make energy drinks more dangerous than coffee. For caffeinated water, that concern is a moot point.

Some caffeinated water does have artificial ingredients.

If you’re trying to avoid this, read the label!

“Healthy” is a relative term but, with the simpler formula, caffeinated water is healthier than sugar-free Red Bull (for example). But being a healthy drink depends on the caffeine content, which brings us to the next big question.

Is Caffeinated Water Safe?

Don’t assume caffeinated water is safer than energy drinks because some brands of caffeinated waters have more caffeine per can than some brands of energy drinks. To be safe, it’s up to you to check the label and confirm the caffeine content is something you can handle. People have overdosed on pure caffeine powder – just because there’s no taurine or ingredients you can’t pronounce doesn’t mean it’s safe for you to drink.

For reference, the max amount of caffeine adults can have in one day is 400 mg caffeine total. The max per serving is 200 mg caffeine. [EFSA Guidelines]

Should You Drink Caffeinated Water?

If you’re looking for something that tastes more like water (meaning flavor is really weak, like cucumber or lemon in your water), caffeinated water is a good alternative to the stereotypical energy drink.

If you’re looking at a specific brand, ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. Is the caffeine a good amount for me
  2. Does this contain any ingredients I’m trying to limit in my diet?
  3. Am I thirsty / Would a non-caffeinated water mix-in work just as well?

Now on to Part Two: Caffeine and Hydration

Love this info? Want to learn more?

I’ve researched the science and safety behind energy drinks and their ingredients since 2003. This book is the culmination of my research:

Need help with quitting caffeine?

GreenEyedGuide Caffeine Challenge Day 1/10 – Fatigue and Dehydration

For Day 1 of the GreenEyedGuide Caffeine Challenge, we review water’s health benefits, facts about dehydration, and why Fatigue Level 1 = dehydration! In this Caffeine Challenge, you’ll learn how to use the 5 Levels of Fatigue to reap the benefits of caffeine while avoiding addiction, dependence, tolerance, and toxicity.

PLAY ALONG – post a picture of your water bottle or water tracker on Instagram and tag @GreenEyedGuide, or add your pictures to the Caffeine Challenge Event page at Facebook.com/GreenEyedGuide/events

Support GreenEyedGuide on Patreon at Patron.com/greeneyedguide

Love energy drinks/coffee/caffeine? Visit Facebook.com/energydrinkguide

Love Fitness + Caffeine = visit Facebook.com/greeneyedguide

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.

WHO IT’S FOR

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

20161213_232927

  • 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

core-organic-pomegranate-blue-acai-ingredients

WHAT’S IN IT

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

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!

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!

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

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ENERGY DRINK OF THE MONTH YEAR IN REVIEW (YEAR 1 AND YEAR 2…year 3 coming soon…)

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What if you consume an energy drink while dehydrated? Book Excerpt of the Week

What happens if you consume an energy drink while dehydrated/without water? This Book Excerpt of the Week comes from PART ONE: ABCs of Caffeine Safety – C=Consumption Specifics. Whether an energy drink is safe for you, specifically, depends on who you are. It also depends on how (under what circumstances) you consume the product.

“Minimal dehydration (1-2% of body weight in fluids) can slow down metabolism and make you feel thirsty and slightly fatigued

caffeine-without-water

One of the reasons I developed the 5 Levels of Fatigue is because some people consume caffeine when their dehydration makes them tired. This is “Fatigue Level 1”. I urge everyone to consume a cup of water before reaching for caffeine, just in case. Sometimes, water (or the short walk to get the water and the subsequent trip to the bathroom) is enough to wake you up. This trick doesn’t work all the time, but it helps cut down on total caffeine consumption. If you want to avoid caffeine toxicity, tolerance, or dependence, you need to be strategic about when and how you consume it.

Help me share my story–  An energy drink is like your favorite song: what works for YOU might not work for me, and what works for you on a Monday morning may not be your go-to for a Friday night. As the GreenEyedGuide, I use food science to teach people how to calculate what they need and when, whether it’s water, a nap, or some healthy beverage in between.

For more information on the 5 Levels of Fatigue:

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” http://amzn.to/2bjHRbk