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: Bai Sparkling Antioxidant Infusion, Cocaine Energy, and Monster Ultra Violet.
- Vitamin B12 is the number-one most common energy drink ingredient (caffeine is third!) [Source, Caffeine Informer and Innova Market Insights’ Database] and VoloVitamins has over 41,000% of the Daily Value of vitamin B12!
- For most B-vitamins, you don’t have to worry about ingesting too much because you’ll just pee out the excess. This is NOT TRUE for vitamin B6 and niacin aka vitamin B3, which CAN give you upleasant symptoms if you have too much. The vitamin B6 in VoloVitamins is not high enough to cause any of these symptoms, but the amount of niacin is high enough to cause “niacin flush” in some people.
- VoloVitamis contains 17 different fruits in powder form. Since the overall amount of the whole serving isn’t very big, it’s safe to assume the amount of each fruit is miniscule. That means VoloVitamins is not a replacement for whole fruit in the diet and does not provide sufficient amounts of fruit polyphenols and antioxidants to make any health claims. But fruit powders add flavor.
- The caffeine content is not stated outright on the product but it’s compared to a cup of green tea. Comparisions like this are always tricky because it’s not a standard reference: an 8 ounce cup of green tea may have a little at 12 mg or as much as 48 mg caffeine according to the Caffeine Informer database.
For VoloVitamins, the caffeine comes from guarana extract and green tea extract.
- VoloVitamins conains NO artificial flavors or sweeteners. The color comes from grape seed extract. The sweetness comes from the natural sweetener stevia. Malic and citric acid also contribute some sourness to the taste, though they serve multiple roles in this formula: they are not just added for taste.
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“ARE YOU A MONSTER OR A ROCK STAR: A GUIDE TO ENERGY DRINKS – HOW THEY WORK, WHY THEY WORK, HOW TO USE THEM SAFELY”
So many puns… Does your energy come from an Organic source or is it an innate, inherent, organic burst of energy? If Organic Chemistry is the study of carbon-based molecules and coal is combustible compressed carbon matter, can we call coal “organic energy”? Can we call a beverage Organic if it’s carbon-ated? All puns aside (for now), let’s talk about a carbonated energy drink that is certified-Organic.
The Energy Drink of the Month for June 2017 is Guru Organic Energy.
Guru has other energy drinks to offer, but for this month we’ll focus on the original. As with any energy drink, we need to discuss the WHO, WHAT, and WHEN:
- Who is this for? What ingredient phobias and preferences does it cater to?
- What are the key ingredients and what do they do?
- When should someone drink this, based on caffeine content and the 5 Levels of Fatigue?
Who It’s For: Ingredient Preferences and Phobias
Guru is certified-Organic, gluten free, non-GMO Project Verified, and artificial free. The drink is sweetened with Organic cane syrup and also Organic white grape juice concentrate. In total, there are 30 grams of sugar.
This is an energy drink without the stereotypical energy drink ingredients that strike fear into the hearts (bad pun, #arrthymia) of those that think all energy drinks are more dangerous than coffee. Guru Organic Energy does not contain taurine, carnitine, glucuronolactone, or any B-vitamins. It does contain guarana though, but we’ll get to that. Don’t panic.
Did you know the word “Organic” has more regulations around it than the words “energy drink”? You can’t use the word “Organic” on the label unless the product meets specific regulations, and that compliance is confirmed through certification. Of course, these regulations are not without flaw and Organic products are not immune to consumer confusion about the implications of the term.
What’s In It: Key Ingredients and Functions
- Citric Acid and “Apple Acid”
“Apple acid” is a synonym for malic acid, but perhaps “malic acid” sounds more chemical-y to some people. The genus for apple is Malus, and malic acid is what gives apples their characteristic tart taste. Both citric and malic acids are organic acids that occur naturally in fruits like lemons and apples. Some sugar-free energy drinks get carried away with the use of citric acid because it can provide a tartness that makes up for a lack of sugar. However, too much citric acid can sting the tongue. That’s not a problem for Guru, fortunately.
- Green Tea Leaf Extract
Green Tea Leaf Extract is the predominant source of caffeine in Guru Organic Energy. In addition to the caffeine, green tea extract also provides health benefits in the form of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). This mouthful of an antioxidant is one of the reasons green tea is the healthiest beverage on the planet (second only to water).
The catechin and polyphenol content in this beverage are not claimed, so Guru cannot be called an “antioxidant beverage”. Nonetheless, the more green tea you can get in your diet, the better (the same cannot be said for caffeine, however). The benefits of green tea extract are vast — especially in isolated cells, test tubes, and lab rats. Green tea’s benefits for humans are harder to prove but, to quote from this informative and delightful article by our friends at Compound Interest,
“…the combination of L-Theanine and caffeine can improve speed, performance and accuracy in cognitively demanding tasks – put simply, L-Theanine ‘smooths out’ the stimulating effects of caffeine. – Compound Interest, The Chemistry of Tea
- Guarana Seed Extract
Guarana has a lot in common with Snape, oops, I meant Professor Snape. When energy drinks first came out, people were afraid of guarana and claimed it was dangerous and devious. Now it’s an ingredient people are proud of and happy to see.
Way back in the mid-2000s, (before I started this blog, unfortunately) guarana was considered bad because of the additional caffeine it provided. Drinks that had both caffeine and guarana were thought to be the most dangerous of all because of the cumulative caffeine content. Note, this was before energy drink companies started putting “Caffeine from All Sources” on the labels. With the whole food and artificial free movement, guarana became more acceptable and appreciated because it is a natural source of caffeine
- Panax Ginseng
Did you know that not all ginseng offers the same health benefits? Panax ginseng, also called Asian or Korean ginseng, is the good kind. Siberian ginseng doesn’t contain any of the characteristic chemical compounds, called ginsenosides, that make ginseng “Ginseng”. When harvested, ginseng can be dried and bleached to become white ginseng, or steamed and air dried to become red ginseng.
If you were a lab rat, ginseng might improve memory. With humans, the data is less convincing. Ginseng allegedly helps reduce stress but that’s only when it’s sipped warm or when the root is chewed. How convenient that the act of holding a warm object is also attributed to stress reduction. So is the act of mastication. Suffice to say I’m not sold on the power of ginseng…but it either doesn’t help you or it does. Nothing suggests it’s going to hurt you, especially in the amounts found in energy drinks.
When To Consume: Caffeine Content and the 5 Levels of Fatigue
This product contains 142 milligrams of caffeine from the green tea extract and the guarana seed extract combined. As a reminder, people under 18 should have no more than 100 milligrams of caffeine a day, and healthy non-pregnant adults should have no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day.
This may be an Energy Drink in Disguise, but it has almost as much caffeine as a Monster Energy (Guru: 142 milligrams, Monster, most flavors, 160 milligrams). That makes this FATIGUE LEVEL 3! This is not a drink you want to drink every day because you want to save the stronger caffeinated beverages for when you are more than just dehydrated or a little tired.
We talked about Fatigue Level 3 during the 10 Day Caffeine Challenge. Here’s a refresher about why this level is special:
Guru Organic Energy is a great alternative to stronger caffeinated beverages like Monster Energy. With 142 milligrams of caffeine, this is not something you want to consume every day. However, with its artificial free, certified-Organic, Non-GMO, gluten free ingredients, this is a beverage you can be proud to drink.
Review the entire ENERGY DRINK OF THE MONTH SERIES
- 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”
- HELP ME TURN MY BOOK INTO AN AUDIO BOOK – SUPPORT ME ON PATREON
- Explore the CAFFEINE INFORMER database
- Need help with quitting caffeine? I HIGHLY recommend this guide: Awake: How to Quit from Caffeine for Good
This is one of those times that reminds me of a South Park episode: when I use the words “clean energy” to describe a healthy alternative to the stereotypical energy drink, my computer starts showing me ads for solar power. As suggested in the South Park episode “Sponsored Content”, ads have evolved. But then so have energy drinks.
The Energy Drink of the Month for April 2016 is Clean Energy On-Demand (CEO).
Currently, Watermelon Coconut is the only flavor available, but this product is brand new as of this post. For an in-depth Q & A with Founder Jason Petrou, including their Steven Covey-eque Mission Statement and a peak into just how difficult it can be to bring a healthy beverage to market, CLICK HERE.
This product contains 70 milligrams of caffeine per bottle, and it says so right on the label. The caffeine comes from organic green coffee beans — Arabica coffee beans that are spared from the roasting that turns them brown and delivers the signature coffee flavor profile. Of course, caffeine is caffeine is caffeine, but that’s specifically the molecule itself. When caffeine is extracted from different sources, different compounds may come along with it – sometimes called conjoiners. This is why a food scientist may find different microscopic compounds mixed in with their caffeine extract if that extract comes from a coffee bean or a coffeeberry.
Thankfully CEO treats one whole bottle as one whole serving (how realistic), but with a screw-cap lid you can moderate your dosage and save some for the next day. This 70 mg dose of caffeine is slightly less than the 80 mg in an 8 oz Red Bull and less than HALF that of a SHORT cup of brewed coffee from Starbucks. (PS – Please note that using “a standard cup of coffee” as an indicator of caffeine content is one of the worst measurement devices on the planet. Those who respect your business will tell you EXACTLY how much caffeine is in their product without hiding behind this euphemistic, deceptive measurement. )
Other ingredients in this product include watermelon juice concentrate, coconut water concentrate, and lime juice. These ingredients and the corresponding sodium and potassium electrolytes are what make this drink so refreshing and hydrating. [For more on hydration, see this article from Food Insight]
There are no artificial colors or flavors in this product, and no added sugar. The watermelon juice provides the sweetness, and vegetable juice is added to enhance the drink’s slight red hue.
The most chemical-sounding ingredients in this product are sodium citrate and malic acid, but even those are very clean and non-scary to the worst case of chemophobia. Sodium citrate is a form of the citric acid that gives lemons their characteristic sourness, and malic acid is naturally found in watermelons and stone fruits. See this amazing infographic from Compound Interest for more details on those natural acids:
Not all energy drinks are created equal, and whether an energy drink is right for you depends not just on your level of fatigue, but on your diet goals and lifestyle choices. For example, some people are more concerned about artificial ingredients than their sugar intake, while others would rather have stevia or artificial sweeteners and a zero-sugar, zero-calorie beverage.
CEO v Similar Energy Drinks
CEO has no artificial colors or flavors, and each bottle contains just 50 Calories and 11 grams of sugar. Even if you drank the whole bottle, the sugar and Calorie impact is still minimal, which makes this energy drink a great healthy swap for some of the strictest diets. Compared to Starbucks Refreshers, which is also made with green coffee beans, this CEO beverage has more juice and caffeine (50%, 70 mg versus 25%, 50 mg). CEO also has less sugar than both Starbucks Refreshers (11 grams versus 13 grams).
Compared to BAI Antioxidant Infusion, which we reviewed February 2016, CEO has more sugar (11 grams versus 2* grams). However, that 2-asterisk-grams doesn’t include the 16 grams of sugar alcohol erythritol per bottle of BAI. CEO doesn’t use any sugar alcohols (or any other sweeteners for that matter). Furthermore, CEO is 50% juice per bottle and is aimed at hydration, while BAI is only 8% juice per bottle and is aimed at providing a dose of coffeeberry antioxidants.
CEO v Similar Hydration Drinks
I, personally, cannot stand the taste of coconut water. If you enjoy coconut water and are interested in other hydration drinks, CEO is worth a try. It bothers me immensely when people group energy drinks into one giant basket. Thus I will not make that mistake here with coconut waters. Instead, I will advise you to compare labels for Calories and sugar content when finding the beverage that works best for your diet goals and lifestyle. First and foremost you should find a sports drink that doesn’t cause you any tummy discomfort or sabotage your whole day, diet-wise. The next step in finding the perfect hydration beverage is to find one you will actually drink! For more on hydration, see this handy guide I prepared for The Scientific Parent.
Behold – yet another “energy drink in disguise” that breaks the energy drink stereotype. I wouldn’t recommend this product unless I was confident in its safety – and I do highly recommend this product. I got the chance to ask CEO about their food safety program and quality testing, and I am satisfied that this is a safe, healthy alternative to the stereotypical energy drink. At 70 mg per bottle, this would make a great swap to those used to the caffeine of a single 8 ounce Red Bull.
Unless you live in Boston, you can get this drink here on the CEO site.
CEO featured in Food Navigator’s “Beverage Entrepreneurs and Trends to Watch”
Explore the CAFFEINE INFORMER database