Is V8 Really an Energy Drink? A Primer on the Science of Energy Drinks in Disguise [GreenEyedGuide on ScienceMeetsFood]

In this article I wrote for ScienceMeetsFood.org, I address the problem behind the term “energy drink” and the science behind energy drinks in disguise. (There’s also a Guardians of the Galaxy metaphor!) It’s a great primer if you’ve never heard the term “energy drink in disguise”, or if you never realized that V8 and Ocean Spray make energy drinks. Read this article in its entirety at ScienceMeetsFood.org

“I’ve been studying energy drinks since 2003 and they continue to both fascinate and horrify me. They fascinate me because I’m a biochemistry major, or maybe it’s the other way around. Energy drinks are the reason I pursued my masters in food science (and the reason I survived grad school). Metabolic biochemistry is the closest I’ll ever come to engineering – for me, studying biochemistry is studying the secret rules to how things work.

Energy drinks horrify me because it feels like people with no science background are behind some of the products you can buy online. Sometimes I’ll read a label and think, “What are they doing? Who thought this was a good idea?” The most concerning aspect of energy drinks is we don’t have a proper nomenclature to classify them properly. (#WhatWouldIUPACDo?) Using the term “energy drink” the way we do is like calling pure ethanol “booze”. Let’s talk about why the lack of classification is a problem.

Is V8 Really Energy Drink
Read this on ScienceMeetsFood

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Energy Drinks and Figure Bodybuilding Training – Part One

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.

 

Red Bull Super Power Figure Prep
Caffeine meets Figure Prep: GreenEyedGuide on Instagram

 

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.

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How does caffeine affect weight loss and physical activity? Book Excerpt of the Week

How does caffeine affect weight loss and physical activity? Caffeine encourages several small metabolic changes, and all these changes encourage the use of fat for fuel instead of glucose. But how does caffeine trigger all these small changes? The answer has to do with adenosine’s throne.

Okay, so let’s say that adenosine has a throne that only adenosine can fit into. When adenosine sits on its throne, it can send signals to make us sleepy. Fortunately for us, caffeine is similar enough in size to fit adenosine’s special throne. When that happens, caffeine blocks adenosine, preventing those sleepy signals from being sent. But adenosine has more than one throne. In fact, we have adenosine receptors all over the body. Interacting with all those adenosine receptors is how caffeine is able to trigger these small metabolic changes that encourage fat-burning over glucose-burning for fuel.

This fat-burning boost sounds awesome! But there is one more thing about caffeine and physical activity we need to consider: the effect on blood pressure. This brings us to the Excerpt of the Week:

Both caffeine and exercise raise heart rate and blood pressure, so combining them can have a scary, additive effect. In general, 200 mg caffeine per “sitting” or occasion is considered safe by multiple sources, including the EFSA. But if you’ve never consumed a pre-workout supplement or other source of caffeine before a workout before, start small.

We’ll talk MUCH MORE about caffeine and fat metabolism/weight-loss when we get to the GREEN TEA section of this book. For now, let me just say that no one should expect an energy drink to be a safe or effective weight-loss method. If an energy drink helps you make it to your workout, that’s a different story. Remember – caffeine is not a miracle weight loss tool!

When is the last time you saw a story or post about someone who lost weight because they started drinking Product X?  Unless it comes with a diet and exercise regime, you can ignore that story.

An energy drink may give you wings, but it will not make you lighter all by itself.

You can 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” on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

💥 💚📚 http://amzn.to/2bjHRbk
Stay tuned for next week’s book excerpt, as we continue to move page-by-page through the Energy Drink Guide.

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