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
Caffeine may not seem like a “must-have” for a workout, but there are three major reasons why people at all fitness levels benefit from consuming caffeine before exercise. Check out this article I wrote for the Avitae blog!
Don’t miss this article, featuring three major reasons to add caffeine to your next workout:
- Caffeine Improves Performance and Endurance
- Caffeine Improves Focus
- Caffeine Encourages Fat Burning
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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Are you setting new resolutions for a new school year, trying to get used to a new schedule, or just trying to get in shape before the holiday season? This month’s pick is dedicated to September, and all the changes it brings.
The Energy Drink of the Month for September 2016 is Six Star Pre-Workout Explosion.
One serving is one scoop of powder, delivering 135 milligrams (mg) of caffeine. Though this is a dry powder and not a Ready-To-Drink (RTD), we’ll review the Who, What, and When as we do for every Energy Drink of the Month.
Who is this for? Target Audience
As it says right on the label, Six Star Pre-workout Explosion is for active men and women, bodybuilders, and strength athletes. But to find out if this product is worth a try, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you workout for more than 20 minutes? Does your workout exceed the intensity where you find it hard to talk normally / find yourself out of breath?
- Are you more concerned about limiting sugar and calories than avoiding artificial colors and sweeteners?
- How much caffeine can you handle?
What is in it? Ingredients and Function
The key ingredients in this product include caffeine (duh), beta-alanine, arginine and citrulline, creatine, vitamin C, and vitamin B3 (niacin).
Caffeine is a stimulant, but it also has been shown to increase muscle endurance and athletic performance in reliable scientific studies. Have you seen my YouTube presentation, Caffeine in Workout Supplements and the 5 Levels of Fatigue yet?
Arginine and citrulline are ingredients we’ve reviewed in depth during for the Ingredient Focus series. In general, citrulline and arginine help the body remove biochemical waste, and they help improve blood flow. For more detail, see the Ingredient Focus three-part series on citrulline: What It Is, What It Does, Dosage and Side Effects.
Creatine and beta-alanine are both ingredients intended to help build muscle and increase muscle strength. In both cases, total doses of 3-6 grams per day are needed on a regular basis to have an effect. Beta-alanine has some fascinating studies behind it (nerd alert!), especially since one brand (CarnoSyn) owns the market and has been responsibly proactive about proving this ingredient’s benefits. In general, beta-alanine is claimed to increase muscle strength and power output. However, the specifics on how much one really needs and how exactly this ingredient works is worth further investigation. Beta-alanine will be our Ingredient Focus pick for this month, so stay tuned for that!
Niacin is like the person everyone wants at their party. Did you know that niacin participates in over 200 reactions in the body – most of them used to produce ATP (the chemical form of energy)? Did you know that niacin deficiency symptoms include the three Ds: dementia, diarrhea, and dermatitis? Niacin is one of my favorite vitamins to talk about, especially since it disproves the idea you can never have too much of a water-soluble vitamin. It’s a popular vitamin in energy drinks, and yet with a 35 mg dosage, some people experience “niacin flush”.
If you’re a nerd like me and you want to learn more about what niacin does and why its story of discovery and application is so interesting, 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”
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.
This product contains 135 mg caffeine per serving, but the label of this product encourages people to have TWO servings! While the EFSA has ruled that up to 200 mg caffeine is safe to consume in one occasion, TWO servings would be 270 mg caffeine. That’s more than a whole can of Rockstar, more than the EFSA recommends consuming in one sitting, and more than half the safe daily max of 400 mg caffeine per day. According to the 5 Levels of Fatigue, this product is Fatigue Level 4. In short, this Pre-Workout Explosion may be too powerful for some people (and there’s no shame in that!).
While the EFSA has ruled that up to 200 mg caffeine is safe to consume in one occasion, TWO servings would be 270 mg caffeine. That’s more than a whole can of Rockstar, more than the EFSA recommends consuming in one sitting, and more than half the safe daily max of 400 mg caffeine per day.
There’s a good reason Caffeine Informer considers pre-workout supplements one of the 8 Most Dangerous Caffeinated Products. This is a large dose of caffeine per serving — not larger than what is considered safe in one sitting, but large enough to warrant careful consumption by the user.
I’ve been using this product as my pre-workout for about one month (*individual results may vary*) and I have found I don’t need any other source of caffeine the rest of the day. What helps most is that I add one (non-heaping) scoop to a 20 oz water bottle, and it takes me the full 90 minutes of my morning workout to get through the whole drink. Moderation and pacing are critical to consuming caffeine safely and effectively.
- Six Star Pre-workout product page : http://www.sixstarpro.com/products/pre-workout-explosion/
- Bodybuilding.com Complete Supplement Guide : http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/supplement-guide.html
- Panera KNOW-No Project : Review of the food science behind all the ingredients on the Panera “No No List”
Explore the CAFFEINE INFORMER database
In Part 1, we learned citrulline is watermelon extract. In Part 2, we learned citrulline’s value is what it does once the body converts it to arginine. In Part 3, we discuss the optimal dosage.
So how much citrulline do we need?
You may wonder, “If citrulline is so great because of how it turns into arginine, can’t I just take arginine?”
Citrulline is better absorbed than arginine. It’s also better tolerated. Doses over 10 grams of arginine can result in diarrhea and other gastrointestinal distress, but doses of citrulline up to 15 grams don’t cause these side effects according to this study.
Citrulline Malate versus L-citrulline
One gram of L-citrulline equates to 1.76 grams of citrulline malate. Citrulline malate is citrulline attached to the natural fruit acid, malic acid. Research studies on citrulline for sports performance typically use citrulline malate more than L-citrulline, so that is the preferred form.
For circulatory health (via arginine and subsequent nitric oxide production), citrulline doses are typically 1 gram (1,000 milligrams) three times with meals.
Although citrulline is not proven to improve muscle soreness, creatine production, or muscle protein synthesis, 6-8 grams as citrulline malate is commonly taken before, and less commonly after, a workout.
Supplements with Citrulline Malate
- Pre-JYM (6 grams citrulline malate per serving/scoop) [check it out here]
- WTRMLN WTR (520mg L-citrulline per serving / 1.5 servings per bottle) [check it out here]
- Cytosport Monster Amino 6:1:1 (1g L-citrulline per serving) [check it out here]
- MusclePharm VASO Sport (3g citrulline malate per serving/scoop) [check it out here]
Citrulline is promoted with claims about improving muscle pump, and strength and power, but “this supplement has somewhat inconclusive findings,” according to Bodybuilding.com’s 2016 supplement guide. This sentiment is echoed by the in-depth assessment of citrulline research on Examine.com. The Bodybuilding.com guide’s rating continues, “…some studies report positive changes following use, while others report no change. The anecdotal evidence is favorable, and although more research is needed, it is still considered safe for use.”
References and Related Reading
Citrulline on Examine.com (note – this site has HEAPS of information, but it may be a bit technical for some)
Explore the CAFFEINE INFORMER database