The Wand Chooses the Wizard: Energy Synergy versus Ingredient Quality and Composition – Book Excerpt of the Week

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.

Related Reading:


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).

Confessions of a Shady Supplement Supplier

After reading a research review on the adulteration of dietary supplements, I was inspired to write a confession. I work for a supplement company that gets complaints for being “too diligent” with our auditing and micro testing requirements, but I’ve seen enough to make me think twice about buying supplements online. If this confession makes you angry, remember this is a fake confession. The bad news is some supplement suppliers are ACTUALLY this negligent. The good news is you can spot the shady ones by asking the right questions…let me demonstrate.
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Energy Drink of the Month — June 2015: Spider Energy Mimic

I’m a sucker for puns, platitudes, alliterations and bold, symmetrical logos. This month’s pick has it all. Moreover, summer is the best time to try new things, whether it’s exploring a new city or sampling new food. This month’s pick is a drink I wouldn’t normally choose, for reasons I’ll explain later, but I just HAD to try it, for reasons I’ll explain later.

The Energy Drink of the Month for June 2015 is Spider Energy Mimic.

It’s just hitting stores now, June 2015, and a sugar-free version will be released later this year. (Check out this bold label – I can’t wait! I love the graphics!) No, this drink is not called Mimic because it is trying to mimic another energy drink that starts with letter M. If anything, the taste is closer to original Red Bull than original Rockstar or original Monster, but Spider Mimic is more tangy-fruity than either of those.

First, why I just HAD to try this drink:

Green and black is my ultimate favor color combo, and this spider logo brings up some very strong memories of a very important day for me (See box for tangent).


What’s In It and Why?

This energy drink has no artificial colors or flavors, no high-fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners. It is sweetened with sucrose and glucose only, which accounts for its unique tart sweetness. If you are less concerned with overall sugar intake and more concerned about HFCS, and artificial colors/flavors/sweeteners, Spider Energy is more favorable than many other similar energy drinks. (No judgments – we all have different diet goals and needs)

Spider Energy Mimic Fact Panel
Spider Energy Mimic Fact Panel

The B-vitamin complex is represented, but thankfully Spider does not go crazy with the amounts. Yes, B-vitamins are water-soluble but more isn’t always better (I’ve discussed the consequences of too much niacin or vitamin B6 elsewhere).

From a quality assurance/food safety perspective, I’m glad Spider Energy Mimic uses extracts (Panax Ginseng Extract, Guarana Seed Extract, Green Tea Extract). In general, extracts contain more of the active and less of the background (inherent microbial growth and heavy metal content).

I also love that this label opted to include a chart of the actives. That’s a great way to empower your consumers, letting them know exactly what actives are in your product, at what amounts. Speaking of empowering consumers, the details about what all these actives do is captured in the Energy Drink Guide; to avoid repeating myself or minimizing the years of work that went into said guide, I’ll just encourage you to check this guide out. It is the ultimate resource to all things energy drink and caffeine safety.

Who and What is This For?

This whole can provides 55 grams of sugar, which is too much for many people (including myself). There’s an easy way around this, as demonstrated in this video.

This whole can provides 240 milligrams of caffeine so, with the sugar content and carbonation, by the 5 Levels of Fatigue system, this product is a Level 4: a serious boost that’s best reserved for energy emergencies than for everyday consumption. If you’re working two jobs, if you’re pulling all-nighters to move out of your apartment by the deadline, or it’s your turn to stay up all night scouring the city and fighting crime, this drink is appropriate. If you consume this drink multiple times a week you may be getting your body too used to large amounts of caffeine.

NOTE – According to the European Food Safety Authority, a single dose of 200mg caffeine, with a daily maximum dose of up to 400mg caffeine is considered safe. But I personally recommend that caffeine consumers try to get by on as little caffeine as possible, so that when you REALLY need it, the caffeine will be able to do its job. This is what the 5 Levels of Fatigue is all about – finding the drink with the attributes that match how tired you are, preventing over-consumption and dependence.

Meet Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider Energy

Founded in 2009 under The Masters of Beverages, Spider Energy strives to be better than the “Big 3”. With a specific call-out to each on their main page, the main mission of Spider was captured perfectly in the following announcement from BevNet:

 Bottom Line

Spider Energy Mimic is not for everyone. Energy drinks, in general, are not for everyone, but even this particular energy drink is not for all energy drink consumers. It has a cleaner ingredient line than many of its competitors, so if the sugar is too much for you (and my nifty little trick in the video above doesn’t appeal to you), I HIGHLY recommend seeking the Sugar-Free Mimic, coming soon.


Spider Energy Home


Caffeine Informer on Spider Energy (click the image)

The Energy Drink Guide — your one-stop reference for the common energy drink ingredients: what they are, where they come from, what they (are supposed to) do, and how much is too much

Chemophobia Case Study: Swish4Energy Review

An energy drink you’re not supposed to swallow? I had to check this out for myself. This was an opportunity to experiment with something novel, and yet, this experience was something many consumers encounter at one point or another — suspicion of unfamiliar chemicals and ingredients.

Supplement Savvy Step ONE: Understanding the Product’s Purpose

Swish Energy is a unique product — it’s not exactly an energy drink because you’re not supposed to swallow it. It’s more of an energy mouthwash. This is a brilliant concept; it’s an untapped market. It’s true that some caffeine is absorbed sublingually (beneath the tongue), and this delivery system is less susceptible to the complaints the FDA had with the “caffeine inhaler” idea (read the FDA’s warning letter), or caffeinated gum (GEG rant here).

Step TWO: What to Ask BEFORE you buy

There are three questions you need answers to before you buy a new supplement. You may not always get the truth to these three questions, but asking them may eliminate some of the most shady products from your cart. First, figure out where the product is manufactured. Something “Made in the USA” might still be coming from someone’s basement, but at least that manufacturing location will be subject to FDA regulations. Yes, there are regulations for supplements, too.

Second, figure out who’s selling the product to you. If it’s a sales-person with no science background just reading a script, buyer-beware. If the product’s founders have a background in pharmaceuticals, chemistry or food science, that is better than someone who is just an entrepreneur with a Scientific Advisory Board. When the CEO is a scientist and not just a business-person, it’s more likely they’re going to make decisions based on food science.

Third, find a picture of the actual label — facts panel and ingredient statement. This is often the most important part, and will tell you more than any of the claims on the front of the label. Once you’ve got a picture of the facts panel and ingredient statement, you’re ready for Supplement Savvy Step THREE!

Step THREE: How to Research Unfamiliar Ingredients and/or Chemicals

As John Coupland once said, “I tried avoiding ingredients I can’t pronounce, but sadly I can pronounce them all.” Like Dr. Coupland, I understand the point behind the “pronounceable ingredients only” strategy, but I can’t take such advice seriously when I know so many people who can’t properly pronounce “acai” and “quinoa”.

Before you shell out your hard-earned cash on a new supplement, it’s worth your time to do a Google-search on the ingredients in the product you’re considering. BEWARE – there is a LOT of awful misinformation on the internet, so always look at multiple sources (the product’s own site and Wikipedia don’t count).  The more you populate your Favorites list with sites and sources you know are credible, the quicker and more reliable your search is going to be.

Review of Swish Energy, Ingredient by Ingredient

Energy Drink of the Month — October 2014: Rockstar Roasted

Food Scientists, Quality professionals and those in marketing (“Marketeers”) don’t always see eye to eye. As the Green-Eyed Guide, my goal is to challenge myself and others to expand perspectives, to try to see a situation from another’s eyes. Thus, for this month’s energy drink pick, I wanted to provide my interpretation of how three different professionals in the food industry would see the same product.

The Energy Drink of the Month for October 2014 is Rockstar Roasted with Almond Milk

Ever since my first exposure to energy drinks (back in 2003), I wanted others to see what I saw, wanted them to know the tips and tricks I know when it comes to reading labels and deciphering the contents of an energy drink. In place of my usual written review for the Energy Drink of the Month, I present this review:

Three-Point Perspective on Rockstar Roasted Energy Drinks with Almond Milk

Perspective Energy Drink Rockstar Roasted GreenEyedGuide

Caffeine in Rockstar Roasted – Caffeine Informer
Rockstar Energy Drink – main site

Five Levels of Fatigue –booklet on Ebay; excerpt from Are You a Monster or a Rock Star: A Guide to Energy Drinks — How They Work, Why They Work, How to Use Them Safely

Energy Drink Guide FACEBOOK PAGE — Help push it to 100 Likes!!!