The world of energy drinks is vast, and there isn’t enough time to give every drink the full “Energy Drink of the Month” deep dive review. In my attempt to guide my fans through this world of energy drinks, I like to share the science behind the various caffeinated beverages I come across in my travels.
What if you had the power to forge connections? I’m not talking “mad networking skillz” or a love potion. I’m talking about that feeling you get when the person you’re talking to gets you, like ‘YES, we are on the same page’ and seeing eye-to-eye. This month’s pick offers “connective energy”, which seems appropriate for the holiday season.
The Energy Drink of the Month for December 2015 is Mate Bros Yerba Mate.
This is the Energy Drink of the Month because of the expression “connective energy” on the label. I don’t know what that is, or what it means, but it’s a nice concept for the Christmas spirit. It’s another “energy-drink-in-disguise” because it could also pass for tea due to the label claim “Natural Energy Brew” and the fact that it’s yerba mate.
[Where to find it – click here]
Inspecting the Ingredients
This product has only six ingredients. SIX! That should certainly win some people over. These six ingredients are water, sugar, lemon juice from concentrate, yerba mate leaf extract, reb A (stevia), and natural flavor.
- Water – Note this is a non-carbonated product, which is more akin to tea than the stereotypical energy drink. This also knocks it down a rung in the 5 Levels of Fatigue system.
- Sugar – Only 6 grams, and just plain sugar, not any of its acronyms.
- Lemon Juice from Concentrate – This is the source of the 10% vitamin C and the 8% juice on the facts panel. In this case, lemon juice is not just for flavor, it’s a natural preservative. The acidity of the lemon juice makes it hard for bacteria and mold to grow. Note the absence of any other preservative in the ingredients list. [For food science of other preservatives, see the KNOW-No List Part IV]
- Yerba Mate Leaf Extract – It’s a good thing this is a leaf extract. Leaf extracts tend to have less microbial and heavy metal contents than their leaf powder counterparts.
The Yerba Mate provides 99 mg caffeine per serving (per can) according to the label. This is in line with the content of Mate Tea, according to Caffeine Informer’s massive databaseTo learn more about Yerba Mate and why traditional consumption is linked with throat cancer, check out the Energy Drink Guide:
- Reb A (Stevia) – Stevia is a natural sweetener, and Reb A is the actual molecule extracted from the leaf of the Stevia plant that delivers the sweetness. Stevia can be tricky for product developers because it’s critical to find a good source. Not all Stevia tastes the same, and a poor quality source may leave some people with Stevia’s characteristic bitter-metallic aftertaste.
To many people, including yours truly, Stevia is preferable to alternative sweeteners like Acesulfame Potassium (“Ace-K”) or Sucralose. Not that there’s anything wrong with those sweeteners, as we’ve reviewed the food science behind them in the Panera Project KNOW-No List. If you’re trying to limit exposure to artificial ingredients, this drink will help you do that.
- Natural Flavor – Since there is no indication on the label what flavor this product is supposed to be, I have no idea what this natural flavor is…maybe lemon?
When BevNet reviewed this product, they gave it 3 out of 5 stars and expressed disappointment that there was only one (ambiguous) flavor variety available.
BOTTOM LINE and Final Thoughts
With the amount of caffeine in this product and the very simple ingredient list, this is a very nice substitute for a weaker energy drink. Note, Red Bull has 80 mg caffeine per 8 oz can, and this product has 99 mg. What a nice healthy swap, right?
I like the Mate Bros logo with the hand-holding and the resemblance to the recycling logo, superimposed over a leaf that looks like a Celtic knot trinity symbol. It plays perfectly with the notion of “Connective Energy”. So my advice to this brand is run with THAT.
This is NOT a performance drink so, in my opinion, they should get rid of any performance-enhancing implications. Change the Beachbody-esque tagline (which is “Decide. Commit. Succeed.”) to just say CONNECT, and change, “Healthy and great tasting energy tea to fuel
performance connection.” I LOVE the notion of empowering connection, and I feel like this drink should be the official sponsor of SDI Training:
Mate Bros main site: http://matebros.com/
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When it comes to food, I’m not a fan of the term “clean energy”. I get what this term is trying to convey, but as a food scientist, the term makes me laugh inside. Same thing with the concept of a “zero-calorie energy drink” (because a calorie is a measurement of energy). “Food Science v Marketing” rant over, let me tell you about a new source of “clean energy”.
The Energy Drink for the Month of February is Runa Clean Energy.
The Berry flavor is my favorite (shocker, if you’ve been following my other monthly picks). I prefer not to drink my calories, but I much prefer the sweetness of the Berry flavor than the zero-calorie version. I tried the “Original Zero with a hint of lime” and, my word, it has an interesting flavor profile. It starts with a carbonated zing akin to citric acid, then the hint of lime shows up, followed by some earthly botanical notes that are reminiscent of iced tea but slightly different, and not unpleasant. The berry flavor is much more my style – short, sweet, and subtly strong.
5 Reasons to Recharge with Runa Clean Energy
ONE — Alternative Energy
Ever heard of guayusa? Pronounced “gwhy-you-sa”, this plant is the Amazonian cousin of yerba mate. While the leaves of guayusa are brewed like tea leaves, the lack of tannins means less of the bitter, astringent taste that’s characteristic of green, black and white teas.
This new source of caffeine has two benefits: First of all, yerba mate and guarana have developed negative connotations due to their use in energy drinks (and the controversy surrounding them). If you want to avoid the bitter taste of tea and the “save-your-liver” lectures from those who believe all energy drinks are bad for you, this new source of caffeine is your answer. The second benefit to guayusa is that because it’s novel, there are less people trying to source it and thus, more of it to go around. When demand of ginkgo biloba started to skyrocket, so did the cases of economic adulteration. Not enough supply to meet demand? Someone’s going to start providing knock-offs to reap those unmet sales requests. Finding new sources of America’s favorite drug (caffeine), means there’s less chance of depleting natural resources.
TWO — Caffeine with a Cause
I love energy drinks with a good story. There are some energy drinks that donate proceeds of each sale to charity, and then there are those who give back in other ways. Runa is fair-trade certified, and supports the small farmers and local communities to build a sustainable supply chain. To learn more about the Runa Foundation, see below.
THREE — Guayusa Your Way
A big part of consuming caffeine safely is about slowing your rate of consumption. In the Energy Drink Guide, Mr. Swift and Mr. Thrift demonstrate that nursing your caffeine instead of chugging it makes the effects of caffeine last longer, and helps mitigate an energy crash. While Runa Clean Energy comes in an 8.4 ounce can, there’s also a bottled version. If you’re trying to wean your caffeine intake, you can take a sip, reseal the bottle, and try to make one serving last a whole day (or two). Note – the glass bottles show a bit of particulate at the bottom so if you’re a “no-pulp” person like me, the cans might be a better option. You could also get fancy with your brewing and try the pyramid infusers or looseleaf tins, or just go the traditional route and get a box of tea bags.
FOUR — Polyphenols (antioxidants), Amino Acids, and Liquid Courage
While isolated antioxidants have failed to show the same health benefits in the human body as they do in a test tube, there’s plenty of credible evidence on the health benefits of drinking green tea. Guayusa contains twice the antioxidants of green tea, according to the Runa website. The “super-leaf” also contains essential amino acids (though the energy drink itself contains zero grams of protein). If none of that encourages you to try Runa Clean Energy, perhaps this will: traditional use of guayusa includes consumption before nighttime hunting trips, as the guayusa gave the hunters mental strength, courage and focus. Who doesn’t want more of that?
FIVE — 5 Levels of Fatigue = Level 3.99
Knowing your Level of Fatigue will help you find the right energy drink for your situation. Always reaching for the same caffeine concoction is a good way to build a tolerance or habitual craving. Furthermore, you can mitigate caffeine over-consumption by NOT reaching for caffeine when you are tired due to dehydration, or when you’re so tired that only sleep will save you. This is the 5 Levels of Fatigue system, and each level matches a specific set of recommendations.
Runa Clean Energy provides more caffeine than the most popular energy drink of this size. If 80 milligrams of caffeine isn’t enough for you, or if you want something that tastes a little more like tea and less like over-sweetened juice, Runa Clean Energy is a good option. However, it is on the very cusp of Level 3. Caffeine contents greater than 120 milligrams per serving are considered Level 4, but the lack of carbonation is the reason Runa Clean Energy is still on the high end of Level 3. Carbonation irritates the stomach lining slightly, allowing caffeine to get absorbed that much quicker. You’ll want to save those Level 4 drinks for energy emergencies like all-nighters, swing shifts, and long road trips.
Runa Clean Energy is not the energy drink you should reach for when you are bored or dehydrated. With 120 milligrams of caffeine per serving, it is best saved for those Monday mornings when you would give up $100 if it meant sleeping one more hour. It’s no coincidence Runa means “fully alive”. Runa Clean Energy is an energy drink you can feel good about drinking, not just because it’s rich in antioxidants, but because the makers of Runa are actively supporting the guayusa farmers to ensure fair-trade and sustainable growth. Finally, when someone inquires about that beverage you’re drinking with the healthy looking leaf on the can, you’ll get encouraging nods (or blank stares) instead of concerned frowns when you respond, “It’s ‘gwhy-you-sa’ “.
— Green-Eyed Guide