So many choices...which to choose?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Taurine, Guarana, and Yerba Mate in Energy Drinks - The Jury Is In

In the article, Inside Bay Area - Jittery jury still out on value, effectiveness of energy drinks: the author makes a common claim it is valuable to address.

"As for the other ingredients typically found in energy drinks — such as the amino acid taurine, the herbal stimulant guarana and extracts of the plants ginseng and yerba mate — the jury is still out.

"There is scant scientific support for these ingredients to make the kind of claims manufacturers use in hyping their products," says Farrell. "Most of the energy from these drinks comes from the sugar and caffeine, not from the unnecessary extras."


First, Energy Drinks are caffeine drinks, which is why "sugar-free" energy drinks still provide the same basic buzz. The sugar is equivalent to a sugar soda, and is not responsible for the "energy effect" of the drink, although it does give you short-lived sugar boost and crash.

Second, there have been lots of studies done on Taurine, and the jury is in: Taurine does not give you energy nor multiply the energy from caffeine. You can take several times the amount in an energy drink and experience NO energy boost. Its other effects are minor - neuroprotective effects, relaxing muscle groups, etc., but not energy.

Further, Guarana and Yerba Mate are both sources of caffeine, and hence the jury is in - caffeine has dramatic effects on the nervous system. However, most drinks don't have enough Guarana or Yerba Mate to make much of a difference, so the manufacturers add pure caffeine to the drink but don't mention it, focusing on the guarana and yerba mate on the label.

In this sense, the claims of guarana and yerba mate *in drinks* are largely hype. On the other hand, these ingredients *in pill form*, CAN be sufficiently concentrated to give enough caffeine to give you the standard caffeine rush, plus they have other minor stimulants such as theophylline and theobromine, which are reputed to give a more pleasant effect to the caffeine.

However, if you want a really pleasant experience of caffeine, you need to go the way of smart energy drinks add ingredients that have been shown to change the biochemistry of how the brain processes the caffeine, to enhance the positive energy and pleasure of caffeine, while minimizing the negative side-effects of tense/jitters while it is active and lethargy/crash when it wears off.

~ Your Smart Energy Drinks Watchdog

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Amounts of Caffeine in Energy Drinks, Coffee, Tea, etc.

"Energy drinks may prove unhealthy" says one of a stream of new articles about the "serious health consequences" of energy drinks. These articles blather on about what they call "dangerously high levels of caffeine" in energy drinks, as if caffeine has suddenly become a danger. They seem about 5 years behind the times, sort of like someone suddenly pointing out that vodka has alcohol in it.

OF COURSE energy drinks have high levels of caffeine, that's why people drink them! Just like they drink coffee, tea, yerba mate, guarana, and the endles other caffeine based products that have been a part of human history for millenia.

Yes, energy drinks have caffeine, but how much?

On average, the 8 oz single serving size of energy drink such as Red Bull, Rockstar, or Monster has about 60-80 mg of caffeine in it. 160z drinks have twice that, or 120-160 mg of caffeine. To determine how "dangerous" this is, we might compare it to other common sources of caffeine.

On average...
a cup of drip coffee has between 110-175 mg of caffeine
a cup of brewed coffee 80-140 mg
a cup of black tea 70 mg
a cup of gree tea 30 mg
a cola drink 35-55 mg
2 Excedrin tablets 130 mg
2 maximum strength Midol 120 mg

So, the "dangerously high levels of caffeine" that people who drink energy drinks are consuming are about the same as a weak cup of coffee for a single serving 8 oz can, or about a strong cup of coffee for a 16 oz can.

People might debate the negative effects of caffeine, and many do. Some say it is an elixir of life, and have built "tea time" of various stripes into their very cultural fabrics. Others say it is a poision that should be avoided at all costs.

Whatever your views, let's be fair and realistic about how energy drinks are evaluated. If people drink 3-4 cups of tea, or 2-3 cups of coffee, or have 3-4 energy drinks in a day, it is about the same level of caffeine.

~Your Smart Energy (SmartEnergy) watchdog