Every once in awhile, a kick to the brain is needed to wake up the imagination. Many artists have a go-to drug of choice when he or she has come to a mental block.
Since the dawn of Red Bull in 1997, the energy drink market has had continuous growth. According to a 2010 Mintel report, Functional Beverages U.S., energy drinks grew from $956 million in sales in 2008 to a little over $1 billion in 2009, an increase of 6.3 percent. The newly popular energy shots played an important role in this increase, and their sales are expected to grow as consumers look for added energy without consuming extra calories and sacks of sugar.
Energy drinks are ubiquitous, claiming to give you a boost of energy or keep you going throughout the day. But take one look at the nutrition label of an energy drink, and the ingredients are unrecognizable and the nutrition facts look like scientific gibberish. So what is in this stuff? Where exactly does the “boost” come from?
The most important component in energy drinks, and the most familiar, is caffeine. In these beverages, this stimulant is found in high quantities—between 70 and 200 mg. According to energyfiend.com, an 8 oz. cup of coffee contains 110-150 mg for drip, a can of cola provides 34 mg, but a full can of Rock Star has 160 mg. While caffeine isn’t dangerous in low amounts, anything more than 200 mg can cause serious side effects, which include insomnia, heart palpitations, headaches, nausea, and most commonly, the jitters.
Other mumbo jumbo ingredients in these cans include guarana, taurine, B vitamins, yerba mate, and artificial sweeteners. Guarana, a shrub native to South America, has been used by Amazonians for medicinal purposes. One seed has twice the amount of caffeine contained in one coffee bean. Taurine is an amino acid that helps the brain develop and also regulates the water level and mineral salts in the blood. It’s naturally found in meat and fish. B vitamins help convert food to energy, like sugar, which energy drinks are never short of. Yerba mate, aka the mate plant, comes from the leaves of a shrub in the holly family and is widely popular in South America for teas. It supposedly has the strength of coffee but with the health benefits of tea.
With all of these plants and vitamins mixed together, it comes as a surprise that these drinks actually taste great. Why? Because of the loads of sugar dumped in them. A 16 oz. Monster energy drink contains 54 grams of sugar, which is about the same amount of sugar contained in two Snickers bars!
However, a few aren’t as bad as you might think, including Steaz energy drink, Guru energy drink, and Illy Issimo Caffè. They can offer that extra zest you need without bogging you down with calories, artificial toxins and extra sugar.
Steaz energy drink is made with all natural organic ingredients that sound way better than something chemically made: organic guarana berries, green tea, and “rainforest-grown yerba mate.” It’s also sweetened with evaporated cane juice rather than artificial sweeteners.
Just like Steaz, Guru energy drink uses natural sources such as organic juices like ginkgo biloba and ginseng, but it still packs a punch with 125 mg of natural caffeine, mostly coming from guarana.
Instead of grabbing that Starbucks Vanilla Frappuccino, which Men’s Health named “the worst bottled coffee,” get your caffeine fix with an Illy Issimo Caffè. This little shot of bold Italian-style espresso is only 50 calories and 11 grams of sugar—compared to the Starbucks Frapp, which has a whopping 290 calories and 45 grams of sugar.
If you really want a 100 percent all-natural energy boost, go to bed earlier, eat well and maintain a daily exercise routine. It’s easier said than done, but in the long run it can provide your body with the energy it needs.
STEAZ ENERGY DRINK
With all-natural ingredients, Steaz provides an energy drink with fewer calories, no synthetic vitamins and a shot of B vitamins.
GURU ENERGY DRINK
Guru boasts of using only organic ingredients, including guarana and ginseng, but still delivering a boost using only the natural caffeine found in its ingredients.
ILLY ISSIMO CAFFE
This bold shot of espresso packs a punch with only 50 calories and significantly less sugar than its competitors.