It’s wintertime–at least here on the East Coast–and it gets harder and harder to get my energy up during these dark and dreary February afternoons. So what’s a fella to do but reach for good ‘ol caffeine to reboot his body and brain to help end the workday with a bang? But with so many energy drinks lining the shelves, which is the best bet for a health-conscious person? I asked Aida Cekic, a holistic health and wellness coach at Holistic Wellness in New York City, to be my guide. Here are the four energy-boosting drinks we chose, plus our takes on their pros and cons:

5-Hour Energy

My Take: The bottle itself looks like a cheesy Florida sunset T-shirt that I once wore when I was a pimply-faced 13-year-old. Who is that dude on the bottle running straight into the sun–Icarus? The stuff tasted like bad diet Kool-Aid, and as soon as I swallowed the contents of the bottle, my heart started racing for a good three hours. I hated it. 

Aida’s Take: “5-hour Energy is filled with chemicals and artificial flavors. Plus it packs a reported 215 mg of caffeine.”

Red Bull

My Take: I never tasted the transmission fluid in my car, but if I did, I’m guessing it would taste pretty damn close to Red Bull. I winced as I downed the can. I did like how it fit in my hand, though. And I love the badass stuff that they sponsor, the best being that dude who free fell from the edge of space. Their tagline is “Red Bull Gives You Wings.” It gave me heart palpitations.

Aida’s Take: “Red Bull contains taurine, which is an amino acid that was first found in the bile of bulls. That’s a good reason to call it Red Bull, I guess, but certainly it’s not a good reason to drink it, because it’s been shown that synthetic taurine, found Red Bull and other energy drinks, can cause high blood pressure which can ultimately lead to strokes, seizures and heart attacks. It does have less caffeine, though, at 80 mg for an 8-ounce can. 

Coffee 

My Take: I LOVE coffee, in all its forms—espresso, cappuccino, Americano, dark/medium/light. Blonde or brunette, I don’t discriminate. I worship each and every bean form. It is my go-to power station in the afternoon, usually in the form of a double purple-capsuled Arpeggio from Nespresso. Caffeineinformer.com says there is 65 mg in each capsule, so I’m taking in 130 mg for my daily double java jolt.

Aida’s Take: “Coffee is a natural stimulant, so if you have to have caffeine, go with coffee over an energy drink. Studies have shown regular consumption can lower diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The darker the roast, the greater the benefit. Dark roasted organic coffee restores blood levels of antioxidants and vitamin E, as well as glutathione. (Another option is organic green tea, which is great for preventing cancer, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol levels, rheumatoid arthritis, infection and tooth decay.) With that said, 130 mg of caffeine is way too much. Take it down to just one cup of coffee at 65 mg.”

Mean Green Monster

My Take: This homemade concoction—a full-on green blend of kale, cucumber, celery sticks, green apples, ginger and lemon that I mushed together in my NutriBullet—tasted like I was gulping down the 18th fairway at Pebble Beach. Despite the rough taste, and the high level of roughage, I did feel a pickup in my step after an hour or so. 

Aida’s Take: There is no caffeine in the Mean Green Monster, but it packs a ton of power because if you drink it right after you blend it, all those wonderful digestive enzymes are released that are alive and so good for your body and digestion. This is the best of the best when it comes to energy drinks. 

The medical studies on unnatural energy drinks like Red Bull and 5-Hour Energy are not good. The American College of Medical Toxicology has reported that their high levels of glucose can cause tooth decay, while the high levels of caffeine can cause a high and then subsequent crash in energy. Two doctors from The American Academy of Pediatrics, Marcie Beth Schneider, MD, FAAP, and Holly J. Benjamin MD, FAAP, in a report entitled “Sports Drinks and Energy Drinks for Children and Adolescents: Are They Appropriate?” published in the June 2011 issue of Pediatrics state that “energy drinks are never appropriate for children or adolescents.” Schneider says “Some cans or bottles of energy drinks can have more than 500 mg of caffeine, which is the equivalent of 14 cans of soda.” Denmark and Norway believe that the damaging effects of taurine are so severe that, to date, those countries ban Red Bull from being sold. 

Our final take? If you’re all about taste in the afternoon, go black (coffee). If you’re all about healthy, go green (Mean Green Monster). One thing is for sure, though, whether you go black or green, your next stop will soon be to a toilet seat near you.  

Sources:

  1. American Academy of Pediatrics
  2. American College of Medical Toxicology
  3. Ban on Red Bull