Pros: Alertness, focus - if these are wings, you get them. Useful in Jager Bombs
Cons: Enhanced soda - same function as tea or coffee, higher price
The Bottom Line: Can be my wingman anytime!
Usually I'm not such a sucker for energy drinks. I find them sugary and syrupy with any particular benefits drowned out by awful taste which can usually be described as soda with considerably less carbonation. Add all that up to insane price tags and you're basically paying extra for a liquid which performs the same function as Pepsi but without the taste.
I drink Red Bull and I hate myself for it. My New Year's resolution for 2010 was to stop drinking soda - I had been drinking at least 20 ounces of soda per day for the last few years and it wasn't doing my body a damn bit of good. I've held largely to this resolution so far. However, I am making a bit of clout for Red Bull, because let's be honest: If Red Bull isn't a soda, it's uncomfortably close. The presence of taurine and considerably less carbonation are about the only things making the difference here. Red Bull did recently begin making a cola, which came under fire for its use of coca leaves as an ingredient. Coca leaves are used to make cocaine, and scant traces of cocaine have been found in Red Bull Cola.
What's taurine, you ask? According to Wikipedia, taurine is basically a form of sulfuric acid found in a lot of meat products. It's responsible for a laundry list of physiological functions, including inhibitory neurotransmission, membrane stabilization, recovery from osmotic shock, protection against glutamate excitotoxicity, and prevention of epileptic seizures. And those are just the terms I have a vague familiarity with. In the context of Red Bull, the intended effect of the taurine is probably to increase the force and effectiveness of heart-muscle contractions.
And oh yeah, Wikipedia also tells me that despite being prominent in a number of energy drinks, taurine has NOT ben proven to be an energy giver. This probably explains why each serving of Red Bull contains a whopping 80 milligrams of caffeine. There's glucose in this stuff too, which is basically a form of sugar water. According to Wired.com, there have been studies which have debunked the sugar high associated with it.
Red Bull's other active ingredients include niacin, which is the B-3 vitamin. But going back to the information from Wired, there isn't enough in a single dose of Red Bull to get the intended benefit. Sodium citrate is a preservative which is also found in cheese spreads. Its intended effect is to basically trigger the glucose, which turns into lactic acid during exercise. Inositol is said by Wired to be a kind of wonder drug that reduces depression, panic attack, agoraphobia, and OCD.
This is all well and positive, but it isn't like you're going to notice any of these effects. You're more likely to notice the wonderfully strange and unusual taste of Red Bull, which is supposed to be a form of mixed berries. I'm certain I can taste some form of berries in there, but what always kicks me is the tang. Red Bull is not the kind of drink you would slosh around in your mouth to savor the taste, because the tartness and tang are very powerful. The carbonation gives Red Bull another kick which enhances the tang even more. Basically, I can only describe the taste as the kind of taste which, if all the ingredients of Red Bull fail at their intended functions, will kick your butt on its very own.
It's probably for that reason that Red Bull itself is one of the ingredients necessary to create a popular alcoholic drink called a jager bomb, a wonderful little concoction created by placing a shot of Jagermeister into a small glass of Red Bull, then chugging it as quickly as possible. I could go on about how wonderful jager bombs are, but I don't want to trail off my original subject.
It's important to remember that Red Bull is an energy drink, not a sports drink. Gatorade and Powerade are things you drink during sporting contests to replenish the natural salts, sugars, and water your body sweated out. Red Bull is not. Red Bull is the stuff you drink before the contest begins to bring your head into the moment and get focused on the contest at hand. It's not a refresher a la sports drinks, and other people who have reviewed Red Bull trying to use it for that function have reported cramping. What you're looking at here is basically a substitute for soda or coffee - those 80 milligrams of caffeine do their job well. When I drink Red Bull, I do feel more alert and focused. I find myself frequently using it to ward off the afternoon lull when I don't feel like going through the trouble of making coffee or tea. So there's that.
Red Bull comes in slim eight ounce cans. This is four ounces less than a typical soda can. The price of Red Bull rangers from around $2.50 to $3.00 for this eight-ouncer. This is where Red Bull really faulters. What you're getting is basically eight ounces of coffee or soda enhanced by taurine, and you're paying over twice the price for a can of Coke or Pepsi. In fact, the 20-ouncers of soda don't cost as much as eight ounces of Red Bull - the bottles that I was using at the height of my soda addiction all cost about $1.80. That's the top price, mind you, not the median price. $2.50 is the lowest price I've seen for Red Bull. If you want Red Bull's 12 or 16 ouncer, you may be paying upward of four bucks.
Red Bull is enhanced soda. It does bring about focus and alertness. It has an unusual but decent taste of berries and tang. It's also expensive as hell. Yes, Red Bull performs its function, but tea and coffee can play it just as well. Yes, Red Bull contains wonderful benefits from its taurine and inositol, but those benefits aren't noticeable and they aren't what you're drinking it for anyway. Yes, Red Bull is the most popular energy drink in the world - they own Red Bull Racing and a pair of soccer teams, FC Red Bull Salzburg in Austria Bundesliga and Major League Soccer's Red Bull New York - but man, if you're not loaded, that price tag BETTER be giving you second thoughts.
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