Energy Sodas Fuel a 'New-Economy' Generation


Editor 1: I am overcome with a powerful thirst.

Editor 2: Perchance you would like to sample my collection of yon energy drinks?

Reporter: Whoa! Free drinks.

Editor 1: Energy drinks? Please elaborate.

Editor 2: They are elixirs of wondrous powers derived from the still-mysterious workings of such components as taurine, guarana, inositol, Siberian ginseng and sundry other extracts. Not to mention high-fructose content and much caffeine.

Editor 1: Do tell.

Editor 2: We call them high-tech drinks, for they are drunk in large quantities by those enlightened in the ways of the Web, perhaps surpassing the once-godly volumes of Mountain Dew and Pepsi. They are the fuel of what's left of the "new economy"--and they have powered more than one video game designer through an all-night programming binge. Gaze now upon these cans of Adrenaline Rush ($1.95), Whoop Ass ($1.65), Red Bull ($2.59), Energy ($1.99) and 180 ($2.45)--all prices, of course, based on the going convenience store rate in the Tokyo known as Little. They have become a popular libation among the young, who, as we both know, are in constant need of more energy and mental stimulation.

Editor 1: So true. But have I not read that most nutritionists discount the medicinal properties of such drinks? They say any energizing effects are more the result of sugar and caffeine than exotic additives--and that such feelings are inevitably short-term. In fact, many of these wonder drinks of which you wax so eloquently are not recommended for children because of the high caffeine content.

Editor 2: Perhaps. Continue, please.

Editor 1: Well, among the big additives in many of these drinks are vitamins from the B complex. These help convert carbohydrates to energy, assist digestive functions and are critical to proper functioning of the heart and nervous system. But very few people run low on these vitamins. And since they are water-soluble, any excess in the body gets flushed down the toilet.

Reporter: You said toilet! Yo! What's with these small cans?

Editor 2: Ah, yes. A mere 8.3 fluid ounces. But remember, size doesn't matter. Enlightenment transcends volume. Power transcends quantity. Energy transcends taste. To fully understand the young, one must drink of their drinks, eat of their foods, bootleg of their MP3s. . . .

Editor 1: You have much wisdom.

Editor 2: Yes. Let us begin our journey of discovery with this can of Whoop Ass.

Whoop Ass

Editor 2: Whoop Ass, as explained on the can, "revitalizes attitude and restores faith in mankind." Similar to many energy drinks, one of its main ingredients is taurine.

Editor 1: You are, of course, referring to the naturally occurring but nonessential amino acid used to help absorb fats and fat-soluble vitamins that is typically found in meats and fish?

Editor 2: Well, of course.

Editor 1: Ah, a basic variation of the citrus theme, lightly sweet bouquet with a hint of Flintstones chewable vitamins.

Editor 2: I must respectfully disagree. What you perceive as vitamins is clearly a wisp of cough syrup. Surely you know the difference.

Editor 1: Hmmm. . . . Slightly bitter aftertaste, but a wonderfully unnatural greenish-yellow color, similar to Mountain Dew or antifreeze. Although I do not feel a restored faith in mankind, my teeth do feel a little furry, perhaps from the sugar.

Editor 2: Would you like to clean your palate with a bit of cantaloupe sorbet?

Editor 1: Why, thank you.

Reporter: Can I lick that spoon?

Red Bull

Editor 1: A hint of cream soda with the traditional sour citrus overlay and a touch of bitters.

Editor 2: Surely you jest. A breeze of bubble gum with Budweiser color. Light carbonation.

Reporter: Dude, this tastes like urinal cakes smell.

Editor 2: Please direct your attention to Red Bull's use of taurine and inositol, a sugar-like vitamin of the B complex that helps emulsify fats and is found in plentiful quantities in the body.

Editor 1: My fats need no emulsification, but please note that Red Bull is an Austrian import and is the first energy drink that gained widespread popularity in the U.S. market.

Editor 2: I did not mean to insinuate. . . . Passion fruit sorbet?

Editor 1: You are too kind.


Editor 2: Are you feeling a bit energized?

Editor 1: Well, now that you mention it. . . . Yee-haw! . . . Oh my, please excuse me.

Reporter: Ack! Looks like Mountain Dew again.

Editor 2: Ah, you are perceptive. Sweet and soda-like, lightly carbonated, a pleasing lack of sour with an excellent Sno-Kone bouquet. As an added bonus, it includes 50 milligrams of Siberian ginseng and guarana, a berry from the Amazon that is a popular component in Brazilian soft drinks.

Editor 1: Sno-Kones! Sno-Kones!

Editor 2: According to some sources, the Guarani tribe in Brazil believes the berry, which is high in caffeine, restores strength and is helpful with bowel problems.

Editor 1: Hunka, hunka burnin' love . . . hunka, hunka burnin' love. . . .

Editor 2: Perhaps we should move on to the next libation.


Reporter: Ugh! What is this stuff?

Editor 2: Indeed, its aroma is strangely reminiscent of Fresca, its taste similar to Theraflu. Tea colored. Sweeter than most. Sadly, it contains only guarana.

Editor 1: What?! No taurine? No taurine!

Editor 2: Control yourself!

Editor 1: I'm running out of energy. Could you please pass me that six-pack of Red Bull?

Editor 2: Insolent fool! Don't you realize the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recognizes 6 milligrams of caffeine per fluid ounce is a safe level for packaged beverages, much less than the typical 85 milligrams in an 8-ounce cup of coffee, or the 200 milligrams in a Starbucks small?

Editor 1: I am humbled. And crashing rapidly.

Adrenaline Rush

Reporter: I haven't seen this color since my drug test.

Editor 1: Step away from the six-pack. Step awaaaaaaaaay from the six-pack!

Editor 2: This has a nice, peachy flavor and has a little bit of everything, with some d-ribose and l-carnitine thrown in for good measure.

Editor 1: I can't drink another drop. Don't make me drink any more.

Editor 2: Silencio! Ignore the can warning that "This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease." Drink like you have never drunk before!


The Skinny

Whoop Ass

Jones Soda Co.

Price*: $1.65

Size: 8.4 fluid ounces

Calories: 110

Caffeine per 8-oz. serving: 47 milligrams

Weird ingredients: Taurine, royal jelly, guarana extract, ginseng extract and inositol

Can slogan: "Revitalizes attitude & restores faith in mankind."

Label warnings: "Not recommended for people who shouldn't drink it (you know who you are)."

The good: Wonderfully unnatural color and a great-looking can

The bad: Tastes like chewable vitamins

Bottom line: Chewable vitamins probably are better for you

Red Bull

Red Bull Inc.

Price: $2.59

Size: 8.3 fluid ounces

Calories: 110

Caffeine per 8-oz. serving: 80 milligrams

Weird ingredients: Taurine and inositol

Can slogan: "Vitalizes body and mind."

Label warnings: None

The good: Has European snob appeal

The bad: Tastes like fresh urinal cakes smell

Bottom line: Smelling urinal cakes is much cheaper


Hansen Beverage Co.

Price: $1.99

Size: 8.3 fluid ounces

Calories: 120

Caffeine per 8-oz. serving: N/A

Weird ingredients: Taurine, ginseng, ginkgo biloba and guarana

Can slogan: "It's the real deal!"

Label warnings: "Not recommended for children and persons sensitive to caffeine."

The good: Sweet and soda-like with a nice Sno-Kone bouquet

The bad: Lingering bitter aftertaste that cuts through even a burrito lunch

Bottom line: Might make a decent mixer with vodka


Anheuser-Busch Inc.

Price: $2.45

Size: 8.2 fluid ounces

Calories: 120

Caffeine per 8-oz. serving: N/A

Weird ingredients: Guarana

Can slogan: "Orange citrus blast"

Label warnings: "Contains no fruit juice"

The good: Sweet orange taste

The bad: What? No taurine?

Bottom line: Wimpy guarana soda wanna-be

Adrenaline Rush

South Beach Beverage Co.

Price: $1.95

Size: 8.3 fluid ounces

Calories: 140

Caffeine per 8-oz. serving: 80 milligrams

Weird ingredients: Taurine, Siberian ginseng root extract, guarana seed extract and inositol

Can slogan: "Get it up. Keep it up. Any questions?"

Label warnings: "This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease."

The good: Boredom-breaking peach flavor, Swiss Army knife of energy drink ingredients

The bad: Soda at a beer price

Bottom line: Best-tasting of the bunch

Mountain Dew

PepsiCo Inc.

Price: 50 cents (based on a six-pack at $2.85)

Size: 12 fluid ounces

Calories per 8-oz. serving: 113

Caffeine per 8-oz. serving: 37 milligrams

Weird ingredients: Brominated vegetable oil and Yellow No. 5

Can slogan: "Ya-hooo!" (original slogan)

Label warnings: "Drink by date on bottom of can"

The good: Unbelievably sweet, unnatural color, decent amount of caffeine--what else could you want?

The bad: Unbelievably sweet, unnatural color, decent amount of caffeine

Bottom line: The standard by which all energy drinks are judged

Coffee (Peet's Coffee and Tea)

Price: $1.30 (Starbucks short)

Size: 8 fluid ounces (Starbucks short)

Calories: 5 (regular Starbucks drip, black)

Caffeine per 8-oz. serving: 200 milligrams (Starbucks average)

Weird ingredients: Water

Can slogan: "Good to the last drop!" (Maxwell House)

Label warnings: "Careful, the beverage you're about to enjoy is extremely hot." (Starbucks cup)

The good: Cheap, multifaceted, low-cal, goes good with cold pizza

The bad: Impossible to chug when hot

Bottom line: Still the ultimate morning boost

* Soda prices are based on the going rate in Little Tokyo convenience stores.

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