People have used innovative ways to stay energized for centuries. In this article, we explore how the modern energy drink as we know it has evolved through the years, from its humble beginnings in Japan to the explosive growth of Red Bull and Monster, and how natural, better-for-you drinks are gaining popularity today.
Who Invented the Energy Drink?
The modern energy drink was born in post World War II Japan. In 1962, Taisho pharmaceuticals produced Lipovitan D, an herbal “energizing tonic” that was sold in minibar sized bottles. The tonic was originally marketed towards truck drivers and factory workers who needed to stay awake for long shifts.
While Lipovitan sounds, looks, and smells like cough syrup, it was promoted as a drink to boost physical and mental functions. The drink’s main ingredient is taurine, which would eventually become an important ingredient in Red Bull. The largest available bottles of Lipovitan contain up to 3,000 mg of taurine, as well as a warning label stating that people should not consume more than 100 mg of taurine a day.
Krating Daeng was introduced to the Japanese market in 1976 as an energy drink, with caffeine, taurine, and B-vitamins as its primary ingredients. Wildly popular among Japanese executives in the 1980s, Krating Daeng and similar drinks gained ground in the Asian food market.
Enter Red Bull
Energy drinks got their huge international break when Austrian businessman Dietrich Mateschiz visited Bangkok and ‘discovered’ these energizing tonics. He was simply amazed by the tonics’ effects and partnered with the producers of Krating Daeng in 1984 to bring the brand to global audiences.
Krating Daeng changed its name to Red Bull and took Europe by storm. The combination of caffeine, taurine, and carbonation made Red Bull an overnight sensation. In 1997 Mateschiz introduced his baby to the United States, and the energy drink market as we know today was born.
How Can Energy Drinks Be Harmful?
Researchers like Gary Hemphill at the Beverage Marketing Corporation credit the boom of energy drinks with both people’s need for energy and very clever marketing. These drinks are essentially standard colas that have been sold for decades and have now been rebranded with labels that promise energy, focus, and improved performance. Hemphill insists that the ingredients are very similar between these energy drinks and standard sugary sodas.
Energy Drinks Are Highly Processed
Lab-made additions to traditional energy drinks include added sugars, artificial sugars, and massive amounts of B vitamins and taurine. Since the vitamins and taurine are lab-made, they are not absorbed in the same way as naturally occurring nutrients. That’s because you consume a range of vitamins, minerals, co-factors, and enzymes when you eat real real food instead of single nutrients. The combination of these different compounds allows your body to better use the natural nutrients over the synthetic ones.
The average diet provides anywhere from 40-400 mg of natural taurine, mostly from meat, fish and dairy. However, one can of Red Bull contains 1000 mg of lab-made taurine. The FDA recommends 14-16 mg per day of vitamin B3, with a max of 35 mg. A can of Monster alone contains 40 mg of vitamin B3. There is little to no evidence supporting the positive effects of adding taurine and B vitamins to energy drinks, and more research is required for us to fully understand the potential long term side effects. What we do know is that your body does not absorb more of these vitamins than it needs, and ends up excreting excess quantities through your urine.
Herein lies a huge problem with the energy drink market. These highly processed drinks, essentially sodas wearing masks, direct their marketing towards active adolescents. Energy drink commercials feature teens skating and biking, among other extreme sports. The ads are cool and exciting and associate the drinks with the adrenaline rush of these activities.
The public has only recently recognized the harmful effects of carbonated soft drinks with massive amounts of added sugar and other lab-made chemicals. There are similar concerns around traditional energy drinks, especially its effects on pre-teens and teens.
Misuse of Energy Drinks & Alcohol
Another big issue is the association between binge drinking and energy drink consumption. There was a huge backlash in 2005 when Four Loko was introduced as an energizing alcoholic drink-- making it easier to abuse energy drinks in an alcoholic setting. Four Loko was only reintroduced to the market in 2010 after removing the caffeine.
The CDC advises against mixing caffeine of any kind with alcohol as it can mask the depressant effect of alcohol, tricking the user into thinking they are not as impaired as they are. This effect can lead to overconsumption of alcohol and dangerous decisions like driving while intoxicated. The CDC has also found that those who binge drink are more than twice as likely to mix energy drinks and alcohol as non-binge drinkers.
This would mark the beginning of fears surrounding the safety of energy drinks. There were 13 deaths reported from 2008 to 2012 citing misuse of 5-hour Energy. Monster Energy has also been under investigation by the FDA regarding 5 deaths linked to consumption including one in 2017 where a 14 year old girl drank two Monster drinks within 24 hours and died. In 2013, Washington state pushed legislation barring those under 18 from purchasing energy drinks.
These concerns around the impact of traditional energy drinks on our bodies and minds have led to the rise of alternative natural energy drink options.
How Is The Energy Market Changing?
As part of the wellness and clean eating movement, many newer brands have searched for a more natural source of caffeine as well as taken a more transparent approach to marketing their products. Consumers feel more comfortable drinking a product when they understand the ingredients and what these ingredients do to their body.
Some natural energy drinks like Guayaki source their caffeine from yerba mate tea leaves while MatchaBar and Kuli Kuli use green tea leaves as their caffeine source. The main concern with these natural energy alternatives is that they may not give users the amount of energy and focus they’re looking for. Some people have also turned away from these alternatives because they dislike the bitter taste of yerba mate and other tea based products.
How Are We Making Better Energy?
GO BIG believes strongly in better-for-you ingredients and transparency. The GO BIG energy shot packs a punch with guarana, a plant used for centuries by Amazonian tribal warriors for sustained energy and focus. Guarana is more highly caffeinated than other natural alternatives and boasts a wide array of scientifically proven physical and mental benefits.
Guarana provides users with smooth energy; you don’t experience the jitters, or the post-coffee crash when you come down from the caffeine. Research attributes this smooth rise and fall of energy to guarana’s caffeine in combination with other components found in the plant.
Theobromine and theophylline are two important components. They are part of the same family of chemicals as caffeine called methylxanthines, and have a vasodilating effect that increases blood flow to your brain and body. While found in smaller amounts, saponins, tannins, and antioxidants also make up the chemical compound of the seed and are considered important in guarana’s benefits. This unique chemical combination makes guarana perfect for long-lasting energy and focus, in addition to promoting longevity, improving athletic performance, and more.
With GO BIG you get the energy boost of guarana with no added sugar and no artificial additives. Learn more about how GO BIG compares to the competition.
While the earliest commercial energy drinks were intended for factory workers and long-haul truck drivers, drinks like Lipovitan D became wildly popular beyond its initial market because we all need energy. As the energy drink craze grew, so did the ingredient list, as big companies added supplement after supplement to make their drink stand out on a shelf.
People deserve better than lab-made, super processed additives in these drinks that either get excreted or linger in the body, potentially causing harm. The rise of natural and clean energy drinks is an exciting industry shift. Here at GO BIG we exist to provide you with a clean, all natural, superior energy drink so you can do more of what you love.