Red Bull Energy Drink

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Cutting Down the Bull about Red Bull

Jun 25, 2005 (Updated Jun 25, 2005)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:It won't stain your teeth like coffee. It works.

Cons:It's more expensive than your average coffee. In the end, just a caffeine product.

The Bottom Line: A lot mystery, debate, and skepticism surround this drink with shocking simplicity: it lets you get high on caffeine.

I am a stimulant junkie and before I begin talking about the Red Bull energy drink, let me give you my theory of stimulation:

For my lack of a full vocabulary, I'll invent two categories distinguished by my use of italics: there is what I want to do, and what I want to do. I want to wake up before 8:00AM every morning, but I want to sleep until noon. I want to make a healthy breakfast and do a morning stretch, but I want to just microwave something quick and unhealthy so I can sit down at the TV or computer as soon as possible. I want to have a killer workout in the weight room three days of the week, but I want to remain sedentary seven days of the week. I want to do all my school assignments as soon as they are assigned and leave time for extra-cirricular reading so I can educate myself on everything, but I want to procrastinate until the last minute and cram for everything school-related. I want to be a gentleman, find a girlfriend, and keep a girlfriend, but I want to just watch a porno and jack off. I want to clean my room before I go to sleep, but I want to just throw my clothes on the ground, where a week's worth of dirty clothes lie, and plop down on the bed and pass out. And most importantly, I want to stay sober, but I want to grab a few beers... like right now.

You see what I'm getting at? It's all about selfishness - doing what you want is selfish; doing what you want is not for yourself, but for someone else, even if it is for yourself in the future - that yourself is a whole other person. Guys like me (feel free to exclude yourself) don't need any help being selfish; we don't need any outside help to do what we want. But to do what we want - to do something that does not gratify us in the exact present - requires pep. I doubt anybody is blessed enough to just have that pep; I bet every truly successful, admirable person needs an outside source of pep to avoid doing what he wants, and do what he wants.

Red Bull? Let's not kid ourselves about it and get caught up in the fad. Red Bull's "giver of wings" is not taurine - it's caffeine. It has to be caffeine because with the taboo now placed on ephedra and nicotine, caffeine is the last remaining socially-acceptable, fast-acting stimulant. Thus, Red Bull and all imitation "energy drinks," are either not much different from coffee, or they don't work. Each can of Red Bull has roughly the same amount of caffeine (80mg) as a cup of cheap coffee (expensive non-decaf coffee, so you know, has almost no caffeine so it's like decaf anyway). The main advantage Red Bull has over coffee is that it won't stain your teeth as much, and the main disadvantage is that it is more expensive than average coffee. The taste of Red Bull can be an advantage or disadvantage - some people can't stand coffee and I'm sure there are those who can't stand drinking Red Bull. I enjoy Red Bull's flavour - it's like taking the flavour of 10 Mountain Dews, removing a lot of the carbonation, and compressing it into that small Red Bull can.

Yes, Red Bull has stuff in it that coffee doesn't, and I know more than the average bear when it comes to food ingredients so I'm aware Red Bull does have a different effect on your body compared to coffee. But I also know how my body feels after consuming a stimulant, and on a conscious level the effects of Red Bull and coffee are the same. I'm confident that anyone who argues differently is just feeling placebo effects. It doesn't matter if I drink Red Bull or if I drink cheap coffee - I get that same pep after a couple of cans or cups to allow me to do what I want and sacrifice what I want.

The bull is Red Bull is taurine. I've done my research prior to writing this review and nobody seems to be sure what taurine does. The Red Bull website claims that taurine is a "conditionally essential" amino acid that is depleted in times of stress. "Conditionally essential" is bull - they are making up their own terms and own science here. Amino acids are either essential (for humans, there are 20 of them), or non-essential - if it's "conditionally essential," it is non-essential and you don't need it, or your body can make its own, and I seriously doubt it'll get depleted in times of stress. Essential amino acids are essential because they're needed to build proteins - the stuff that makes up you and me - taurine is a free molecule in our bodies and doesn't get incorporated into anything. Taurine, however, sounds like "taurus," which is a bull, which is why they put it in Red Bull, which is bull.

If there is one other ingredient that may produce a noticeable effect in Red Bull it is niacin (vitamin B3). Niacin is a cool substance some people will load up on if they're in a squeeze to pass a drug test. Niacin increases metabolism and may help speed up digestion and cleansing. In large amounts, niacin may give a little pep, and Red Bull has 100% DV in niacin. Shadowed by the caffeine, however, I don't think the stimulating effects of niacin will be noticed. Red Bull, impressively, has ample amounts of the whole vitamin B complex. This will not produce any noticeable effects in the short run, but may promote well-being in the long run. When my dad had chronic headaches, for example, his doctor gave him vitamin B6 pills, and after awhile, his headaches went away. Red Bull contains a whopping 250% DV in vitamin B6.

Another impressive thing about Red Bull is that it contains no high fructose corn syrup. Just about anything cheap and sweet will contain fructose corn syrup and it makes certain foods, such as soda or ketchup, seem sweeter than pure sugar. How can anything be sweeter than pure sugar? Fructose is the answer, and it's very unhealthy for your figure, and your well-being in general. Perhaps one of the reasons why Red Bull is not cheap is because it does not use high fructose corn syrup (corn is one of those weird staple products that costs less to buy than it costs farmers to make). Red Bull uses sucrose (good ol' table sugar) and glucose for sweetening. Glucose is actually not very sweet at all but it's wonderful because it's instant energy that can, as is, enter the Embden Meyerhof pathway, central to the metabolism of almost all life forms. What this means is that Red Bull may not only give you the "fake" energy boost of caffeine, but also the real energy boost of, say, a slice of apple (minus the keep-doctors-away nutrients, of course). But, once again, this is not very noticeable taking into account the overwhelming effect of caffeine.

To add a little pith to this nutritionist mumbo-jumbo, I did a little experimenting with Red Bull. See, I researched into this product and I came up with rather unbelievable results, so I decided to try and reproduce my own results to see if they match (and they did!). Most of us know drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, or consuming any stimulant increases cardiac output mostly by increasing heart rate. There is a noticeable increase in heart rate (about 10 beats per minute) after smoking a cigarette or drinking a cup of coffee. Stimulation necessarily means an increase in cardiac output but, apparently, not in heart-rate. According to my research and follow-up experimentation, Red Bull stimulates while decreasing heart-rate (3-11 bpm 20 minutes after the chugging of one can according to my resting heart-rate trials). That may make Red Bull a stimulant unique in all the world. Most studies seem to attribute this strange finding to the combined effects of taurine and caffeine. With this in mind, when I compared coffee to Red Bull in a high-stress situation (weight-lifting), I found that the ramifications of my finding were, once again, unnoticeable on the conscious or actual performance (# of reps per set per exercise) level.

The only way cardiac output can increase with a decrease in heart-rate is with an increase in cardiac stroke volume, i.e. more efficient, and more forceful beating of the heart. In endurance athletes (soccer players in particular), there is usually an abnormally low heart-rate and high cardiac output, meaning a very high cardiac stroke volume. In the long run, it is good for the heart to beat slowly but powerfully, but in the short run, it may be another story. You may think a high cardiac stroke volume increases blood pressure by a lot, but the most important contributor to elevated blood pressure when taking stimulants is the constricting of blood vessels (nicotine, cocaine, and amphetamines do this a lot; caffeine does not). Most blood pressure studies (I didn't do my own experiment here) have indicated the effect on blood pressure from caffeine and taurine together has no significant difference from caffeine alone. This seems to suggest Red Bull is only about as dangerous as a cup of cheap coffee, and the culprit for any deaths blamed on either is simply caffeine.

If you drink a dozen Red Bulls and decide to play basketball in a hot gym and die, what can I say but "Good?" People don't think, but they are quick to ban things. Ephedra was a natural, and generally healthy high, but it was linked to a few deaths and it got banned in many places. In certain pockets of the developed world, Red Bull has already shared the same fate. As far as I'm concerned, the handful of death reports being linked to Red Bull are aberrations and the main reason of death was probably not Red Bull, but a preexisting health condition or simple stupidity. I don't recommend taking more than 3 cups of coffee or 3 cans of Red Bull in a single day, or taking more than 2 of either in succession. Sometimes I need a quick and strong jolt for work and sometimes I'll have 2 cups of coffee, and sometimes I'll have 2 Red Bulls. Whatever the case, I get a pretty good buzz.

If idiots win and they get Red Bull banned here in Maryland, I know coffee is the same thing and I have no problems with switching. Red Bull has the weird effect of decreasing heart-rate, but in the end what's important is how I feel and after a coffee I feel the same as after a Red Bull. Right now, a can of Red Bull is $1.69 and the only reason I spend that in spite of having a great big tub of Fodger's at home that allows me to make coffee at pennies per cup is because I love having white teeth - I'm obsessed with it. I know many people aren't, and so, I can't give Red Bull a general recommendation, even though I've been using it a lot as of late, and it works (just like coffee does).

Now, if you'll excuse me, I want to grab a beer.

Recommend this product? No

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