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Energy drinks are everywhere nowadays, tempting us from the refrigerated section with their brazen portions of caffeine and natural energy-givers. Most of their labels carry disquieting warnings against exceeding a few cans a day, and discourage anyone in less-than-perfect health from participating in the orgy of wakefulness that lurks behind the lids of these potency-lending concoctions.

In the name of science, and just in time for the holiday shopping season, we here at DamnInteresting.com have brutalized our bodies and our taste buds to discover just how effective today’s trendy energy drinks really are. We selected three individuals— two men and a woman— of varying physiologies to sample eleven of the most popular energy drinks on the market, and we each rated the drinks’ taste and effectiveness on a 1-10 scale. We stuck to one drink per day to prevent tainted results, but of course this test is not strictly scientific, so your mileage may vary.

For the purposes of this research, despite what the labels may claim to the contrary, we consider a serving size to be one whole can/bottle. Clearly the producers of these drinks didn’t intend for several energy-seeking buddies to each stick a straw into the container and split it three ways, so I’m assuming that the brands whose labels claim two or three servings have done so as a marketing decision, or because their lawyers wanted to avoid lawsuits.

The Testers:

Alan Jason Estela
Description I’m not particularly active aside from some racquetball once(ish) a week and as much walking and biking as I can manage, which isn’t so much. The rest of the time, I’m at the computer. I’ve had a long, fruitful relationship with caffeine in the form of cola and coffee. I’m professional desk pilot, spending 8 hours a day at a computer. In my off time I like to write. To counterbalance all my time on my rear I engage in daily weight training, and several hobby athletics. I’m a large knuckle dragger. I’m not afraid of caffeine in any form, and oft imbibe soda pop. After the weight training, I need a little extra pick up. I try to work out every morning … but don’t succeed. When I do get out it’s mostly cardio. I’ve managed a couple half-marathons, and dig biking. I spend most of my day glued to a chair. I do my best to dodge carbonation and caffeine … except the caffeine in chocolate! I like that kind!

Move on to page two for the reviews of the individual drinks (in alphabetical order), or skip to page three to see the summary of our findings.

Amp (8.4 oz)

Key Ingredients: Maltodextrin, Ginseng, Taurine, B Vitamins, Caffeine
Link to manufacturer’s page

Alan Jason Estela
Taste Very sugary but slightly tart, with a vaguely metallic aftertaste. (4) Tropical Lifesavers dropped and dissolved into a caustic solution. (6) Lemon-flavored soda pop. Not writing home about it. (6)
Effectiveness Pretty mediocre… it seemed to wake me up a little, but not much. (4) Marginal, if any. Didn’t endow me with any pep. (3) Mild, if any. No more so than a regular soda pop. Duration: Milliseconds. Assuming there really was an effect to start with. (2)

Bawls (10 oz)

Key Ingredients: Guarana, Caffeine
Link to manufacturer’s page

Alan Jason Estela
Taste Sweet but mild, almost like Sprite. I actually enjoyed drinking this one. (8) The Guarana taste was prevalent, but not too strong. There was a slight aftertaste,
but it was neither offensive or enduring. (9)
Extra sweet ginger ale. (10)
Effectiveness Not incredibly potent, but a decent pick-me-up. A 50% bigger bottle would probably be just about right. (6) Very subtle. I think it banished some of the weariness though. (8) It seemed to wake me up for a while, then wore off abruptly. (5)

Full Throttle (16 oz)

Key Ingredients: Taurine, Ginseng Extract, Caffeine
Link to manufacturer’s page

Alan Jason Estela
Taste If Tang was lemon-flavored and fizzy, this it what I imagine it would taste like. I don’t like Tang. (4) Cut a grapefruit in half, store it uncovered in the fridge beside your garlicky
leftovers for about six days, then take it out and lick it. (3)
Lemony cactus flavor. (4)
Effectiveness About the same effect as a cup of regular coffee. Not bad, but mediocre for something marketed as an energy drink. (5) It did supply a much needed caffeine lift, and the effect loitered around for a couple hours before I was again pining for my mattress. (8) I don’t know about extra energy, but I couldn’t concentrate very well… what it did, it lasted a few hours. Engine is running Full Throttle, transmission is in neutral. (5)

Monster Energy (16 oz)

Key Ingredients: Caffeine, L-Carnitine, Taurine, Ginseng, B Vitamins
Link to manufacturer’s page

Alan Jason Estela
Taste Very sweet in contrast to many of the more tart alternatives. Reminiscent of the Pop Rocks candy I used to eat by the fist-full as a young boy. (7) Like the unfortunate melding of a sour apple Jolly Rancher and Drano. (2) Sugary candy – Carbonated Smarties. (4)
Effectiveness I was about halfway through the can when I started feeling an increase in energy. I never got the “buzz” from this one, but it seemed to increase my attention, and helped me feel awake, though not particularly energetic. (6) I noted no effect for about two hours, at which point I got sleepy. (2) I found that the description on the can was accurate… When I unleashed this can on my body this “Mean,” “Vicious,” “Wicked Killer” tried to kill me and it wasn’t nice about it! I had a belly ache all day and no extra energy. The effects still linger. Kill me. (2)

Pimpjuice (8 oz)

Key Ingredients: Guarana seed extract, Taurine
Link to manufacturer’s page

Alan Jason Estela
Taste Not unlike regurgitated apple juice. (2) Like tea made from apple-flavored hard candy. (8) The smell from the can was like bubble gum. My first drink made my eyes spun around in my head; I wouldn’t have guessed that something called “pimpjuice” would be so sweet. (5)
Effectiveness About as invigorating as a tall, warm glass of whole milk. I think it made me MORE sleepy. (1) 20 minutes after finish, nothing. 40 minutes, nothing. 60 minutes had to tinkle. Pimpjuice = Wimpjuice. (1) Real juice from a real pimp would have been more effective. I like the fact that the drink is non-carbonated and no caffeine. (4)

Red Bull (8.3 oz)

Key Ingredients: Taurine, Caffeine
Link to manufacturer’s page

Alan Jason Estela
Taste Tastes like a cheap, powder-based citrus drink, with a sour, lingering aftertaste. (2) Like a juvenile attempt to make lemonade from lemon juice and crushed Smarties,
with a slight dryer-lint aftertaste. (6)
Somehow wet and as dry as lint at the same time. With a strong aftertaste that explains why people often mix this with vodka. (4)
Effectiveness Not bad for a little guy. At least I didn’t have to choke down very much to wake me up. (6) Somehow the bubbles smuggled a cache of sledgehammers and mauls into my belly, and they started a revolt soon after their imprisonment began. The concoction might of helped sharpen my wakeful edge, but the pains it caused my plumbing prevented me from enjoying it. (4) I feel like dancing, and for me to feel that way while at work means that the caffeine is doing its stuff. Before it was done it turned into palpitations. Plenty of juice in that juice … then left me tired and sluggish. (7)

Rockstar (16 oz)

Key Ingredients: Taurine, Guarana Seed Extract, Caffeine
Link to manufacturer’s page

Alan Jason Estela
Taste A sour, syrupy citrus flavor. Too tart. I’ve tried Diet Rockstar, and it’s a bit more palatable, but this one isn’t very drinkable. (3) Battery acid from a 70’s model Chevy truck. With a wedge of lemon. (1) My first thought was, Sprite and a dirty sock left to simmer overnight. It took me 25 minutes to drink my full can. I must say the flavor improved as I kept drinking – maybe my taste buds were numbed by the bubbles! The abundance of burps afterward were much worse. (4)
Effectiveness Rockstar’s strong point for me is its effectiveness. It wakes me up more than most other energy drinks. (8) Slapped my eyes open fairly well. (8) 5 minutes after I finished the drink, I felt a very settled sensation of invigoration. Two hours after finishing my drink, I felt the effects fading. It didn’t leave me worse off. (8)

Rockstar Cola (16 oz)

Key Ingredients: Guarana Seed Extract, Caffeine, L-Carnitine, Milk Thistle Extract
Link to manufacturer’s page

Alan Jason Estela
Taste A bit like Pepsi mingled with iron filings. I didn’t find it particularly pleasant. (2) Like somebody put scoop a big old spoonful of Mentholatum in my coke. (3) Like a jock has been soaking his sweaty, fungusy feet in lukewarm Coke. I think that it would be better if they made it out of real rock stars. (1)
Effectiveness I was pretty sleepy when I started drinking this one, and immediately started to feel the effects of caffeine after the first few swallows. It woke me up and kept me awake, with a little energy to spare. (7) Like getting startled while on the verge of sleep, I was still a little tired, but didn’t have the urge to put my head down. It kept the blood level in my caffeine system under control for about 3 hours. (6) The primary effect was a grotesque wringing of my face when I sip it. I think the grimaces cost any energy it might have given to me. (3)

SoBe Adrenaline Rush (8.3 oz)

Key Ingredients: Taurine, D-Ribose, L-Carnitine, Caffeine
Link to manufacturer’s page

Alan Jason Estela
Taste More of the fizzy, tart fare. A lot like carbonated grapefruit juice. (6) Tart mandarin grapefruit punch. (7) I like the flavor. A citrus taste; no too strong or sweet. It reminded me of mandarins. Some sort of carbonated mandarinade! (8)
Effectiveness Not bad, but not great… pretty effective for its small size, though. (6) No more than a shot of water. (1) I am very disappointed in the results. I didn’t feel a thing. I will finish my review after a little nap! (2)

Socko (16 oz)

Key Ingredients: Taurine, Glucuronolactone, Caffeine
Link to manufacturer’s page

Alan Jason Estela
Taste A sort of dry, tart sweetness. Almost exactly like drinking Pixi Sticks. (5) The initial bouquet was a very sweet citrus that I couldn’t put a name to. The immediate aftertaste was exactly like stuffing a fistful of old pennies in my mouth (5) A vile concoction of carbonated Skittles—too bubbly and too sweet with a chaser of pain. (3)
Effectiveness Took most of the edge of the misery I was feeling that morning, which was significant. But no buzz… perhaps I’m immune to caffeine-induced euphoria. (7) Twenty minutes after finishing the two serving can, my urge to go back to bed deserted me, and I got a slight caffeine buzz complete with slight equilibrium malfunctions, but those faded in about ten minutes. (8) More potent than the flavor, and less revolting. Fatigue didn’t set in until after 7:00, so it either had some sticking power, or it was kind enough to desert me slowly. (7)

Wild Berry BooKoo (12 oz)

Key Ingredients: Taurine, Caffeine
Link to manufacturer’s page

Alan Jason Estela
Taste It’s like going into a movie theater where a Disney movie was just shown, walking up and down the aisles for a while, then licking the bottom of your shoe. (2) Willy Wonka’s dirtiest fantasy of Nerds floating in a plasm of uncongealed Laffy Taffy. (6) A shot of cranberry cough syrup added to a pound of sugar. (5)
Effectiveness Seemed to wake me up more than the others… it actually made my hands shake a bit, and made me talk faster than usual. But by about 9:30pm, hours before I normally get tired, I was ready for sleep. (8) I think I’ve gotten more energy out of watching PBS than I did out of this can. (2) Dependably kept my eyes open when I should have been pining for my wonderful bed. (8)

Continue on to page three for the final results…

Taste Results:

Here are the results, ordered by Overall Score. Bawls takes the top spot, packing a decent pick-me-up, while treating the taste buds with the respect they deserve. It also had by far the coolest packaging with its deep blue glass bottle. Pimpjuice takes up the rear.

In terms of flavor, clearly Bawls is the favorite in our group by far. Rockstar Cola comes in dead last, trailed closely by its marginally less repelling sibling, Rockstar. Effectiveness varied wildly, but this to be expected given our differing physiologies. Unsurprisingly it was Rockstar, one of the lowest rated on Taste, which rated the highest on Effectiveness. Figures.

Taste Effectiveness Overall
Product Alan Jason Estela Average Alan Jason Estela Average
Bawls 8 9 10 9.00 6 8 5 6.33 7.67
Socko 5 5 3 4.33 7 8 7 7.33 5.83
Rockstar 3 1 4 2.67 8 8 8 8.00 5.33
Wild Berry BooKoo 2 6 5 4.33 8 2 8 6.00 5.17
SoBe Adrenaline Rush 6 7 8 6.00 6 1 2 3.00 5.00
Full Throttle 4 3 4 3.67 5 8 5 6.00 4.83
Red Bull 2 6 4 4.00 6 4 7 5.67 4.83
Amp 4 6 6 5.33 4 3 2 3.00 4.17
Monster Energy 7 2 4 4.33 6 2 2 3.33 3.83
Rockstar Cola 2 3 1 2.00 7 6 3 5.33 3.67
Pimpjuice 2 8 5 5.00 1 1 4 2.00 3.50

So there it is. I think I’m going to go take a nap now, these caffeine withdrawal symptoms are nasty.