I have overheard some of the most interesting nutrition-related conversations while in line at Starbucks.
This morning, two college-aged men behind me discussed the many pivotal roles that energy drink Red Bull plays in their lives.
“Dude, that’s my breakfast whenever I have an 8 AM class,” the scruffy and lankier one sporting sweatpants and a baseball cap said. (FYI: This was at a Starbucks in the heart of New York University’s urban campus, where Summer classes are currently in session).
“I just drink it whenever I eat junk,” his friend countered. “It speeds up your metabolism, so I when I eat a lot of crap, it burns, like, twice the calories.”
I was thisclose to turning around and saying something. The words were about to catapult from the tip of my tongue when I thought, “wait a second, do I really want to be that guy?”
Alas, I decided to tackle the issue here in case anyone else had similar thoughts on Red Bull consumption.
A statement on the cans claims the cough-syrup-tasting carbonated beverage “stimulates metabolism.” This is based on the presence of B vitamins, caffeine, and taurine.
While caffeine increases heartrate and affects the nervous system in such a way as to heighten awareness, its metabolic effects are short-lived.
B vitamins are necessary for energy transport at a cellular level, but they do not burn off excess calories.
Besides, B vitamins are water-soluble, so excesses are excreted in urine (not stored up for calorie-burning).
Taurine is a sulfur-containing amino acid that is actually a metabolite of two other amino acids. It is also non-essential, meaning we do not need to obtain it from the diet.
Some preliminary research conducted on endurance athletes has shown that high levels of taurine supplementation may increase stamina.
Unfortunately, very little is known regarding the long-term effects of taurine supplementation.
Red Bull’s ingredients can provide a temporary energy boost, which can come in handy before you engage in strenuous physical activity (in fact, there is a solid body of research showing that caffeine can improve athletic performance).
In that sense, one could technically conclude that these drinks can result in a higher number of calories burned during exercise.
Keep in mind, though, that a can of Red Bull adds 110 calories and 6 teaspoons of added sugar to your day.
Even if you are chugging on a sugar-free version that only contains 10 calories, Red Bull and other energy drinks do not negate or block the calories in a meal.