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I’m what you might call a keen consumer when it comes to energy / stimulation food and drink products. I’ve already written an opinion on the latest edible stimulation product to hit the shelves of our shops – Cadbury Boost Guarana bar – but in this opinion, I’m going back to the roots of stimulation products, with an opinion on one of the original energy products to be introduced to the market – ‘Red Bull’.
‘Red Bull’ is, in fact, a drink – its whole raison d’etre not being to quench thirst, but to provide energy and stimulation. As far as I’m aware, it was the first drink of its kind to be marketed in the UK, and it’s been available for some six or seven years now.
As I’m sure a lot of readers are aware, energy drinks such as ‘Red Bull’ have become highly popular in recent times – indeed, there are numerous brands available today, each purporting to provide some sort of stimulation. Red Bull promises to ‘Vitalise Body and Mind’, according to the legend on the can – so can it really deliver on its bold boast?
DRINK AND BE MERRY
The company ‘Red Bull GmbH’ was actually founded way back in 1984. It was originally marketed in Austria in 1987, and being the first product of its kind to reach a European country on such a relatively large scale, the Austrians drank the stuff like it was going out of fashion. Hurrah! In 1992 ‘Red Bull’ went global; now there are around 70-odd countries swilling gallons of it worldwide.
I’ll go into the specifics of the drink’s ingredients later; for now it’s enough to know that there are three main active ingredients in this drink. They are -:
- Caffeine - Sugar - Taurine
A 250ml can of Red Bull contains 0.03% caffeine. For those of us not qualified in Rocket Science, this means that there’s about as much caffeine in one can of Red Bull as there is in a regular cup of coffee. Coca-Cola contains about half that amount; bizarrely enough, Diet Coca-Cola contains more than regular Coca-Cola does!
We all know the effects of sugar on a person – in Red Bull it’s in the form of sucrose and glucose, and in one can, you’ll find 27mg
of the stuff. In concert with the caffeine, fairly potent, but we’re still in Coca-Cola territory here – what sets Red Bull apart?
You guessed it – the Taurine. This is how the ‘Bull’ part of the drink got its name – from the main ingredient in the drink. Sounds scary, filling yourself with this chemical? Well, you’ll be shocked to learn, then, that Taurine is an amino acid, which occurs naturally in our bodies! The mechanics of the drink revolve around the Taurine – under times of increased metal or physical strain, our bodies’ Taurine level is depleted (a high concentration is passed out in our urine) – Red Bull provides a top-up to help the body, which can’t manufacture Taurine that quickly. One can of Red Bull contains 0.4% Taurine – equivalent to 1000mg.
Put those three ingredients together, and....well, in theory, you can see that it’s one heck of a combination!
Right, that’s enough science for one day – I’m as parched as the bottom of a budgerigar’s cage, hand me that can!!
TO BUZZ OR NOT TO BUZZ, THAT IS THE QUESTION
So I’ve picked up my 250ml can of Red Bull from the shop – and I’m immediately struck by its futuristic-style look. The can itself is tall and thin, as opposed to short and fat, like regular 330ml soft drink cans. The logo is prominent at the front of the can, smack-bang in the centre – ‘Red Bull Stimulation’ – with two Red Bulls charging at each other. The can itself is in metallic silver and blue, with contrasting red text and logo. You won’t miss this one in the shops then!
Turning the can round in my hand, I see the ingredients, a warning that the drink is not suitable for ‘diabetics, children and persons sensitive to caffeine’. There are also a few claims about Red Bull’s effects on the reverse of the can – stimulating metabolism and increasing concentration, to name but two. Should be good then!
My can’s chilled, so let’s have a swig of this carbonated beauty, and see if Red Bull does for me what spinach did for ‘Popeye’…
SUPER HUMAN JUICE?
The first thing that hit me about this drink, before a drop even touched my lips, was the smell. Peculiar, to say the least. Think of a cross between an unpleasant cough mixture (I’m talking Veno’s unpleasant here folks!) and a really sweet, light, sparkling strawberry drink.
OK, so that’s a bit like trying to cross lemon sorbet with fish and chips, I appreciate that – but then, Red Bull is kind of unique!
Definitely either a ‘love-or-hate’ drink, as far as the taste goes – it is a rather strong flavour though, so be warned! A little sour too – it does leave an aftertaste – but personally, that works well for me. The drink is carbonated, but only lightly – I think they’ve got this just right, because the drink would be rather less palatable if it was flat, and too gassy and undrinkable if it was carbonated to the extent which, say, Coca-Cola is.
Best consumed out of the can, I feel – if only so you don’t have to look at the odd colour – orangey-yellow. So I suppose the ‘Red’ in ‘Red Bull’ relates to the colour…sort of!
Well, I’ve polished off the whole can, now all I have to do is wait for the rush……
ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN IN THE NEXT HALF HOUR
Thirty minutes later, and something has definitely happened. I feel extremely alert and energised – my wits feel a lot sharper as well. If only you could have seen the speed at which I typed this section!!! Based on this, and past experiences of Red Bull, I would have to agree with the statements made by Red Bull about the its abilities – although to get a truly noticeable effect as opposed to the relatively mild one experienced after one can, you need to drink about three cans – that’s 750ml of Red Bull!
It goes without saying, of course, that caffeine does effect different people in different ways, so whilst I feel a ‘buzz’ from one can, another person may require two to feel the same effect, and so on.
In summary – Yes, Red Bull does do what it says on the tin….well, sort of!
PLEASURE….WHERE’S THE PAIN?
Oh yes, there is pain, to be sure. In the form of caffeine withdrawl symptoms (headache, lethargy) and ‘the shakes’ if you drink too much. It goes without saying that drinking five cans of Red Bull and then going to bed ensures you a sleepless night and, almost certainly, a bout of indigestion. Lovely!
There have, as I’m sure some of you are aware, been allegations that Red Bull causes heart disease and can provoke diabetes. Red Bull state quite clearly that they have tested the product and found no evidence that this could be the case – this is something I don’t wish to write extensively about here; rather the point is just to make everyone aware of the claims. If you want to do some reading up on this darker side of Red Bull and, indeed, energy drinks in general, I believe ‘The Times’ newspaper website has a few articles in its archive on the subject.
TAMING THE BULL : BECOME A MATADOR!
In summary, and I will try to be brief, what started out as a niche-market product has now become massively popular. The use of Red Bull, particularly as a mixer with alcohol, is an excellent idea and the ‘Red Bull-Vodka’ mix is now commonplace in pubs and clubs wherever you go. Its applications are varied, from stressed-out workers to athletes, from clubbers to coach drivers. In my view, Red Bull is the original and still the best – there are imitation drinks (‘V’, ‘Red Rooster’ to name but two) but none of these have ever ‘hit the spot’ for me like Red Bull has.
Red Bull has also become an important part of our culture through the sponsorship of various sporting events – motorcycle racing, to name but one.
I’m just wondering though, are we becoming a ‘Live Fast, Die Young’ culture through the use of Red Bull and others like it……?
JUST THE FACTS, MA’AM
Red Bull is widely available in newsagents selling chilled drinks, petrol station forecourt shops, supermarkets etc. It varies wildly in price, expect to pay between £1.09 and £1.49 for a single can. Multipacks are available and these obviously discount the price of a single can when reflected on the price of the multipack
I have not included a full list of ingredients in this opinion; the three main active ingredients have, as you know, been discussed earlier in this opinion.
100ml of Red Bull gives you a whopping 192kJ of energy that’s 45kcal, about 100kcal for a 250ml can).