Nutrition

In Defense of Red Bull

I am addicted to Red Bull. Those near and dear to me know it. My students have tried to convince me the taurine in it is bull semen, which I’ve then had to rebuff with science.

I’ve also told them I’d keep drinking it even if it were true.

I lived most of my life without caffeine, at least at the doses other humans used to get through the day-to-day. When I started having heart issues, I was ordered not to have any, which I obliged for three solid years, including most of my college years AND my first two “real” jobs. I did all of that without the aid of our most popular and acceptable legal drug.

But when I hit my third real job and grad school and my fourth real job and being a full-time girlfriend, puppy mom, self-provider… well, I had to get back on the wagon whether I wanted to or not. At this point, I had my POTS semi-diagnosis, and I had read somewhere along the way that caffeine can help some cases. Why not, right?

Enter caf tea, then coffee, then sodas, then all of the above at once. My life was a joy of artificial awareness! Sweet Moses, how I had missed the bitterness of a strong cup o’ joe on my tongue; longed for the earthy numbness of Yerba mate! Now I could have it all! THE WORLD WAS MINE!

… for a while. When I picked up my old Diet Coke habit I’d had before my doctor ordered me off caffeine completely, all my old issues returned. I realized fast it was due to the aspartame, something I have to avoid in high doses, but I had to cut off the caf while my heart’s rhythmic issues resolved themselves. These months should be renamed The Dark Ages or I Barely Remember Anything Because I Was So Tired ALL. THE. TIME!

It happened by accident, really. It seemed like it had been long enough for me to pick back up the aspartame-free caf. That day in Ohio, the only caf that happened to be around was Red Bull.

It’s been a love affair since. Minus the sugar, it’s actually a damn healthy form of caffeine. It’s full of B-vitamins aka your mother would approve/P.S. YOUR HAIR IS SO SHINY! Oh, and yeah, the sugar isn’t great, but if you’re going to a chain coffee store and getting a mocha latte white chocolate pumpkin green tea frappucino? You are ingesting WAY more than that. Same for sodas: much more sugar.

Bonus: I have always been prone to jitters with caffeine, especially coffee. But get this! No jitters with DA BULL! Plus it’s cold, refreshing, and delicious. Need I say more? OH YEAH! The facts…

The Facts:
Less caffeine than a regular brewed coffee (75-80mg vs. 95-200 mg).
Basically the most “natural” energy drink you can find.
+ At least the sugar is real (not HFCS or aspartame, etc.) if you drink the regular version.
+ Oh, and there is way, way, way less of it (and other bullshit additives) than, say, a grande Starbucks (330mgs of caffeine, too, BY THE WAY.)
+ PACKED with vitamins and amino acids.
+ First ingredient is water, which is the most important ingredient in ANY food and/or beauty product.
+ No known carcinogens.

By the way… the other day, in an effort to appease some of my more concerned students and colleagues, I picked up a protein drink to wake me up. When I put it beside my Red Bull, I laughed too hard (but also cried) because it was PACKED with horrible crap.

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First of all, look at that ingredient list. Are you joking?! SEE HOW MANY INGREDIENTS ARE IN RED BULL? SUPER, I DO, TOO. I can also pronounce all of them and know that all the lesser-known terms on the list are either sugar or vitamins thanks to my time working with a nutrition program.

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But the Muscle Milk is full of disgusting oils, a thickener or two, and even a KNOWN CARCINOGEN, not to mention packed with fat and sodium. Yes, it’s got vitamins on vitamins, but at the cost of drinking canola oil and cellulose potentially NOT derived from a plant.

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I triple dog dare you to try and pronounce some of the terms on that second label. Some are vitamins, yes, but most are food additives that aren’t necessary.

So hey, how about you back off the Red Bull? If you’re drinking it in moderation on a hydrated, healthy body, you have nothing to worry about. It’s just like sipping a cup of coffee or strong tea. It’s only when you, as a user, make bad choices that this drink becomes an issue.

But the same can be said for any drink, can’t it? (LOOKING AT YOU, ALCOHOL!)

My No-Hangover Method

I’m pretty much a non-drinker at this point. No alcohol = no extra pounds, bloating, and/or wrinkles. It also keeps me in the moment and able to do what I want, when I want. However, I do have a night every month or so that calls for 2 glasses of bubbly or a stressful day that calls for an extra-large glass o’ red. When those moments of drink do arise, I don’t like the idea of having to rearrange my schedule for a hangover the next morning. Here’s the nearly-perfect regimen to ward off the evil of dehydration…

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1. Don’t drink too much.

It’s simple: you don’t need as much alcy to get drunk as you think. Treat each glass as a meal; drink ’til you’re “almost full” (or tipsy in this case) then stop for a minute or ten. Your metabolism will catch up, and you’ll know whether you REALLY need that next drink or not. BONUS: You save money at the bar this way!

2. After you drink, take a FULL shot of raw apple cider vinegar.

You may have to build up to this. I’ve been doing it for months, and taking a full shot still hurts. However, the vinegar detoxifies your body, and what is alcy after all? A straight up toxin. Speed along getting the bad juju out of your system.

3. Follow that with a spoonful of real, local honey.

This helps with allergies, but it also helps with flushing toxins… AND cutting through the burn of your vinegar shot!

4. Drink a glass of water or coconut water.

You’ve gotta hydrate. If you don’t follow the one glass of water per drink rule (which I recommend), you MUST have a hefty glass right after your last libation. You’ve got to start putting more water in before too much comes out!

5. Brush your teeth like mad.

NO ONE likes waking up to the taste of alcohol; it’s nauseating. However, you’re more prone to try the horribly INEFFECTIVE measure known as “hair of the dog” if you taste alcohol as soon as you open your eyes. You’ll ultimately end up MORE dehydrated if you just start drinking again, so cut off the craving at the head by removing all prior evidence of alcohol from your mouth.

6. Moisturize.

You can choose here. Sometimes I use oil or a night cream, while other times I simply use a lotion, cold cream, or retinol/other anti-aging treatment. (Don’t forget to hydrate down your decolletage!) Sometimes hitting your feet and hands with a thick lotion can also really help keep the moisture where it should be: in you!

7. Head to bed with a banana and at least 16 oz. of water.

Bananas are full of potassium, so you won’t ever wake up in the middle of the night with a searing leg cramp due to dehydration ever again. (If you’re allergic or simply don’t like the yellow fruit, you can opt for coconut water!) Obviously the 16 ounces of water is meant to hydrate you, but water + bananas in conjunction = getting your digestion on the right path again.

8. SLEEP FOR AS LONG AS YOU CAN!

The more you get, the less your body will need to recover in the morning.

9. Water, electrolytes, cleansing, and moisturizing FIRST.

As soon as you open your eyes, follow this step. (If you can muster it, take another shot of vinegar and then oil pull with something like sunflower or sesame oil before any of these. Again, both of these take practice, but they are natural works-like-a-charm’ers.) At the least, you need 16 ounces of water and some form of electrolytes (banana, broth, coconut, Gatorade, etc.). Down about half of each before cleaning your teeth and face, the latter with something hydrating like jojoba oil or cold cream. The last step should be moisturizing a warm, damp face with a water-based, natural lotion.

10. Clean breakfast second.

Do not head for the grease. It DOES NOT help!!! You will feel more sick if you don’t aim for something like an egg sandwich. GRAB YOUR BREAKFAST AT HOME WHERE YOU CAN CONTROL THE INGREDIENTS! You can use oils to cook with and whole wheat and/or other complex grains for carbs. You can use local meat and cook it thoroughly, as well as drain it extensively. Make sure you include REAL fruit, but no extra sugar via juices is recommended. Other good options are yogurt (full-fat/sugar and/or Greek), lox, whole-grain waffles with PB, and local or homemade quiches. Just make sure the ingredients of any bfast made or purchased are mostly pure or local to avoid grease that will further toxify your system.

If you’re still feeling like a human garbage bag after these 10 steps, here is a list of other natural steps you should first take before popping ibuprofen or chugging a coffee:

1. Ice cold rag to the head
2. Heating pad to the stomach
3. Warm shower
4. Nap
5. Aloe water, milk thistle, and funny movies

If none of these work, feel free to hit up the IB, caffeine, and grease… but I can guarantee sticking to this plan will keep you in a hydrated, non-head-pounding place!

Glucose-Fructose

I love sugar.

I don’t like it. I don’t flirt with it. I have a legitimate relationship with it. I LOVE IT.

I laugh a little when people say they have a sweet tooth, because it pales in comparison to my ability to suck down a half gallon of ice cream. Without feeling sickness. Or remorse.

Sugar might not be good for you (in fact, it’s pretty ruddy addictive), but at least you know what you’re getting. It’s a mostly pure ingredient if you get the good stuff. If you get something that is sweet, even if it’s a savory sweetness, you can feel safe making absurdly exorbitant bets that sugar of some kind is on the ingredient list somewhere.

Yeah, ketchup, looking at you. (We'll get to this ketchup murder scene story at a later date.)

Yeah, ketchup, looking at you. (We’ll get to this murder scene story at a later date.)

Sugar pros and cons aside, as a lover of the cane, there’s one thing I can’t stand: piss-poor sugar impersonators. There are some good ones out there like stevia, but most of them are otherwise ridden with chemicals I don’t want within a mile of my body. Or my cupcakes.

One particular gruesomely-refined, un-researched offender is high fructose corn syrup. In recent years, corn refiners have touted its goodness via down-home commercials and advertisements, but all of that up-talk is just something akin to the whole “nice guy” act: if you have to say how nice you are, you probably aren’t that nice. In fact, you might suck more than average.

Aside from the nice guy act, you know how I know high fructose corn syrup has ill intentions? Because it has approximately seven different names, all of which are utilized on ingredients lists. If you didn’t know any better, you could be eating it in everything, all day, every day. In fact, you probably already are.

HFCS is in almost every bread you buy, unless you buy organic, higher end bread, locally-made loaves, a bread that naturally lacks the need to be sweetened, or something like Pepperidge Farm. The latter is one of the very few “mainstream” brand I’ve seen that packages their bread as “No High Fructose Corn Syrup” then actually holds up their end of the bargain when it comes to reading the ingredients label. Yes, you still have to read the ingredients label, no matter what the front of a package says because guess what? People can put whatever the fuck they want to on a front label. (Alright, alright… to a degree.) They know the general public doesn’t know that just saying something is organic doesn’t mean it’s actually organic. There are standards a food has to meet for everything, and not all those standards are met before someone just slaps a pretty little label on a food’s packaging.

So, what the hell does bread (or any other seemingly rogue food item) need a chemically processed sweetener in it for? I have no idea, but the reasons they give are hilarious. Unfortunately, it’s unavoidable in most of the staple sodas and sweets we all know and love, but there are healthy alternatives out there without this particular sweetener, should you want to make the switch. I should, but I just figure if I’m gonna ingest HFCS, I want it to be in a food that’s SUPPOSED to taste too-fake-sweet. Still, I avoid HFCS in almost everything else I consume, and you wanna know how? I know the witness protection names of the sneaky little rat, and I’m here to share them with you:

1. High-fructose corn syrup

2. HFCS

3. Glucose-fructose (has to be labeled JUST like this; in other combinations, it could just mean regular sugar)

4. Inulin

I wish I could remember more from my time data-entering nutrition information, but my memory betrays me. I also wish I could find information on the VAST internet about other commonly used “masking” terms for HFCS, but most of the sources I find refer to other types of corn sugars or regular sugars. Isn’t that scary? With as much information as there is on the Internet, someone has gone through a lot of trouble to make it hard to find the truth about HFCS. While I will probably spend days more scouring pages until I find a credible, bountiful source, the general public won’t do that because we’re all in such a rush due to the nature of 21st century life. That’s how it slips in to all your foods unnoticed.

Dirty bastards, right?

Yes, at the end of the day, the commercial actress IS correct: all sugar is sugar. But with natural, unprocessed, simple sugars, you know what you’re putting in your body, and your body knows how to process what’s coming in. The same can’t be said for the Corn Sugar With 50 Names.