Well hello there, gamers. Are you tired of being tired? Are you feeling drained from keeping your finger ever-ready on the trigger? There are a variety of energy drinks out there that will help boost your focus (and hopefully your high score), but what’s the best option for you?
If you enjoy a good jolt of caffeine and are a sucker for novelty flavors, then buckle up. We’ve got some drinks to review.
First, some due diligence. What are the effects of caffeine? How much is too much? Andy De Santis, a registered dietitian (aka Andy the RD), took some time to answer my questions:
“Caffeine is the most widely studied and well understood stimulant in the world, and we’ve all been in a situation staring down a long or important gaming session with perhaps less zest than we need to really perform our best. This is where caffeine comes in. The scientific community acknowledges with a high level of confidence that even low to moderate doses of caffeine are highly effective for improving alertness, vigilance, attention and reaction time. My fellow gamers, I bet you can see where I’m going with this.
These types of cognitive boosts could be quite beneficial for any type of competitive or casually competitive gaming, especially if you are feeling unusually tired, fatigued or unfocused that day.
As per Health Canada’s Guidelines and the best available evidence, a daily caffeine intake of 400mg or less has shown not to be associated with any negative long-term health outcomes. A 250 ml can of Red Bull, for example, contains 80 mg of caffeine. As you can see, there is certainly room for wiggle room there. We do also have to consider that standard varieties of energy drinks contain slightly more sugar (27 grams) than a large apple (23 grams).
Health Canada has said that sugar intake up to 10% of total daily calories, which would be 100 grams for a 2,000 calorie diet, has not been associated with any adverse health effects. Combining both sweetened and sugar free varieties of these products, or relying on caffeine from a variety of sources including tea and coffee, could be a reasonable strategy to manage both your caffeine and sugar intake.”
Now, let’s look at the drinks. First up is Red Bull. Tried and true, Red Bull has been keeping Americans alert since it was first introduced 1997 (though, for the record, the drink itself was created in 1987 by an Austrian named Dietrich Mateschitz, developed from the invention of Thailand’s Krating Daeng in 1976. So there you go, history lesson!). It’s certainly got the most seniority in the realm of energy drinks, but does that translate to overall quality?
In terms of convenience, Red Bull is generally the easiest to find. Go to any convenience store, gas station, grocery store, etc, and you’re bound to find something that will “give you wings”. So that’s a definite bonus. They’ve branched out with their flavours and varieties to include sugar-free, blueberry, tropical, cranberry, plum, a new summer edition (watermelon), and more (such as a special “holiday spice” version that seems… interesting).
One of the things I like about Red Bull is that — because it contains sugar, not sweetener — it doesn’t have that aspartame aftertaste that some other energy drinks have. It’s sweet, but it’s not saccharine-sweet. With 80mg of caffeine per 250mL can, it’s a close comparison to a cup of coffee (96mg/240 mL), so it’ll keep you alert without a) scalding your mouth, or b) preventing you from sleeping entirely (unless you consume many cans over a short period of time, or late at night, but then that’s on you).
Setting the standard, Red Bull is a reliable, delicious, and easily accessible option. You really can’t go wrong here.
G Fuel (the official drink of Esports) offers a large variety of flavours with their powdered single-serving packages, but they’ve also released a limited edition Sega branded Sonic the Hedgehog “Peach Rings” canned version. This special release boasts zero sugar and zero calories with a buzzing 300mg of caffeine per can. As an energy boost, it’s *highly* effective, but if you — like me — are small in stature and consuming this on an empty stomach (which I would not recommend), you’re gonna feel pretty jittery for a few hours. I speak from experience.
The super special Sonic the Hedgehog can proudly banners “extreme focus” and “performance energy”, with a warning that — due to its high caffeine content — it should be used by “healthy individuals only” and not combined with other caffeine products. Looking at the list of ingredients, I notice that sucralose replaces sugar (and you can taste a bit of that aftertaste), but also surprisingly the drink includes turmeric extract, tart cherry, blueberry, broccoli, and kale. Not what I expected to see on the side of a can of carbonated energy drink, to be honest.
For their single-use powders, G Fuel sent packages of fruit punch, fazeberry, green apple, blue ice, tropical rain, peach iced tea, and a (possibly lingon berry?) flavour named after PewDiePie, but they don’t stop there.
Peruse their website and you can find 40-serving tubs (at $35.99 each) of Butters’ star fruit, Nemesis tea, battle juice, rainbow sherbert, moon pie, french vanilla iced coffee, spicy demon’ade (which sounds… curious), and many many many more, each with 140-150 mg of caffeine per serving. If you’re keeping track, this puts G Fuel above Red Bull in terms of caffeine content, and they also contain a fair amount of antioxidants which is actually kind of impressive.
The problem I have with G Fuel is that their powder doesn’t dissolve quite as well, so I ended a few drinks with some awkward grainy residue at the bottom of my shaker cup (of which they have a number of styles for sale on their site). This obviously isn’t a problem with the canned version, but you can only store so many 16 oz cans in your fridge at a time, and you have to order your stock through G Fuel’s website directly, so it’s not as easily attainable (unless, of course, you live in a state where it’s now available in stores such as 7Eleven, Walmart, and more).
Taste wise, that sucralose afterburn is a downside, and the powdered version isn’t the most reliable I’ve consumed (again, a gritty finish is not super appetizing). And this may be nitpicking, but their single-serving packages are a bit large and awkward, so if you’re trying to pour them into a water bottle for a boost on the road, it can get a bit messy. Overall, G Fuel is a good option if you want antioxidants, a huge variety of themed flavours, and a TON of caffeine, but be mindful not to drink more than one serving in a short period of time (unless your goal is to not sleep at all, in which case, have at it).
This brings me to Respawn by Razer, the mental performance drink for gamers, by gamers. I use a fair bit of Razer hardware, and I can say their energy drink has matched the high level of quality I’ve come to expect from Razer products. Though they only feature four different flavours (green apple, blue raspberry, tropical pineapple, and pomegranate watermelon), each serving has zero sugar and only 20 calories, with 95mg of caffeine.
You can buy Respawn as single serving tubes with 20 tubes per box, or you can order 40-serving powder tubs (at $29.99 each). The single-serving tubes are actually a great size and quite easily managed — they served me well on a long road trip — and the tubs are great if you find you really like the product and want that buy-in-bulk option.
Razer has also designed an impressive shaker bottle with dual-insulation and a locking cap, so it will keep your drink reliably cold and fresh without sweating on the outside (wet hands don’t make for good gaming!), plus it just feels sturdy.
Though they don’t offer a pre-mixed canned version, they do offer a new Respawn gum, and the powder is the best I’ve encountered so far — of any beverage. Even Nesquick can’t hold a candle to it. Give it a good shake and it dissolves easily, even without the specially designed shaker bottle, and has a nice smooth taste. No powdery finish, no grainy cup.
The four flavours are all delicious and — because of their uncomplicated taste blends and lack of carbonation — mix really well with fruit smoothies for a nice little morning boost. Respawn by Razer is by far a personal favourite, which is why it’s so upsetting that it’s currently only available for purchase in the United States.
Respawn tastes great, blends well, and gives a great little kick of energy without pushing too far. If you’re in the market for a convenient beverage option that comes in a reasonably priced bulk serving, I would definitely recommend it.
Of course, it’s up to you to consume responsibly, but let’s at least help you make an informed decision. If you want convenience and reliability, Red Bull is certainly the way to go. If you need enough caffeine to keep you stuck firmly to the ceiling, G Fuel will get you there. If you want easy versatility and great taste, Respawn is an absolute game-changer.