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Energy Drinks, Shots, and Supplements: Common Ingredients

Caffeine-based energy supplements are by far the most common. The caffeine used to manufacture energy supplements comes from many sources, often the familiar Coffea Arabica (and other Coffea species) popular for hot drinks. Usually, the caffeine extracted when making decaf coffee, once considered a waste product, is used for the caffeine enhanced drinks and other energy supplements. Here is a quick list of caffeine sources you may see listed in the ingredients of an energy supplement that you may find:

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Guarana (guaranine): this is a plant originally cultivated by the Guarani people of the Amazon rainforest area. Its berries are about the same size as coffee beans but contain three times the amount of caffeine. The scientific name for this plant is Paullinia cupana, and guaranine is the active principle – which is chemically identical to caffeine and is considered to be caffeine by most biochemists.

Tea (especially green tea): another favorite at breakfast time, derived from the Camelia sineneis plant. Green tea and regular black tea come from the same plant; the only difference is in how long the harvested leaves are left to cure. Green tea has the greatest amount of antioxidants (it’s often used during a course of detoxification).

Kola nut: this gives certain well known soft drinks (do I really need to name them?) their distinctive flavor and a good jolt of caffeine, which makes one of the popular cola drinks one of the earliest energy drinks (although this one no longer contains the coca(ine) that gave it the other part of its name). Energy supplements such as bars, tablets and drinks have kola nut extract in a more concentrated form and with much, much less sugar! The scientific names for this plant all begin with Cola and there are plenty of them!

Yerba mate: Another one from South America, this is an herb that is popular with the gauchos of Argentina. Apparently, gauchos practically live on a diet of yerba mate tea (incidentally, the word “mate” – pronounced mah-tay – means “herbal tea” in many parts of South America) and beef. Yerba mate has the least side effects. Traditionally, yerba mate is drunk through a long metal straw from a gourd, which is circulated around a group of friends almost ritually. Its scientific name is Ilex paraguaiensis.

Synephrine is sourced from the bitter orange (also called sour orange) tree, especially from the fruit. While synephrine is gentler than ephedrine, it still has some unpleasant side effects such as constricted blood vessels.

Taurine is also commonly found in energy supplements. This is the only common addition to energy supplements that comes from an animal source rather than a plant source. Interestingly enough, taurine is also added to cat food (cats go blind without this important amino acid derivative), and also into infant formula. It is commonly stacked with creatine in supplements for body builders.