I'm lightheaded, twitchy and kinda have the runs. This was never going to end well. The mission: Test if caffeine-infused munchies like cookies, mints, chewing-gum, and lollipops pack the same punch as energy drinks and coffee. (Hint: Most do).
Well, at least the snacks I tried. But almost all were a little sketchy on the exact kick you're getting. Packaging tends to only compare the caffeine dose to an average cup of coffee (which is roughly 100mg). Generally speaking, anything over 300mg of caffeine a day is considered as high-intake, but everyone feels the effects differently. Personally, I drink about 3 cups of java to kick start my mornings, and was ready to give this taste test a go.
So in the name of journalism and bad ideas, I drank enough wine Friday night to give me some cob webs (but not a hangover) come Saturday morning. The rules for Saturday were simple: use the caffeinated snacks instead of coffee or energy drinks (and leave caffeine pills to dieters and athletes).
The Ups, The Downs, The Jitters
My thoughts written throughout the day:
11am: Ugh. Want to go back to bed…Holy mother of Brewtus I need a coffee, maybe a bacon and egg bagel, too. I'm trying Buzz Strong's Caffeinated Cookies, instead. They're made with Swiss dark and white chocolate chips, not to mention Brazilian coffee. Let's see here: 12 cookies in a $5 box; 4 cookies equal 1 cup of coffee. Pretty heavy on the coffee flavor, but these things actually taste pretty good.
11:30am: Ended up eating 6 cookies, along with a banana smoothie to better line my stomach. Don't want to get sick, plus milk and cookies is always a win.
12pm: Should not have munched on those extra two cookies. Feeling bloated (my stupid fault), but also more awake. Overall, thumbs up for Buzz Strong's Caffeinated Cookies, and I'm sure they're a much better afternoon snack than breakfast. Gotta shower and brush cookie from my teeth.
12:15pm: Good time to try Jolt Energy Gum, from the guys behind the double dose Jolt Cola. There are 12 chiclet pieces in each pack, and 2 pieces contain about as much caffeine as a cup of coffee. That's 6 cups of coffee per pack ($10 for 6). I have "Amazing Race" Spearmint and Icy Mint flavors here…trying the latter, but both also contain the herbal uppers guarana and ginseng. WTF: Packaging actually says "not a substitute for sleep." Really?
There's a weird aftertaste… I could be wrong, but I think it's the Aspartame (the same artificial sweetener used by Equal, NutraSweet, etc.). Aspartame itself is pretty controversial, so beyond taste, these may not be for you if you're concerned about its debated health risks. I'll press ahead with 2 pieces, though. That brings my caffeine intake so far up to the equivalent of three cups of coffee.
12:35pm: Jolt gum works surprisingly well. It would be cool to take hiking, and I almost feel like I noticed the effects faster than I do with say, a Red Bull. It doesn't have an energy drink's sugar-rush, though. Sort of miss that, but hopefully it means no sugar crash, either.
Between the shower and caffeine, I've shaken off last night's drinking and I'm pretty much good to go at this point. Normally wouldn't need any more caffeine in my day.
1:15pm: Straightened my place up, some friends coming around for a casual game of basketball. Dropped two round tablets of Blitz Energy Gum.
This stuff is clearly targeting Red Bull. Each $3 metallic silver pack has 8 pieces, with the total pack equivalent in caffeine to 6 "leading brand" energy drinks. That's definitely more economical than a single can of everyone's favorite cough syrup-like Vodka mixer.
What's more, Blitz Energy Gum also contains taurine and a bunch of B vitamins; so no surprise that it also tastes a little like Red Bull. Still, there's an odd aftertaste, again possibly due to the Aspartame.
1:30pm: This stuff work pretty quickly, which is good given its box goes on and on about how it's absorbed three times faster than energy drinks. Myeh. It still tastes like a sour bomb crawled into my mouth, farted, then died.
Hopefully a Foosh Energy Mint will wash that crap out. Each medium sized tablet packs 100mg of caffeine (roughly the equivalent to 1 cup of coffee). Flavor is minty fresh, but there's that aftertaste again. Just checked and yep, it's also artificially with Aspartame. That's gotta be what I'm tasting? Getting pretty freakin' sick of that taste. Oh, these mints also have B vitamins and Ginseng. That's kind of cool. 12 pieces in each $3.50 tin.
2pm: The Foosh mints kicked in. I'm at the equivalent of five cups of coffee for the day. Throat still feels parched (despite all the water I've been drinking), and feeling a little sweaty. I'm a little twitchy and eager to get out of the house. Time for some basketball—I'll let you know it goes.
6:30pm: Sooo…a few things. Firstly, I suck at basketball, even when pepped up on Joo Joo beans. I must remember that. Secondly, I'm a pretty fit person (I train in Capoeira every other day). But my chest is tight, and I feel lightheaded. Worse still, in what's clearly due to the caffeine (more than the elbow I took to the stomach) I've had some epic bathroom battles in the last half hour. You probably don't need to know this, but my ass hurts and I don't remember eating Indian.
Like some kind of dealer looking for company on a downward spiral, I also passed around some caffeinated fruit and coffee/chocolate-flavored lollipops at the game. They're sold in packs of 10 for $10, and each giant sucker (1.25-inch wide) contains 60-70mg of caffeine. General consensus: the fruit ones are super sweet, and the berry blast will make your mouth bluer than the Na'vi race in James Cameron's Avatar. The milkier flavors (Irish Crème, French Vanilla, etc.) were the favorites, and a couple of my friends grabbed some for their next exam cram session. (That's me on the far right below, smiling like a mad man.)
7:30pm: Grabbed a bite to eat after realizing I've not been hungry at all today. No surprise given that caffeine is an appetite suppressant.
9pm: Officially crashed out for a while there: feels like my body has been running double speed all day. Going to veg-out in front of the TV; try and shake this light-headed feeling.
10pm: Munched on some Gamer Grub. Four-buck snack is a disgusting mix of cheese curls, tomato almonds, sesame sticks, pita chips, fried onions and pizza cashews. Disturbingly enticing, though…couldn't help but finish the whole pack. Apparently, it contains a bunch of "cognitive supporting" vitamins and nutrients (betacarotene, niacinamide, etc). Over my head, but I'll take whatever brain boosters I can at this point. I'm wiped, and I've still got the intro for this story to write. But I'm so wired, I don't think I'll be getting to sleep before 3am anyway.
I clearly had more caffeine than is recommended by the creators and purveyors of this stuff, so it's no surprise my stomach is twisting like a Möbius strip, and I am experiencing the other effects of overcaffeination, too, like increased heart rate and blood pressure plus some headaches and anxiety.
Still, I did it in the name of science, or at least in the name of tasting, so that you know the best and worst snacky stimulants out there. Got any experiences you want to share? By all means, drop them in comments.
Caffeine is said to be the most widely used psychoactive substance in the world, with about 90 percent of North American adults consuming it each day. But in a mug or in a snack pack? Me? I'll stick to coffee.
Special thanks to ThinkGeek for shipping out all the grub—individually linked to their product pages above.
Taste Test is our weeklong tribute to the leaps that occur when technology meets cuisine, spanning everything from the historic breakthroughs that made food tastier and safer to the Earl-Grey-friendly replicators we impatiently await in the future.