A Nerd’s Toolbox: Energy Drinks

Wiring up on caffeine is a regular occurrence for most programmers. Coffee, of course, being the most popular choice. I personally am fond of keeping a pot of tea or pitcher of iced tea on my desk depending on the weather. But sometimes the basics don’t quite cut it. Whether you’re up all night for a serious coding run, intent on Solving A Problem, or you have a long morning class and shaking your brain from the fog of nocturnal behavior that so many of us maintain, or you’re just in the habit of recklessly overclocking your wetware, there are certain circumstances under which the colorful neon cans of chemicals found in every gas station actually start to look appealing.

As a college student, I’ve naturally sampled a good handful of different types. I’ve found that they don’t all work and they’re not actually all fit for human consumption. Here are my highly scientific findings, which are all based off a sample size of one and often a single trial. Still, it might help you avoid some of the more disgusting brands. Add your own findings in the comments.


MONSTER
Caffeine per can: 160 mg
Rating: 1/10.
Taste: Disgusting. I’ve repressed the memory of how this (the original) tasted.
Effects: I think it made me more jittery, but I don’t think I consumed enough of this foul concoction to adequately gauge its effects. It has enough caffeine in it, but there are much better alternatives. Perhaps if you are an actual monster and your taste buds are different from mine, this will taste good to you.


ROCKSTAR
Caffeine per can: 160 mg
Rating: 7/10
Taste: Depends on the flavor. I’ve tried the original, the lemonade, and a sort of fruit punch flavor or something. If I’d tried the original first, I wouldn’t have tried the others. The lemonade version tastes like lemonade and chemicals; it’s tolerable. The fruit punch version accordingly tastes like fruit punch and chemicals. The original tastes like cough medicine… and chemicals.
Effects: Works like a charm, got me through the ACTs (which take 4 hours of concentration) last year. Be careful about consuming the whole can; unless you’ve built up a hardcore tolerance for caffeine, start with half (roughly equivalent to a cup of coffee, but consumed much faster) and see how it affects you.


AMP
Caffeine per can: 142 mg (original; varies with type)
Rating: 2/10
Taste: Not bad as far as energy drinks go. I tried the blue one.
Effects: Despite the high caffeine content, this didn’t do anything to me. It gets a few points for being basically a mediocre soda and therefore not absolutely terrible.


KICKSTART
Caffeine per can: 92 mg
Rating: 5/10
Taste: Not terrible. Tastes like [flavor] and chemicals; it’s tolerable but definitely not my favorite.
Effects: You can easily consume the whole can without nasty side effects; however, it has about the same effect as coffee or strong tea (in other words, it’s not really noticeable to me). In such cases as that’s good enough, I’d be more likely to drink tea or ordinary soda. Gets points for being a decent option for the oddballs who would rather drink this than coffee/tea/ordinary soda. Suitable for giving to younger sibling in order to make them think you’re cool for giving them an “energy drink” like college students drink.


VENOM
Caffeine per can: 160 mg
Rating: 8.5/10
Taste: This is the one I’m sipping on now. I have the mango flavor. It’s… actually not bad. Tastes mostly like mango, but it also does taste a bit like certain kinds of men’s deodorant smells. (Not while it’s applied, I mean.)
Effects: It’s definitely working, but it’s not making me terribly jittery. Note that I do tend to consume these things pretty slowly; I just sip on them, not drink them for actual hydration.
Bonus half a point for being only $.99.

NOS
Caffeine per can: 160 mg
Rating: 9/10
Taste: The only one I have experience with was some citrusy flavor that had some military-promotion thing on the can; I don’t know if it’s one they always make. It was pretty decent, really close to just soda.
Effects: It works.
-1 point for ridiculously macho/sexualized advertising. I got a screenload of scantily clad women just searching for the image used above.

FULL THROTTLE
Caffeine per can: 160 mg
Rating: 10/10
Taste: I got the original citrus flavor. It tastes kind of like concentrated Mountain Dew. It’s best served in the aluminum can, and while keeping any of these drinks cool makes them more appealing, you don’t want to water it down with ice. Just stick the can in the fridge with a wet paper towel wrapped around it.
Effects: Works well–if you drink the whole can on an empty stomach, you ARE going to be jittery–but even so, the effect isn’t too bad.
This is definitely my favorite on all points. I have to admit that the lack of obnoxious testosterone-based advertising is a plus.

As I try more, I’ll update this list.

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