Late nights with energy shots

You might be familiar, if you've wandered into a supermarket or cornershop recently, with Relentless energy drinks - a brown cannister that offers the same kind of kick as a can of Red Bull. But recently, the company unveiled a new product - the Relentless Energy Shot. It's a much smaller, much more highly concentrated form of the drink, that promises the same effects.

The company has been marketing the Relentless Energy Shot at gamers, claiming that they'll benefit from the "increased energy, stamina, focus and drive" that the energy shot promises to deliver. So we thought we'd put it to the test, and hit up a dungeon in World of Warcraft in the wee hours of the morning to see exactly what kind of effect it has on the human body and mind. Join us, as we put it to the test.

01:40am - It's forty minutes past 1am, and I'm sat in front of my computer, holding in my hands a small 50ml plastic container which I've just unscrewed. Inside is the Relentless Energy Shot. Sniffing it, it smells a little like strawberry laces. Not bad. I close my eyes, tilt my head back and pour the concoction down my throat.

01:41am - Ack. It doesn't taste as good as it smells. In fact, it doesn't taste nice at all. Thankfully, there's no strong aftertaste. I join a group of random dungeoneers and step inside Maraudon - the sacred ancestral home of the centaurs. I'm playing as a healer, meaning that I'll need to be alert and on the ball to stop my companions from dying.

01:50am - Nothing seems to be happening. Maybe it's all a placebo effect. I check the ingredients on the bottle - the active ingredients are Caffeine, Taurine, Glucuronolactone, Inositol and B vitamins. I haven't heard of two of those before. What have I just put inside me?

01:51am - When I look up at the screen again, our party's rogue is face down on the floor, dead. Oops - I wasn't concentrating. "Rez plz" he says, with just a hint of impatience.

01:52am - While I wait for everyone to get ready to fight again, I check out the various ingredients on Wikipedia. Caffeine apparently affects the central nervous system, "temporarily warding off drowsiness and restoring alertness". It's the world's most widely used psychoactive substance, but it's not regulated anywhere. 90% of US adults consume it daily. Looks good.

01:53am - Then there's Taurine. Despite what you might have heard in the playground, it's not extracted from bull's testicles. It's actually found in most animals - including humans - in the bile in the lower intestinal tract, but is chemically synthesised rather than extracted in the food industry.

01:54am - Unfortunately it doesn't look so good. Although the kind of consumption you'll manage in an average energy drink isn't toxic, more than three or so a day could start you on the path to psoriasis. On top of that, it might not actually do anything positive - Taurine has never been proven to be energy-giving. Still, it's vital for cats - who go blind and lose their hair without it in their diet, and as a result Taurine is a required ingredient in cat foods.

02:02am - I realise that I'm grinding my teeth.

02:04am - Glucuronolactone might sound like a voodoo curse, but it's present in the Relentless Energy Shot because Merck's Index reckons that it detoxifies the body. It's found in nearly all of the body's connective tissue, and rumours are that the US government created it during the Vietnam war, then banned it following a succession of brain tumour-related deaths are completely false. Apparently.

02:06am - Holding up my hand, I appear to be shaking just a little. Despite a close shave brought on by an over enthusiastic warlock, no-one else has died yet. Things are looking up, and my previously droopy eyes are feeling just a tad more focused on the screen.

02:18am - Inositol is produced by the human body from glucose. It's used to treat some mental disorders, and some researchers reckon it helps you recover from illness quicker. You also find it in some shampoos, because it strengthens hair. However, all it seems to do in the energy shot is make it a little sweeter, because the 6mg contained in the drink won't actually have much physiological effect at all.

02:21am - I ponder about whether I should have another one. The side of the bottle says, in big red letters, "WARNING: Do not drink more than 2 shots per day". I crack open a second one and glug it down.

02:27am - My stomach's hurting. Is that the energy shot or the curry from earlier? Either way, something's really not feeling good.



02:29am - B vitamins are the last of the ingredients that claim to do anything to your body. There's eight of them, and they include thiamine, riboflavin, folic acid and niacin - which you've probably seen before on the side of a packet of bran flakes. In the energy shot, they're there to increase your metabolism rate - making your body work harder. They'll also help give you healthy skin and muscle tone, perhaps offsetting the psoriasis risk from the Taurine.

02:38am - Despite my scepticism, this is actually starting to work. I'm in the zone - every heal I'm firing off is timed perfectly. My mana is looking pretty healthy, and for a change I'm actually remembering to refresh spells before they run out. I really shouldn't be feeling this mighty so close to 2am...

02:42am - We approach the final boss of the dungeon. Stomach pain has dissipated. Hell, let's chug a third and see what happens.



02:50am - Ooh. That might have been a bit too much. We're all lying dead in a pool around the ugly, ugly Princess Theradras. Was it my fault for running out of mana because I pushed a little hard too early in the fight? Or was it because the tank accidentally fell off a nearby waterfall? Who knows. All I know is that I'm really starting to feel hyper.

02:55am - We did it! Just. Princess Theradras is now the one lying on the floor. Exuberantly thanking my group for the dungeon run, I log out and sit in my chair in the darkness with my heart still pumping. That last shot was definitely a mistake - now I've got to try and sleep...

Conclusions

So, the Relentless Energy Shot seems to work, despite some distinctly iffy ingredients and a foul taste. If you regularly find yourself trying to stay awake for whatever reason - work, games or anything else - then you might find some value here. Just don't take three in the space of 2 hours - especially if sleep is on the agenda at some point.



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