Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

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Game Fuel won’t help you up your game


Okay, I’m a little bit behind the times I guess because I only just found out about this “Game Fuel” drink from Mountain Dew (shout-out to my friend Zach for alerting me to this product) last week even though it’s been on the market since December. I suppose I’m not exactly part of their target market though as someone who doesn’t play video games or consume energy drinks. In case you, like me, hadn’t heard of this beverage before, I’m here to give you the low-down.

Lest you were thinking that “Game Fuel” was intended for those playing physical sports games, you would be (understandably) mistaken. This “fuel” was designed specifically for video gamers.

One can of Game Fuel supposedly contains two servings, but let’s be honest, who drinks only half a can of something? That one can contains 90 calories which all come from the 23 grams of sugar. That’s just shy of 6 teaspoons of sugar for those of you who don’t feel like doing the math. It would take the average gamer over an hour of playing to use up the equivalent calories to those in a can of Game Fuel. This is also the total recommended maximum daily consumption of added sugar for women and 3 teaspoons less than the max for men. I am not mentioning children and youth here because it is unsafe for them to be consuming energy drinks. Not the healthiest of beverages but what about the alleged science behind the ingredients such as caffeine, theanine, and vitamins A and B that PepsiCo claims will increase alertness and accuracy?

There is 90 mg of caffeine in a can of Game Fuel. This is on par with an average cup of coffee. Caffeine is likely the most studied ingredient in Game Fuel and there is evidence to back-up their claim that it can increase alertness. However, it is quite easy to achieve a tolerance to caffeine and once you do, it doesn’t matter how much more you consume, you will no longer reap the original benefits. Also, it’s important to note that as with most things, more is not better. Caffeine consumption greater than 400 mg/d can lead to unwanted side effects such as a fast heartbeat, insomnia, and irritability.

L-theanine is an amino acid that is found in green tea. It has been found to act synergistically with caffeine by increasing relaxation and attention without promoting drowsiness.

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin which means that it is possible to attain Vitamin A toxicity. Generally, Canadians consume adequate quantities of Vitamin A through diet alone (it’s found in a variety of plant and animal foods) and supplementation is not recommended due to the risk of toxicity. Although the amount of Vitamin A in Game Fuel is quite low (180 mcg) it is still an unwarranted ingredient. Vitamin A, in adequate amounts (700-900 mcg/d), is important in maintaining a healthy immune system, skin, eyes.

Niacin is a B Vitamin that is important in helping your body to use fat, protein, and carbohydrates as energy. One can of Game Fuel contains 6.4 mg of niacin, about half the recommended daily intake. I am genuinely baffled as to why niacin is added to Game Fuel other than as a marketing tactic. Perhaps if this was a sports drink but let’s be honest, you don’t exactly need extra vitamins to meet your needs when you’re sitting around playing video games. The same goes for the added Vitamin B6 and Pantothenic Acid.

Long story short: this is an unnecessary product designed to meet a non-existent need. You don’t need fancy energy drinks to play video games. You’re better off sticking with water. If you don’t have the energy to stay awake to keep gaming a better alternative to Game Fuel is to actually get some sleep.


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ISSN fumbles the ball on energy drinks

Earlier this month the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) released a position stand on energy drinks. My immediate assumption was that they were going to discourage their use. I, foolishly, assumed this because the use of energy drinks may be linked to a number of deaths, as well as other dangerous side effects.

The actual position stand stated that they may be beneficial to athletic performance due to the caffeine content. Although users should be aware that calories consumed may outweigh calories burned when using these drinks. They cautioned that children should not use them without parental supervision and education on the potential side effects. Seriously?! That’s it!!? I have heard about parents pushing energy drinks on their children prior to sporting events. I don’t think that parental approval is a reasonable measure. How do they expect parents to be appropriately educated regarding the risks? Especially when their own statement primarily extolls the virtues of energy drinks.

I’m extremely disappointed by this statement. The ISSN is a respected organization and they wasted a valuable opportunity to take a stand against the use of energy drinks. At a minimum, I think that energy drinks should be regulated like cigarettes and should only be available to people when they’re at least 18 years of age.

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Regulating energy drinks

I was pleased to read that Doctors Nova Scotia is pushing for a ban on the sale of energy drinks to minors (i.e. anyone under the age of 19). They’re also calling for better labelling of energy drinks. In my previous life as a public health dietitian in Ontario this is something I wanted to push for. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in our operational plan for the year so I never had a chance to (ah, bureaucracy).

I’ve been told stories of parents feeding every drinks to their children before sporting competitions. I’ve also heard from parents of children suffering adverse reactions (seizures, death) following the consumption of energy drinks. Children do not need these high levels of caffeine. Health Canada recommends no more than 2.5 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight a day. This amount can be easily exceeded with just one energy drink. They can contain up to 400 mg of caffeine.

One of the tricky things about energy drinks, under the current legislation, is that they only have to list the added caffeine on the label. All of the caffeine that comes from “natural” sources like yerba mate. Also, as with any food or beverage, you need to make sure that the serving size corresponds with the amount that you’re actually consuming. If there’s two servings per can and you drink a whole can then you’re getting (at least) twice as much caffeine as is listed on the label.

I hope that Doctors Nova Scotia are successful in their bid to change the regulations surrounding energy drinks. People can complain about nanny states all they want but until they’re grown-up (or in the case of adults act like grown-ups) then a nanny may be just what they need.

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Energy drinks are “fit for the pit”

Myth #8: Drinking energy drinks is the best way to get energized.

What Dietitians of Canada says:

“No one needs an energy drink… Energy drinks usually contain lots of sugar; in fact, one energy drink can have up to 14 teaspoons of sugar! Most energy drinks have caffeine, and too much caffeine may cause unwanted side effects such as rapid heartbeat and insomnia… The best way to get energized is to eat well, be active, stay hydrated, and get enough sleep.”

What I say:

Once again, I actually agree with DC! Energy drinks are unnecessary and can be dangerous. Mixing alcohol and energy drinks can be deadly, as can consumption of energy drinks on their own in children. I think that energy drinks should be regulated like alcohol and should not be sold to minors. There needs to be greater awareness about the danger of children and youth consuming energy drinks. I’ve heard of parents giving their children one or two energy drinks before a sports event in a misguided effort to enhance their performance. It aggravates me to see athletic events sponsored by energy drinks.

One thing that DC failed to mention, that is important to be aware of is the caffeine listed on the label of an energy drink is most likely less than the actual total caffeine content in the drink. Companies only have to list added caffeine. That excludes “naturally occurring” caffeine from many ingredients used in energy drinks.