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Does Red Bull Actually Work? (Deep Dive)

We all know that Red Bull doesn’t actually give us wings, but have you ever wondered how effective of an energy drink it is?

Red Bull is the most popular energy drink out in the market, and has been one of the leading brands in the industry. But does a single sip of Red Bull make you feel like you’re The Flash?

In short, you’ll be hard pressed to find someone where the combination of sugar and caffeine won’t have an effect on a person’s energy levels, so in a sense, Red Bull does work, if only through those two ingredients.

As for the long answer, keep reading as we start to decipher each ingredient that Red Bull contains.

A can of Red Bull Energy Drink.
A can that they make to keep you awake!

What Does Red Bull Claim To Do For You?

From a quick glance at the can, it seems that Red Bull “Vitalizes Body and Mind”. It is also “appreciated worldwide by top athletes, busy professionals, college students, and travelers on long journeys.”

One thing I like to do when asking whether an energy drink works or not is to look at any slogans, taglines, claims, or descriptions of the product, including any that might be on the can itself.

These descriptions are important for any kind of analysis because we are only attempting to validate (or disprove) the claims that the product or company is intentionally making and disregarding the ones that they are not.

These claims may be vague, but from my own deductions I think its fair to assume that (like most energy drinks) Red Bull claims to provide extra energy as well as aid in mental performance.

We shall see if Red Bull’s ingredients are able to back up these claims.

What’s Inside a Can of Red Bull?

Before we get to the nitty-gritty, it’s probably best that you know what exactly is inside a can of Red Bull. Don’t worry if these ingredients sound foreign, I will explain in detail what each one does to your body and how they work.

Here’s the basic ingredients list, with a more detailed look at them down below:

  • Carbonated Water
  • Sucrose
  • Glucose
  • Citric Acid
  • Taurine
  • Sodium Bicarbonate
  • Magnesium Carbonate
  • Caffeine
  • Niacinamide
  • Calcium Pantothenate
  • Pyridoxine HCl
  • Vitamin B12
  • Natural and Artificial Flavors
  • Colorings
Red Bull Ingredients list
The List of Ingredients on a can of Red Bull.

Caffeine

A single 8.4 fl.oz can of Red Bull has around 80mg of caffeine, which is a pretty similar amount to a regular cup of coffee.

The main energy booster in Red Bull is caffeine, which is a commonly used stimulant in many energy drink brands. Most caffeine compounds come from natural sources (tea leaves, coffee beans), or produced synthetically in labs.

Sweeteners

The ingredients glucose and sucrose make up the 27g of total added sugar in a can of Red Bull. While glucose is absorbed much quicker than sucrose, both types of sugars function in the same way.

They raise the insulin levels in the blood which prepares the body to convert nutrients into energy. However, extra sugar is stored as fat, so keep that in mind.

Vitamins and Supplements

Red Bull contains an abundance of B vitamins, which all share the common role of supporting the body’s energy production and metabolic processes. But individually, they each have their own unique properties.

Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) and Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5) for instance, helps your body convert food into usable energy. Pyridoxine HCL (Vitamin B6) is responsible for creating dopamine and serotonin as well as keeping cells healthy.

Vitamin B12 can enhance your memory, improve your mood and of course, prevent exhaustion and tiredness. Taurine protects against muscle damage and promotes healthy metabolism.

I’ve compiled most of the relevant information in the table below, and feel free to check out the following Harvard link for a deeper dive into B-Vitamins.

VitaminsFunctions% of Daily Value (per 8.4fl.oz can)
Vitamin B3
or Niacin
(as niacinamide)
Converts nutrients to energy; repairs DNA;
supports system as an antioxidant.
100%
Vitamin B5
or Pantothenic Acid
(as calcium pantothenate)
Breaks down fats, proteins and coenzyme A;
promotes healthy skin
50%
Vitamin B6
or Pyridoxine
(as pyridoxine hydrochloride)
Supports the central nervous system;
ensures smooth metabolism
250%
Vitamin B12
or Cobalamin
(as cyanocobalamin)
Generates red blood cells; maintains
brain function and nerve tissue health
80%
List of Vitamins in Red Bull and Their % Daily Values based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Additives

There are several additives in Red Bull namely citric acid, sodium bicarbonate, magnesium carbonate, artificial and natural flavors, and colors

Citric acid (not to be confused with Vitamin C) serves two purposes in energy drinks. Aside from giving drinks an acidic flavor, it is also a preservative.

Sodium bicarbonate is an effervescent agent that gives soft drinks the signature fizzy sensation when you drink them.

Magnesium carbonate is used to preserve the color of food products and maintain the acidity content.

Red Bull also contains what is listed as “Natural and Artificial Flavors” as well as “Colors”, however, it’s not stated on the can what exactly these flavors and colors actually are.

This is quite deceptive and even possibly dangerous since certain food dyes like Yellow 5 and Blue 1 have been known to cause devastating side effects when consumed frequently.

Does Red Bull Give You Energy?

Red Bull claims to “vitalize” the body, which I interpret as supplying energy to keep you alert and energized. Red Bull is able to accomplish this due to caffeine.

Caffeine is one of the main ingredients in most energy drinks. It’s extracted from natural sources, but can also be synthetically manufactured in a lab. Red Bull has 75-80 mg of caffeine in a single 8.4 fl.oz can.

You may think vitamin B12 or any of the other B vitamins may also be responsible for giving you energy, but that’s a popular misconception.

The effects are B vitamins are cumulative, not instantaneous, unlike caffeine, which can perk you up in a matter of minutes.

Moreover, taking vitamin B12 only works if you’re deficient in it. You won’t suddenly get a burst of energy if you start taking more since B vitamins don’t provide energy by themselves.

Can Red Bull Keep You Awake?

Due to Red Bull’s caffeine content, it can very much keep you awake for a stretch of time, not too dissimilar as to how a cup of coffee might work.

If you’ve ever felt sleepy at work, you can blame it on adenosine, which is responsible for regulating sleep by inhibiting neural activity, making us feel drowsy. The level of adenosine in our body increases the longer we remain awake.

Caffeine acts as an “adenosine receptor antagonist”, which disables the effects of adenosine, preventing you from feeling sleepy.

However, you need to take note of a few caveats anytime caffeine is involved.

Compared to other energy boosters like panax ginseng, the stimulating effects of caffeine become less and less pronounced with regular consumption.

This condition is known as caffeine tolerance where you will constantly need to drink more of it every time to feel its effects. One simple way to remedy caffeine tolerance, as simple as it sounds, is to simply drink less caffeine.

Another reason to reduce your caffeine intake is that too much of it at one time can result in a caffeine overdose which manifests as headaches, restlessness and dehydration.

That being said, the recommended daily limit of caffeine for a full-grown adult is 400mg. As such, a single can of Red Bull is nowhere near that amount to pose any risk of overdose.

Does Red Bull Improve Mental Performance?

Aside from “vitalizing” the body, Red Bull also claims to be able to do the same for the mind.

Studies have confirmed that energy drinks can boost mental performance such as reaction time, concentration, and memory

This may explain why college students drink energy drinks as it says at the back of the can.

Does Red Bull Help You Study?

Stack of books with person slumped over.
Looking to keep your energy up for those long study-sessions?

One study showed that energy drinks are often drunk by medical students and athletes due to cognitive and performance demands.

It was found that energy drinks help them cope up with low energy levels, studying for long hours, and lack of sleep.

However, the drawback of this was that these users who drank energy drinks tend to experience heart palpitations.

You must be wondering which ingredient is able to help you with this increase in mental performance. Well, vitamin B12 is able to prevent memory loss, taking it on its own will not suddenly give you superhuman brainpower (vitamins simply don’t work like that).

It’s more likely that caffeine is once again responsible for backing up Red Bull’s claims. One study showed that drinking caffeine can increase alertness, reaction time and cognitive function.

So yes, Red Bull does help boost mental performance and if you’re a student and need some help staying focused on alert, a can of Red Bull will be able to keep you on track.

How Long Does Red Bull Last?

It takes about 12 hours for caffeine from a Red Bull to completely leave your system, but the exact time and speed for it depends on the person drinking it.

The whole process of what happens to your body after drinking Red Bull can be summarized as follows:

  • For the first 15 to 45 minutes, you’ll start to feel the effects of Red Bull.
  • 30 to 50 minutes of finishing the drink, the caffeine will be fully absorbed.
  • After an hour, your body will start to feel the caffeine reducing.
  • 5 to 6 hours, the caffeine in your body is now reduced by 50%.
  • Finally, after 12 hours, the caffeine is now fully expelled from your body.

Is Red Bull Safe to Drink?

Drinking Red Bull once in a while is okay, but just like any other canned beverage, excessive intake can result in serious problems such as caffeine overdose, rapid heart rate, anxiety, dizziness, vomiting, nausea, seizure, and insomnia.

But even if it’s safe to drink occasionally, eating and drinking healthy is still important, as well as being aware of the ingredients that are inside your energy drinks.

Want to know what will happen if you drink too much Red Bull?

Should You Drink Red Bull?

Drinking Red Bull may you that necessary, albeit temporary, energy boost that you may need for certain occasions, like when you’re struggling to meet deadlines or finish projects on time.

One important example is when you’re driving. We all know that it’s dangerous to drive when we feel sleepy, especially if you’re going long distances; drinking Red Bull can help increase your sense of awareness, preventing you from getting into accidents.

That being said, Children under 12, pregnant women, people with heart problems, and individuals that are caffeine-sensitive should not drink Red Bull.

Researchers also added that it’s not advised for people who have high blood pressure or any other health issues to drink any kind of energy drinks.

Conclusion

Caffeine is a stimulant that keeps you awake, this is why you can find it in most energy drinks like Red Bull.

These drinks are used to temporarily increase reaction time making you more focused. This is why energy drinks such as Red Bull are so appealing, as you can meet the mental and performance needs for the task, albeit temporarily.

Take note that you will only start to feel the effects of the caffeine after the first 15 to 45 minutes of drinking Red Bull. The caffeine will linger in your system for approximately 12 hours before completely being flushed out.

Children under 18, pregnant women, caffeine-sensitive people and those with cardiovascular problem should avoid Red Bull.

However, even if you’re a healthy, fully grown adult, it doesn’t mean you should drink Red Bull every day.

The caffeine may be in safe amounts, but there’s still a fair bit of added sugar in there and you should always limit your sugar intake whenever possible.

If you’re a first-timer, take it slow. Even though Red Bull has a surprisingly low amount of caffeine compared to other brands, it can still pack a punch for a newbie.

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About Adrian Carter

Adrian writes about energy drinks and their ingredients to shine a light on the facts behind the brand names.

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