Help me find an energy-shot unicorn: No artificial sweetener OR stevia.
February 15, 2019 6:32 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to find a morning pick-me-up for someone whose gastrointestinal disease means coffee and zero-calorie sweeteners, whether artificial (sucralose and its ilk) or natural (Stevia) are Very Bad News™.

I am aware of the existence of tea but that alone is not doing the trick, which is why something in the energy-shot range would be preferred, as opposed to downing a second cup of something while trying to rush out the door to work. And while there are many clones of Five Hour Energy on the market, every "organic" or "all-natural" option I've found still has Stevia somewhere in the ingredients list. Can the hive mind recommend anything? At this point taste is no object; it could just be caffeine-flavored and that would be fine.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
There are several brands of caffeine pills out there. If liquid shots are preferred you could dissolve them in whatever you like, with whatever sweetener or lack you like. You could mix up a pint or quart at the beginning of the week and have a shot each day.

Just please be careful with the dosing!
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:37 AM on February 15 [7 favorites]


I have tummy issues with artificial sweeteners, and when I was trying to go off diet soda (strangely aspartame is one of the only artificial sweeteners I can tolerate), I used caffeinated mints to help with caffeine withdrawal. Most have sorbitol, but Bawls Mints just have plain sugar. They could do the trick. The branding is annoying, but they're pretty tasty, I think.

Sorry, I see you said zero calorie. Ignore me.
posted by backwards compatible at 6:53 AM on February 15


Yeah, caffeine pills are probably your best bet. If you need a beverage, I've found that mate has enough of a kick to be reasonably efficient in the liquid-to-energy ratio, but if speed is the priority, just take a No-Doz (or generic equivalent.) Cheap and effective, if somewhat harsh.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:55 AM on February 15


Seconding the suggestion of caffeine pills (but not powders). Also seconding the notion of crushing up caffeine pills into a home made drink if a drink is what you prefer.

It is possible to obtain caffeine powder, but I do not recommend it. It is way too easy to make a dangerous mistake in measuring or mixing the powders; what seems like a small measurement error can cause a dangerous overdose. Unless you are a trained chemist or willing and able to handle your caffeine powder with the caution, accuracy, and precision with which you would handle a dangerous illegal drug, I would really recommend staying away from the powder approach.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 6:56 AM on February 15


Never tried it, but you can buy caffeinated water, such as Water Joe, which is marketed as "Water + Caffeine. No sugar, no artificial sweeteners, no color, no taste." Or, equivalently, take a caffeine pill and drink a cup of water.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:03 AM on February 15 [2 favorites]


It is possible to obtain caffeine powder, but I do not recommend it. It is way too easy to make a dangerous mistake in measuring or mixing the powders; what seems like a small measurement error can cause a dangerous overdose. Unless you are a trained chemist or willing and able to handle your caffeine powder with the caution, accuracy, and precision with which you would handle a dangerous illegal drug, I would really recommend staying away from the powder approach.

Ehhh it isn't that dangerous. (I am a trained chemist though) As long as you use a small amount and start of slow till you know your tolerance you would be fine. I had about 500g of caffiene powder that I used to take in a shot of cordial if I needed a quick pickmeup. I did get thrown out of the bar at University because I lined up a few with some friends (we were all really drunk) and the bouncers thought I was dealing speed at the bar. I told them it was just caffiene and we could go take an NMR to show it, but they just made me leave. Simplest thing would be to make a saturated solution (2g/100mL at RT) and then just take 5 mL "shots" of the stuff. Each 5 mL shout (essentially one teaspoon = 5.8 mL ish) would be the equivalent of one shot of espresso. Two shots would be about one cup of filter coffee. It wouldn't taste pleasant, but if you like bitter tastes it isn't that bad.
posted by koolkat at 7:22 AM on February 15 [3 favorites]


Sorry, I see you said zero calorie. Ignore me.

If I gave the impression that they still have to be zero-calorie, that was a mistake! I would jump for joy at an option with sugar.

I didn't think of caffeine pills and will give that a try. Not sure how much difference the extra supplements in the drinks make, but I guess I'll see!
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:25 AM on February 15


If you like the taste of Red Bull, or at least can choke it down, the original Thai version still comes in a tall shot, with sugar and nothing fancy. The Western Red Bull energy shot was discontinued a while back but the Thai one is still made - you might be able to find it if you have an Asian grocery nearby. (That's how I discovered it, and it is pretty delicious, but I like Red Bull a lot.)
posted by restless_nomad at 7:40 AM on February 15


Yerba mate is worth a try. There's also the canned Guayaki stuff which is kind of spendy but it's sweetened with sugar.
posted by neckro23 at 7:43 AM on February 15 [2 favorites]


I've also cut out coffee (about 90% of the time), and I swear by the CVS-brand caffeine caplets...Mainly because they're very easy to break in half.
posted by doctornecessiter at 7:52 AM on February 15


I haven't tried this one, but it uses juice as its sweetener, nothing artificial.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:00 AM on February 15


Adding another recommendation for caffeine pills.

I had to stop drinking coffee because it irritates my Interstitial Cystitis. No tea either, but it was never a substitute. Caffeine itself is fine.

The caffeinated mints I tried were not a reasonable replacement, and at 7mg per mint it was lot more expensive and inefficient than plain caffeine tablets. Excedrin is a bad long term solution, because of the acetaminophen. The plain caffeine tablets are cheap. I split 200mg tablets into 3 or 4 pieces.

You can always add other stuff later, if you find that it makes a difference.
posted by monopas at 8:46 AM on February 15


I know you said you know about tea, but do you know about PG Tips? The first time I had it I thought I was gonna have a heart attack, so it might do the trick. (See also: brewing one cup with two bags.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:05 AM on February 15 [1 favorite]


Worth checking SiS Caffeine Gels they're really popular with cyclists because they have carbs that absorb really quick.

From looking at the ingredient list it uses "Sweetener (Acesulfame K, Sucralose)"

Vegan, Gluten Free, Wheat free etc-- so might work well with your dietary sensitivity?
posted by Static Vagabond at 9:11 AM on February 15


This is tangential to the actual question, but likely useful information for someone who has issues with artificial sweeteners. Hope it's not too tangential :) For what it's worth:

Stevia is the natural extract of a plant that is roughly 300x sweeter than sugar, and is generally safe for people with gastrointestinal issues.

"Stevia", as it is commonly sold, is blended at a ratio of 1 part stevia to 299 parts Erythritol, to make it roughly at parity with sugar in sweetness. Erythritol is a sugar alcohol, a class of organic compounds that can cause gastrointestinal distress is some individuals. Sugar alcohols include most artificial sweeteners like mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol.

So the problem here is likely not the stevia, but the "stevia" that is an erythritol blend. It is possible to buy pure unadulterated stevia.
posted by weed donkey at 9:15 AM on February 15 [1 favorite]


My drink of choice lately is a non-sweetened sparkling water with caffeine. There are a few kinds out there, I slightly prefer the hiball.
posted by emkelley at 9:49 AM on February 15


Guarana is one of the sources of caffeine used in energy drinks. So when you say that this person has tried tea, are you talking about cuppa-tea British-merchants-slash-drug-dealers-traded-opium-for-it Camellia sinensis (which also has caffeine in it) or are you talking about guarana tea? As per that Wikipedia article there are other soft drinks made from it too, which I've seen most frequently in markets that sell Latin American products.
posted by XMLicious at 10:18 AM on February 15


do you like energy drinks? a lot of people think they're gross but I think they're delicious.

Rockstar original is just sugar (well, high fructose corn syrup, but this is an energy drink, so I've already thrown healthy choice out the window here!) sweetened, and I think is the best tasting energy drink if it's cold. Energy drinks are exponentially grosser as they warm up.
posted by euphoria066 at 10:45 AM on February 15


prehaps add maple syrup to tea?! i have tummy issues related to complex and artificial sugars, but maple syrup is well tolorated.
posted by mollymillions at 7:23 PM on February 15


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