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  • Writer's pictureCat Flores

Unleashing The Beast

One writer tests the best sources of caffeine on campus, so you don’t have to.

By Cat Flores

In high school, I almost never drank energy drinks, or even coffee. The only times I dared to consume a notorious Monster drink, I was low on cash and needed a clandestine chaser to facilitate getting drunk in my room during sleepovers. On those nights, I would sneak into my kitchen and take a Monster from the fridge, where my mom maintained a night-unlimited supply. To this day, I am haunted by my forays into that Monstrous toxic sludge—caffeine holds no appeal for me now. The name is apt: It is, indeed, a beast.

Beyond my teenaged larceny, I never considered myself a person who liked or needed caffeine. But now as a college student, all of that has changed. I’m tired 24/7. I average five hours of sleep each night, sometimes less. I fall asleep during classes. I’m falling asleep as I type this! And on the weekends, I’m out enjoying the minimal free time I do have. It’s nearly impossible for me not to need some form of caffeine at least once every few days. I’m not a god, after all.

Since I’m constantly looking for new forms of energy, I thought it would be fitting to return to my high school habits. This time, however, for the betterment of my academic career—and yours, as well. I resolved to try a different kind of energy drink every day for a week and document it for our faithful readership. Assuming my heart doesn’t give out, I will be discussing the findings of my study below. The drinks will be ranked out of five stars on three factors: taste, price, and whether it simply wakes me up.

Let’s get into it.

Day 1

I started my experiment with the Starbucks Doubleshot Energy Coffee drink. I used my meal points at Liz’s place and went for the vanilla flavor, priced at a generous four bucks. At first, I was like, “This is kinda nasty,” because it was so sweet; then it grew on me and I was like, “This is pretty good,” because it was so sweet. Character development! Especially when I paired it with a toasted everything bagel—yum. I drank it right before I had three consecutive classes, and that did not go down well. (I’m lactose intolerant but choose to ignore this unfortunate fact.) The decision really rocked my tummy. By the end of my last class, I had a fat stomach ache. Overall, the “Doubleshot” kept me awake but unenergized. Three out of five stars, which I know is pretty high for a drink that had slightly demobilizing effects on me, but it tasted like a naughty, overly sweet, candy-flavored coffee, and I liked that.

Day 2

Illustration by Oonagh Mockler

On Day 2 I tried the Bang energy drink at around 9:00 a.m. I was really trying to get energized today; although I only had one class, I had to do all the work I should have done over the weekend. Sundays, amirite? Bang was about five dollars at our local Mo Willy. It tasted bubbly and fruity, except not like real fruit–more like that high-fructose corn syrup stuff. And it definitely sent a buzz through my body. It made me a bit jittery, but that was better than taking an unnecessarily long nap after my 10:10, which I may have ended up still taking—these energy drinks weak asf. Honestly, four out of five stars: I recommend it if you're lacking sleep and trying to stay awake and/or bounce off the walls. Also, the name “Bang” is cool.

Day 3

I tried cold brew from Liz’s place on day 3 for a whopping six bucks. I sipped it leisurely during my First-Year Writing Seminar, Wild Tongues, and by the end of class, I felt exponentially more awake. The main downside was that cold brew doesn’t taste great. I was dreading this one because I knew that it wouldn’t be delicious, so I decided to get it over with sooner. One pro about cold brew is that it helps when you have headaches, and I get chronic migraines. This applies to caffeine in general, but cold brew is nice because it’s just the straight-up good stuff without any added sugars or chemicals. Although somewhat painful to drink, I would definitely treat myself to another one. Three-and-a-half out of five stars. It also made me feel healthy, like those flawless Lululemon-wearing Barnard dance students who walk to eight a.m. studio sessions, iced coffee in hand. They have their lives together FR. Respect.

Day 4

I’d never had a Red Bull before, but I’d heard that it keeps you awake, and on day 4I was struggling to stop myself from taking an eight-hour nap instead of doing homework. So I chugged a 12-ounce scarlet Taurus right before my last class—and still … I dozed off! Every time I woke up, my professor was staring straight into my eyes. It was utterly terrifying. It was also nearly six dollars from Liz’s place—I don’t believe in money, but I know for sure that 12 ounces of carbonated high fructose corn syrup shouldn’t cost that much. I started to feel sick about three hours later and presented flu-like symptoms the next day. I’m not saying the Red Bull caused it, but I will not be having another one anytime soon. Take from my experience what you will. Not worth the hype. 1 out of 5 stars.

Full transparency: around here was when I took a solid four days off from trying any more energy drinks because both my immune system and my meal points had taken such a hit that I couldn't afford to experiment with my body any further—physically or financially. When I recovered from being sick, though, I really needed the energy to get me back on my feet.

Day 5

This one was rough. I drank a rose-flavored Monster at, like, 10:45 p.m.. I subsequently pulled an all-nighter. I obtained said Monster from someone who lives in my dorm. I can’t even tell if it really energized me or not because I was both so incredibly exhausted and so anxious about an important 8 a.m. final paper proposal that I had to submit for my hardest class. The adrenaline pumping through my veins kept me awake. The packaging was pink, pretty, and ~aesthetic~. Five out of five for the appearance, one out of five for the horrible high school flashbacks, and three out of five for everything else. Definitely would drink a Monster again, if it looked like this one. It was the first one I’d ever had that wasn’t stolen from my mom, which was—I’ll say it!—liberating. It was still free though, and that was clutch.

Day 6

So. I, unfortunately, didn’t make it to a seventh day because of how beat my body was from illness and lack of sleep, but I did make it to a sixth, so yay! Please clap. I finished it off with a good ol’ classic cup o’ joe. I know this is technically not an energy drink, so don’t come for my neck. I just wanted to compare my findings from the previous testing days to what is most available to me: some piping hot coffee from Hewitt. Downside: It tasted like steamed cardboard, and was scalding hot. Upside: It was free, and it did, indeed, keep me awake. It was actually so hot that it burned off the very taste buds that might have detected the cardboard taste anyway, so ultimately it’s a W. Five out of five stars for comfort. Shout out to Hewiii <3

By the end of the week, I learned that a decent amount of energy drinks are a scam and quite terrible for you, in fact. You’ve mostly got to rely on the placebo effect to pull you out of the darkness and help you make it through a hard day of school or work. Still, the ones that do work, work well. If you’re not looking to spend cash or Dining Dollars on caffeine, though, I think a solid cup of coffee from the dining hall gets the job done.


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