A few weeks ago, I received an invite from the folks at Red Bull to attend a day of health professional networking at the New York Red Bulls Arena. I have to admit, I laughed when I first opened the e-mail. I mean, were they really trying to equate Red Bull with health/nutrition? After my initial reaction, I started thinking this might actually be worth attending! As so many people use Red Bull and other energy drinks on a daily basis, I figured this was an opportunity for me to get more information on the product, ask any questions and be better prepared to work with my clients. And let's not forget, I'm a pretty big sports fan...
The invitation explained that we would have an informative discussion with representatives from Red Bull, including their internal Registered Dietitian. In addition, we would be treated to VIP skybox seats, a buffet lunch and field access prior to the game.
VIP on-field access!
Let me just say, Red Bull did not disappoint. My guests and I arrived around 12pm and after picking up our tickets at Will Call, we literally walked a red carpet to enter the arena. The skybox suite was beautiful and offered an upscale buffet lunch, including carved meats, sandwiches, salads and sushi, as well as more traditional "sports" fare and sweet treats.
I opted for a big beautiful salad (with awesome toppings like asparagus and artichoke hearts) and a few pieces of sushi.
And of course there was plenty of Red Bull for everyone to sample. In addition to traditional Red Bull and Red Bull Sugar-free, we were able to try the new Red, Blue and Silver editions (cranberry, blueberry and lime-flavored, respectively). I don't typically use energy drinks nor do I necessarily recommend them, but I appreciated the opportunity to sample these new ones. And I have to say I enjoyed the flavored ones far more than the traditional Red Bull I've tried in the past.
Lots of Red Bull!
After eating and sampling the new flavors, the RDs gathered in one of the skybox suites for our interactive discussion with a Red Bull representative as well as their nutrition expert, Becki Holmes, RD, CD. The RDs in our group all came from different areas of the nutrition field, which made for a very interesting discussion! Some of us were clinically based, some in private practice or community nutrition and some in marketing/research. I was immediately impressed by Becki's knowledge base and transparancy in terms of the product. She gave us a history of the company and products, before opening up the floor to discussion. A few of the other things she mentioned that I found to be interesting/relevant:
-Red Bull was created in the 1980's using four main components: carbohydrates, caffeine, taurine and B-vitamins and these are still the foundation of their recipe today.
-Red Bull sugarfree is NOT labeled as an "energy drink", as carbohydrates and calories are what provide energy and this product has zero carbs and almost no calories.
-Red Bull sponsors and endorses many athletes and entertainers, including skateboarders, skiers and motocross riders. However, they don't claim to be a sports drink, but rather a functional beverage which may improve performance.
A lot of our discussion ended up surrounding labeling, regulations and marketing claims. While the actual science and nutrition behind energy drinks is important, these other concerns are definitely good to be aware of when addressing consumer questions and concerns!
In the end, what I had assumed would be a laughable discussion regarding the incorporation of energy drinks in the "nutrition world" turned out to be an interesting and valuable learning experience for me. I appreciated that the discussion was purely informative and at no time did I feel pressured to promote or endorse Red Bull. My professional opinion? Red Bull (and all sugar-sweetened, caffeinated beverages) should be enjoyed in moderation and only as long as it is safe for the consumer.
To top off the day, the Red Bulls beat the Houston Dynamo 2-0! A big thanks go out to the folks at Red Bull for providing us with a day of energy drink discussion, food and football! :)
Now tell me...Do you drink Red Bull (or other energy drinks)? Do you use caffeine and energy drinks in your training/fueling? Have you tried the new flavors? What do you think?