Investigation: Does Drinking Red Bull Make You Run Faster?
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Investigation: Does Drinking Red Bull Make You Run Faster?

Running Elixir?

A couple of people have recommended drinking a can of Red Bull before a race for a bit of an extra kick. The trick apparently is to pour it out in to a bottle and shake vigorously, releasing all the bubbles to give you a belch free run! I didn’t think much of it as one hears so many of these ‘tips’, but at the weekend I happened to have a can in the fridge before a 10k race so I downed the lot. Psychosomatic or not, I definitely felt a little more energetic than normal… so I thought I’d look in to Red Bull may actually have a positive effect on your running performance.

Firstly the ingredients of Red Bull; Caffeine, B-group vitamins, sucrose and glucose (sugar), taurine and Alpine spring water (who knew!).

 

Caffeine

This is the most instantly recognisable as a performance enhancer, there is around the same amount of caffine in a can of Red Bull as in one cup of coffee (around 80mg). As Red Bull state on their website:

“One of caffeine’s primary sites of action in the human body is  its stimulating effect on cognitive functions. Caffeine helps to improve concentration and increase alertness.”

So this may help you remain focused on your run, your time and the finish line.

Runner’s World tested the effects of caffine and found:

  • Runners who have caffeine sprint faster than those who don’t have caffeine. Researchers think the stimulant enhances reaction time and running speed.
  • Helps with recovery – Researchers found that having a drink with caffeine rebuilds glycogen stores 66 percent more than a carb-only drink.
  • Cyclists who have caffeine ride farther and think faster on cognitive tests

B-Vitamins

Vitamins, B1, B2, B3 and B6 help variously with energy and endurance, longevity, joint support and muscle gain and recovery. all good for runners! This is cited by a brand that makes supplements for runners so take as you will…

Red Bull themselves (again they have a slight sales agenda) say

“B-group vitamins contribute to normal energy-yielding metabolism, such as the build-up and break-down of carbohydrates and proteins and contribute to normal mental performance (pantothenic acid) and the reduction of tiredness and fatigue (niacin, pantothenic acid, B6, B12).”

Careful though, the Institute of Medicine warns that more than 100 milligrams of B-6 each day – what you’d get from 2 1/2 bottles of 5-Hour Energy – may damage nerves in the arms and legs.

Sucrose & Glucose

I won’t go in to this too much. Basically sugars, one type that the brain particularly likes (glucose) and one the muscles like (sucrose), that give you energy.

Taurine

The magic ingredient?
Again, here’s what Red Bull say:

“Taurine is an amino acid, naturally occurring in the human body and present in the daily diet. It is involved in a wide range of biological processes.

Taurine is found in high concentrations in muscle, brain, heart and blood. A person weighing 70 kg has approximately 70 g of taurine distributed throughout their body. Put another way, a 70 kg person naturally already has in his body 70 times the amount of taurine contained in one can of Red Bull Energy Drink.”

A study named ‘The effect of acute taurine ingestion on 3-km running performance in trained middle-distance runners’ by Balshaw TG, Bampouras TM, Barry TJ, & Sparks SA in 2012, tested the effects of taurine on runners and found that seven out of the eight tested runners performed better with taurine. Their results concluded that there is a 99.3% chance that taurine was beneficial to performance.

All mixed together with Alpine spring water!

Conclusion

So in conclusion, Red Bull does have a lot of ingredients that have in some ways been proven to have a positive effect on running. However, a lot of those ingredients are present in our daily diets anyway, so the act of drinking something that contains more may have little to no effect if you’re already at 100% RDA.

I’ll have a can before my proper 10k race on Sunday and give an anecdotal report!

Rob Murray

Rob Murray

A 100%, bona fide running geek! Rob loves running, running gear, and doing races then writing about them!
Rob Murray
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Author: Rob Murray
  • Can’t wait to read how it works for you. I wouldn’t drink it before a run just because it would make me want to pee (sorry TMI :). I do have a gel before a race and the caffeine and sugar have an effect on me.

  • RunninCuzin

    You should try out Race Primer from Runner’s High. It’s basically a Red Bull with some extra components specific for endurance athletes. It certainly works plus it’s cheaper per servings and mixes up in 4 ounces of water so you have less sloshing around in your stomach. I think it’s only sold online right now, but I’m not positive. Just haven’t seen it in any stores yet. Their newsletter said the price was being reduced to $29.95 in April too. Here’s their site: http://www.runnershighnutrition.com/race-primer/

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  • Andy

    Did the Red Bull have any effect?