Caffeine in the 21st century: A review of four delivery methods

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The four caffeine-delivery systems tried by the author(Credit: Michael Franco/Gizmag)

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Forget drones, 3D printing and virtual reality headsets. The future is really all about new ways to get caffeine into your system. Remember back in the dark ages of the last century when, if you wanted a jolt, you pretty much could only drink some coffee, tea, a carbonated franken-drink or pop a few NoDoz pills? Well, no more. Caffeine has been liberated from the coffee cup and is now available in a wide array of delivery methods. I got my hands on four of them and lost a few nights' sleep to find out which ones bring the buzz and which are simply snoozers.

First, a caveat. I've never really been a coffee lover. For one, the taste just never really grabbed me. But coffee has always just messed with my stomach, so I have learned to steer clear. I am, however, one of the tired masses trying to get through my work day as best as I can, so a chemical boost is certainly appreciated. That's why I started down this jittery path to alternative caffeine sources in the first place.

While some of these methods clearly worked, it's important to realize that if you're a true java junkie, none of them will replace the coffee-drinking ritual to satisfaction. If, like me though, you just want some quick pep sans mug, a few of these caffeine-delivery methods should work out just fine for you.

The Product: Power Toothpaste.

The Promise: Touting a "rush while you brush," this caffeinated toothpaste claims to work within minutes of brushing your teeth.

The Pep Factor: Quick coffee boost without the coffee breath.

Even though I had my doubts about getting any kind of a caffeine buzz from spending just a minute or two brushing my teeth in the morning, I was quite surprised to see that the Power Toothpaste actually did its job. As it was scrubbing my overnight mouth it also seemed to scrub away morning grogginess, making me feel more alert and ready to face my day. The toothpaste is extremely minty, which certainly helps with the wake-up factor. It also helps disguise the somewhat bitter taste of the caffeine as well.

The effects of the brush rush lasted only about an hour though, which nevertheless was enough time to get me moving and brewing my first cup of tea. I also found myself brushing more, as I would occasionally hit the paste midday if I found myself in a slump. So better dental hygiene is definitely a side-effect of this waker-upper – although it's good to note that this toothpaste doesn't contain fluoride, if that's important to you. I mixed its use with regular toothpaste at night to cover all my dental bases.

The Particulars: Power Toothpaste was successfully funded through an Indiegogo campaign that ended on March 6, 2016. Tubes are to start shipping in April 2016. The full retail price for tubes will be US$15 each, and will be good for about 90 brushes. Orders can still be placed through the Indiegogo page.

The Product: Go Cubes

The Promise: Each of these gummy squares is said to contain the same caffeine of about a half-cup of coffee (50 mg) along with vitamins B6, B12 and green-tea extract L-theanine which, the makers claim, can "improve caffeine for enhanced focus & clarity."

The Pep Factor: Lift off.

When I first tried these sugary little coffee cubes, I had the details wrong. I thought each cube delivered the equivalent caffeine of two cups of coffee. Turns out each pack of four cubes does that. So when I ate just one cube, I got zero boost. Upping that quantity to two, however, made all the difference.

The cubes, which come in an assortment of flavors including "Mocha," "Latte," and "Pure Drip," taste like really sugary coffee. That's fitting, as corn syrup and sugar are the first two ingredients on the list. After eating two of them, the effects kicked in after about 15 minutes. This was by far the most physical buzz I got out of all the different methods. My scalp felt tingly and I was vibrating a bit overall. After about 20 minutes of that intense "lift-off" rush, the effects mellowed out a bit and I felt alert but not jittery and my body felt energized – we had reached cruising altitude. The effects also lasted longer than all the other products in this review; two cubes kept me humming along for about three hours.

As a non-coffee aficionado, I wasn't crazy about the intensely strong coffee flavor or the dose of sugar, but if you take your cuppa with a few lumps, these cubes will certainly become your favorite adult candy.

The Particulars: Go Cubes are available on the company's website. They cost $53.10 for 20 four-packs and $20.70 for six four-packs.

The Product: Sprayable Energy

The Promise: Skip the oral part of consuming caffeine altogether, by spraying some on your skin. The spray contains only three ingredients: caffeine, water and an amino acid derivative called Tyrosine.

The Pep Factor: Non-existent.

Of all the delivery methods I tested, this was the one I was most excited to try. I loved the idea of being able to just spritz my neck with some liquid from the sleek little black bottle to get a boost whenever I needed it. There was something very "international spy" about the whole thing.

Sadly, I got zero boost from this product. I started with four sprays on one side of my neck. Then I tried four sprays on both sides of my neck. Aside from getting a dry residue on my skin, there was simply no other effect from the product.

The Particulars: Even though this didn't work for me, if you want to give it a try, the company does offer a 100-percent money-back guarantee if you're not satisfied, so it's basically free to see if you'll have better luck. The product is available on the company's homepage for $15 for two.

The Product: NeuroGum

The Promise: Like the Go Cubes, these candified bits of caffeine (40 mg) also have L-theanine and vitamins B6 and B12 in them. Chewing is meant to give you an energy boost and mental clarity as well.

The Pep Factor: Good, quick and lifted.

If I had to pick a winner from all of these newfangled caffeine-delivery systems, the Neurogum would get the caffeinated crown. Although it has less caffeine per piece than the Go Cubes, it provided a much faster lift; in about three minutes of chewing the stuff, I already felt less fatigued and more mentally alert. What's more, the Neurogum didn't give me that jittery initial spike. It was just a very pleasant lift that made me feel bright-eyed and clear, like I'd just woken from a really good night's sleep.

Unfortunately, the NeuroGum lift only lasted about 90 minutes, but because there were no side effects and the lift was so clean and immediate, it's become my go-to caffeine source when I need an instant boost. Also, unlike the Go Cubes, there is no sugar or corn syrup in the gum, so it feels like a bit healthier of a product.

The Particulars: You can order five nine-packs of the gum for $19.95 or 12 packs for $47.40 on the NeuroGum website.

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