I hate going into a workout with a full stomach, coffee included — which doesn't help the fact that an energizing boost of caffeine often fuels my best sweat sessions.
But, like many of my daily dilemmas, an episode of Shark Tank introduced me to a solution: Neuro Mints ($21) — breath mints that promote energy and focus. Although they aren't touted as a workout product, I was immediately compelled to call in a free sample for my cause.
The mints are advertised as FDA-compliant, vegan, gluten-free, aspartame-free, and sugar-free — plus, the brand is transparent about the product's natural green tea caffeine, L-theanine, B6, and B12 vitamin ingredients. Still, I checked in with Angie Asche, MS, RD, CSSD, a sports dietitian and the owner of Eleat Sports Nutrition, to make sure they were safe before including them in my fitness routine. I recommend you do the same with your doctor, too.
"One serving size (or one mint) provides 40 mg of caffeine, which should be completely safe pre-workout," Asche explained, as one mint equals about a half a cup of coffee.
With the OK from Asche, I popped one mint about 45-60 minutes before taking on some Pilates YouTube workouts. Asche recommended this timeline because that's when blood levels of caffeine peak post-consumption, offering the best results for exercise.
I'm naturally a low energy person, so I was excited to see how effective the mints were as I zoomed through a full-body Pilates session with ease — my vitality even lasted for about three hours after I rolled up my yoga mat.
Jitters, panting, anxiousness, a crash — I didn't feel any of it. But, my boyfriend (who, for the record, rarely consumes caffeine) claims he experienced some of those effects after testing one out himself. That's why it's important to note that these mints will impact every individual differently.
With that said, Asche warned that since some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others, it's important to avoid using Neuro Mints for the first time before a big race or game.
And while we are on the topic of Asche's concerns — she confirmed that although the serving size is safe for a workout, she doesn't recommend them for all athletes.
"Besides the caffeine content, which is at a safe level, this product also contains artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols, which can lead to GI distress [like] diarrhoea, bloating, and gas," Asche said.
For runners who are prone to bathroom breaks mid-race or who have IBS, she warned to avoid this product altogether — but that could also depend on your tolerance of sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners.
If you never skip your morning coffee or are known to ignore serving sizes, Asche suggested avoiding the mints, so you don't consume too much caffeine.
Neuro Mints aren't part of my daily workout routine, but I do keep them close by for when I can't get through squats without the interruption of a yawn — and, as you know, I'll be passing on coffee those days, too.