Much has been made recently over the controversial energy/alcoholic drink Four Loko. Some say it’s dangerous with deadly outcomes and other see it as a novel way to enjoy a weekend of libations. But like many things, I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle.
Some universities have taken to banning Four Loko (Ramapo College, while other higher learning institutions like Harvard and Brandeis Universities have warned its students about Four Loko’s potential dangers. Let’s take a peek under the tab and find out exactly what makes Four Loko so troublesome to our youngsters.
What Is Four Loko?
Put simply, Four Loko is a combo drink with both alcohol and caffeine–think along the lines of those Red Bull-vodka cocktails doing the club circuit a few years ago. Available in 23.5 ounce cans that come in 8 flavors, Four Loko looks more like soda than alcohol in its brightly colored can and graphic prints.
So far, doesn’t sound so bad, right? Well that’s just the basics of what you need to know about Four Loko.
What’s In It?
Four Loko contains as much as 12% alcohol by volume in those 23.5 ounce cans. In states with stricter alcohol regulations like Indiana, Four Loko has as little as 6% alcohol by volume. In addition to the alcohol in this drink, it also has the same caffeine content as drinking a tall coffee from Starbucks!
Available in a variety of flavors, we cannot talk about Four Loko without talking about the amount of sugar and chemical dyes this drink contains. One can of this alcoholic beverage and you’ll be longing for a simple glass of white wine or a regular cocktail. One serving of Four Loko contains 60 grams of sugar, 660 calories, and 65 grams of carbohydrates!
In addition to sugar and artificial colors and flavors, Four Loko’s name comes from the drinks four major ingredients: taurine, caffeine, guarana, and alcohol of course.
Why It’s Bad
As tasty as college students and binge drinkers the world over may find Four Loko, consider how quickly one night of drinking will begin to impact your physical appearance. Let’s say you and some pals get together for a quick dinner before heading to your local watering hole. That dinner will probably cost you about 500 calories on top of what you ate for breakfast and lunch.
After 5 cans of Four Loko you’ll have consumed 3,300 calories! Drinking that many calories makes it pretty difficult to maintain the calorie deficit needed for successful weight loss. Just consider how hard you push at the gym after a particularly indulgent meal that’s probably 700 or 800 calories before you start knocking back cans of Four Loko like it’s a can of diet soda.
Perhaps the biggest controversy surrounding Four Loko has to do with mixing depressants like alcohol with stimulants like caffeine, taurine and guarana. Fortunately the combination of those factors has very little impact on you reaching your weight loss goals compared to merely consuming what Harvard University Health Services administrator called, “badness in a can”.
It’s also important to note the effects that drinking Four Loko will have on your ability to do what you need to lose weight and keep it off. Too much caffeine leaves you feeling dehydrated, moreso after a night of pounding back nothing but caffeine-alcohol hybrid drinks. When your body has ingested too much caffeine you may experience muscle cramping and headaches, which will make it difficult if not impossible to perform exercises the next day.
What To Do
Because Four Loko is 660 empty calories packed with sugar and carbs, you should decide if this drink is the way you want to reward yourself for eating properly and working out regularly. Another factor, arguably more important, is how much work will you have to do just work off a single can of Four Loko. That’s probably the hardest part because from what I hear, very few people drink just one of these concoctions.
Just so you have an idea of how much work is required to burn the calories in Four Loko, we’ve put together a list of common activities and how long you have to do them to come close to burning off Four Loko.
- Fast bicycling at 13 miles an hour will burn exactly 660 calories in 1 hour.
- One hour of racquetball burns 600 calories.
- One hour of hill climbing burns 480 calories.
- Playing tennis for 1 hour will burn 420 calories.
- Sitting for one hour burns 100 calories.
That’s a lot of work to make sure you don’t turn that Freshman 15 into the Freshman 50! High calorie drinks like this are horrible in general, but if you’re trying to lose weight these empty calories will make up for any calorie deficit you create by decreasing your portion sizes.
Get more information on how to eat (and drink) to lose weight by reading our review of The Diet Solution Program. A successful dieter is a well-informed dieter!