StrongRabbit: Kill Cliff Recovery Drink Review

Second, I have to admit that when the Mullet asked me to write about Kill CliffTM Recovery Drink, I became a bit anxious. At first, I thought Kill Cliff was a new kid on the block among this outrageously booming market of “energy drinks”. I’m NOT a fan of energy drinks (examples: 5-hour Energy, Monster, Red Bull). Some of these products have loads of sugar or artificial sweeteners and caffeine along with other questionable ingredients such as guarana (a source of super-concentrated caffeine that is much greater than coffee by weight). The safety of energy drinks such as Monster and 5-hour Energy has become quite controversial as a number of deaths have been linked to their consumption (mostly cardiovascular causes).  The jury is still out, but the FDA is more closely investigating the ingredients in these products.

Because I’ve never tried Red Bull or Monster or 5-hour Energy, I took a peek at their websites just to get a feel for who they target and what they stand for, to help me more objectively put Kill Cliff into perspective.

Strong Like Bull?

Red Bull seems to be marketing to the extreme sports fans, the partying set, and a relative young audience. They actually make sucrose and glucose (ie, sugar and sugar) sound like healthy ingredients, explaining that they come from the “sugar beet plant” and are “contained in the daily diet”. Red Bull Energy Drink has 27 grams of sugar per 8oz, which they liken to drinking 8.4oz of orange juice or apple juice. In other words, it’s “healthy”. But we all know that juice alone sends blood sugar soaring. And juice would be a better option that this stuff because at least it has some redeeming value. Yes, Red Bull may give you wings, but you’ll be crashing before you know it.

Monster Madness

Monster Energy Drink, like Red Bull, appears to be marketing to a younger audience, especially those who’ve had a “hard day’s night” (ie, hangover). And in terms of athletics, they are catering to the extreme sports set, professional wrestling fans, and bull riders. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a list of ingredients on the website, which is suspicious in itself. But I did find them elsewhere, and each 16oz can of the Monster Energy Drink has 54 grams of sugar along with caffeine and guarana. No thanks, Frankenstein.

Energy for 1/5 of the Day for “Hard-Working People”

I have to give props to the agency that created the niche market for 5-hour Energy. Red Bull and Monster have the teen / early twenty-something’s covered. So 5-hour energy went after the coffee market—the hard-working, family-responsible, second-job, back-to-school set. Why drink 16 oz of coffee or soda when you can get 5 hours of energy in just 2 oz of “5-hour Energy”? This energy drink has been particularly put to the coals due to fatal case reports. And it is a bit disconcerting (yet at least somewhat responsible) that the website has a “how to use” tab which explains:

RECOMMENDED USE: Drink one half (1/2) bottle for moderate energy. Drink one whole bottle for maximum energy. Do not exceed two bottles of 5-hour ENERGY® shots daily, consumed several hours apart. Use or discard any remainder within 72 hours (three days) after opening. Refrigeration not required.

CAUTION: Contains caffeine comparable to a cup of the leading premium coffee. Limit caffeine products to avoid nervousness, sleeplessness, and occasional rapid heartbeat. You may experience a Niacin Flush (hot feeling, skin redness) that lasts a few minutes. This is caused by increased blood flow near the skin.

Reads like a pharmaceutical label, and at least those are regulated by the FDA and have been studied in clinical trials.  I don’t want to consume any type of beverage on a daily basis that comes with cautionary instructions.

Kill Cliff—A Recovery Drink for Active Folks

A little background: Kill Cliff Recovery Drink was developed by former U.S. Navy SEAL, Todd Ehrlich. (Full disclosure—Todd is a buddy of my U.S.-Navy-SEAL-brother-in-law, Drew). The Mullet and I had the pleasure of having lunch with Todd back in April when we all got together for Drew’s wedding. I remember him describing this “recovery drink” he had developed, but I admit at that time, I was only able to listen with one ear because Stella was busy putting strawberries in her hair and hummus in my ice water.

I do recall him describing his desire to create a recovery drink akin to a natural “liquid ibuprofen” which has culminated in Kill Cliff.  As stated on their website, “Kill Cliff Recovery Drink is a lightly carbonated beverage formulated with anti-inflammation supporting ingredients and electrolytes without all the empty caloric content found in energy drinks. Its formula is based on the theory that reducing inflammation is an integral part of recovering from strenuous exercise and physical exertion”.

So, a few weeks later, we received a case of Kill Cliff’s “Tasty” flavor so we could give it a go.

I admit, I was impressed with the ingredients—among them, several substances that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and energy-boosting properties in clinical studies such as ginger, ginseng (Panax), bromelain (found in pineapple), and milk thistle (a great source of liver support), along with a mix of B vitamins. The caveat to this is that we don’t know the exact quantities of the proprietary vitamin and enzyme blend, so it’s not possible for me to determine if Kill Cliff contains amounts of these ingredients that have been shown to reduce pain and inflammation in clinical studies. Nonetheless, as a pharmacist geek, I do support Kill Cliff’s statement that it contains “anti-inflammation supporting ingredients”.

What I like about Kill Cliff

  • It’s NOT an energy (ie, amp-up-fast-crash-hard-later) drink.
  • It contains natural ingredients with known anti-inflammatory properties, although exact quantities are unknown.
  • It has only 25 mg of caffeine and no sugar.
  • It was formulated with health-conscious, active people in mind.
  • The company listens to what their consumers want. The first-to-market Kill Cliff version (“Tasty” flavor) is sweetened with a small amount of Splenda. As you know, I personally am not a fan of artificial sweeteners so this was really the only drawback to the product that I could complain about. BUT, just a few weeks ago, Kill Cliff introduced their stevia-sweetened version! Apparently the masses requested it and now it’s here. FYI, stevia is a natural plant-derived sweetener that does not impact blood sugar. The stevia version is the “Double Awesomeness” flavor, which I find quite tasty! So, now we have a choice.
  • The company is straight up about what they are and what they are not. We don’t have reams of fancy consumer research we’ve funded, and we don’t make any claims that Kill Cliff will turn you into a world-class athlete. What we can tell you is that athletes and fitness experts of all ages and levels of skill, active and veteran military personnel, early responders and outdoors enthusiasts have all embraced Kill Cliff for its recovery benefits.”
  • I can tell a lot of thought and care went into the formulation as a “supportive” drink that’s safe for regular consumption.
  • Kill Cliff is a big donator to the Navy SEAL Foundation and other organizations that support our troops. In their words, they “give ‘til is hurts, then we give some more”.

What I wish I knew…

  • How much of the good stuff is actually in Kill Cliff? We tried to pry the proprietary blend out of Todd, but he explained that it would no longer be proprietary if he shared that with us (J). I get it, but I can’t help it—it’s the pharmacist in me. I thrive on quantity-awareness. I want to know how the quantities of ginger, Panax, milk thistle, bromelain, etc, in Kill Cliff compare with the doses of these various components that have shown effects on pain, inflammation, or performance and recovery in clinical studies.
  • How does the Kill Cliff’s unique mix of ingredients work together? As with any nutraceutical or supplement-type product, we must rely largely on studies of substances in isolation, which makes drawing conclusions about unique combinations of substances very challenging. Unfortunately clinical studies are very expensive, cumbersome, and time-consuming, making them unfeasible unless you are a giant pharma or biotech company with tons of money to spend and loads more to gain
  • And most of all–Who the heck is Cliff and why is there a directive to kill him? Seriously, what is the story behind the name? I’ve seen some speculation around the web, but know one seems to know for sure. I obviously don’t have the required security clearance, but I’d really like to know the true story behind the name. Unless I would have to be killed once I found out…You know those Navy Seals have been trained to kill people with their index fingers. And do one armed-pushups. I saw Demi Moore do it in GI Jane.

So, I’ll tell you where I’ve landed on Kill Cliff. I really do like it. I drink one can every day—the Stevia version—“Double Awesomeness”.  I enjoy the taste, love that it’s a bit bubbly, and like that it’s made with natural ingredients (minus the Splenda in the “Tasty” version—again my only beef with this flavor of the product).

And BTW, my dad has arthritis, and so we got a case for him, and so far, he thinks it’s helping!

You learn more about Kill Cliff here:

And you can find this week’s tune here. I really like this Florence + the Machine and Swedish House Mafia collaboration.

It’s Not Your Teenage Skater Boy’s Energy Drink