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Panera's Caffeinated Charged Lemonades Explained

Panera's Caffeinated Charged Lemonades Explained

It's a crazy world out there and we all need a little boost now and then. For most adults, that boost comes from caffeine. Whether it's a cup of coffee, tea or caffeinated soda, most adults consume caffeine several times a day to feel more alert and energized. Thanks to Panera, there's now a new way to get your caffeine fix: Charged Lemonade.

What are Charged Lemonades?

Panera's Charged Lemonades are flavored lemonades that contain caffeine. A charged lemonade starts with Panera's all-natural lemonade recipe, which is made with real lemon juice, lemon juice concentrate and is sweetened with sugar and agave. These lemonades are then "charged" with caffeine. That caffeine comes from coffee extract and from guarana extract.

Guarana is a South American fruit which grows in the Amazon Rainforest. The seeds of the guarana fruit contain a significant amount of caffeine, and it has become a common ingredient in energy drinks.

How much caffeine is in a Charged Lemonade?

No matter which flavor of Charged Lemonade you choose, the caffeine content will be the same. A Regular Charged Lemonade (20 fl oz) contains 260 mg of caffeine, while a Large (30 fl oz) contains 390 mg of caffeine. Panera says their Charged Lemonades contain about the same amount of caffeine as their dark roast coffee. However, this seems to be a bit of a misleading claim.

If you look at the caffeine per ounce, a Charged Lemonade and a dark roast coffee are quite comparable. The reason Panera's claim is a bit misleading is that the serving sizes for Charged Lemonades are significantly larger than the serving sizes for their coffee. That larger serving size means that the Charged Lemonades end up providing a larger dose of caffeine.

For example, a regular size dark roast coffee is 16 ounces and contains 214 mg of caffeine, while a regular Charged Lemonade is 20 ounces and contains 260 mg of caffeine. That means customers should be careful when ordering a large Charged Lemonade. The 390 mg of caffeine in a large Charged Lemonade is significant. In fact, it's equivalent to drinking more than four 8 oz cans of Red Bull!

Are Panera's Charged Lemonades a healthy alternative to coffee?

If you find yourself at Panera and need a boost of energy, you might find yourself debating between ordering a coffee or a Charged Lemonade. To help you make that decision, we asked registered dietitian and nutritionist Jamie Nadeau to weigh in on which is healthier.

Nadeau was quick to point out the high calorie and sugar content of the Charged Lemonades. The Regular size Charged Lemonades contain "280-350 calories per beverage, and between 65-82g of sugar, depending on which flavor you choose" Nadeau advised. Of course the story only gets worse if you opt for the large size. Going big on your Charged Lemonade can push your energy boosting drink up to 530 calories and 123 grams of sugar!

It may not be wise to consume such a sugary caffeinated drink. Nadeau warns that "a caffeinated drink with 82g of sugar is very likely going to result in a big energy crash soon after." And that's the exact opposite of what we're looking for when we reach for a caffeinated drink!

Nadeau says that if you order a "standard coffee or espresso drink, it's likely going to be a lot lower in sugar." That should help avoid an energy crash later. The amount of sugar in the Charged Lemonades is so great, that you can probably add a sweetener and whipped cream to your coffee and still get less sugar than you'd find in the Charged Lemonade.

To put a fine point on it, Nadeau says "there's nothing wrong with grabbing a fun drink every now and then, like these lemonades, but they're not a healthier alternative to coffee."

Panera Charged Lemonade flavors

Panera offers three different flavors of their charged lemonades. Each one is naturally flavored with different fruits and herbs. The three flavors of Charged Lemonades currently offered are Strawberry Lemon Mint, Fuji Apple Cranberry and Mango Yuzu Citrus.

Which Charged Lemonade flavor is the healthiest?

If you do decide to order yourself a Charged Lemonade, your choice of flavor can have a huge impact on the calorie and sugar content of your drink. The flavor with the most calories and sugar is the Mango Yuzu Citrus Charged Lemonade. At 350 calories and 82 grams of sugar for a regular, it is by far the most caloric and sugary.

The Strawberry Lemon Mint is the healthiest Charged Lemonade flavor. A regular serving contains 280 calories and 65 grams of sugar. The Fuji Apple Cranberry is fairly comparable, clocking in at 290 calories and 65 grams of sugar. For our money, these two flavors are close enough in calorie content that you should feel free to order which ever sounds more appetizing to you.

Are Charged Lemonades part of Panera's Unlimited Sip Club?

All three flavors of Charged Lemonade are part of Panera's Unlimited Sip Club. That means members can enjoy unlimited free Charged Lemonades for as long as they maintain their membership. However, due to the high caffeine, calorie and sugar content in Charged Lemonades, we encourage you to not overindulge, despite these drinks coming at the low, low price of free.

The bottom line on Charged Lemonades

In short, Charged Lemonades are not a healthy alternative to coffee. And thanks to their larger serving sizes, they pack more caffeine than coffee. If you choose to drink a Charged Lemonade, go for the Strawberry Lemon Mint or Fuji Apple Cranberry flavors. To see the full nutrition facts for all flavors and sizes of Panera's Charged Lemonades, use the links below.

Thanks to registered dietitian and nutritionist Jamie Nadeau for helping out with this article. You can learn more about her at her website The Balanced Nutritionist or by following her on Instagram.