Jul 18, 2009 in Diet and Nutrition
They’re everywhere. They promise to give you a boost without bottoming you out. And, best of all, they come in an easily carried 2-oz plastic bottle. I’m sure you’ve seen them, they’re the 5-Hour Energy Shots. But are they really worth shelling out $1.50?
What ever happened to drinking plain old coffee or tea? After all, caffeine has been quarterbacking the energy supplement market for ages. With the way most energy drinks are advertised — touting guarana, taurine, ginseng, etc. — it may not be obvious, but caffeine is still running the game from the sidelines. It’s hidden in the ingredients of proprietary “energy blends”. Most energy supplements have them, 5-Hour Energy included, and they’re usually described at the very end of the nutrition facts.
Photo by ~FreeBirD®~
Monster, 5-Hour, and Red Bull all have similar blends: niacin (vitamin B3), ginseng (not in 5-Hour), taurine, and enough caffeine (either as an additive or from guarana) to match one cup of coffee (about 100mg of caffeine). 5-Hour also claims that their blend of B-vitamins goes above and beyond to prolong its energy boosting capabilities. However, Dr. Brent Bauer, Mayo Clinic director of complementary and integrative medicine, recently commented on the high levels of of B-vitamins in 5-Hour: “People need to know they are not some magic potion that’s going to immediately raise your energy level,” he said. “There is no data that show that.”
On top of that, I couldn’t find (using PubMed) a single acceptable study showing that taurine enhances the performance boosting effects of caffeine. I did, however, find a US Army nutritional review regarding the mental-energy boosting effects of caffeine and ginseng: it confirmed caffeine but doubted ginseng. An article from the New England Journal of Medicine also shed doubt on the efficacy of ginseng (as well as other herbal remedies). Producers in the supplement industry don’t have to prove the safety or efficacy of their products before marketing them, which could explain the absence of definitive information. So, really, it appears that caffeine is the only ingredient in energy drinks with proven effectiveness.
Back to the original question, is it worth it to buy those 5-Hour Energy Shots (or any energy drink, for that matter)? If you’re just looking for something tasty to sip on, then an energy drink might be your best bet. But, if getting a boost on the cheap sounds more appealing, 200 mg caffeine tablets cost about $0.10 per dose; B-vitamins are even less expensive. In the end, it’s really a matter of taste. Pick whatever caffeine source best fulfills your needs for frugality, flavor, and/or convenience.