5-Hour (Worth The?) Energy

It’s everywhere you look. It’s all over pop culture and commercials, everyone knows about it, and many are doing it. No, it’s not the Harlem Shake and no, it’s not Gangnam style. However, it is 5-Hour Energy, and drinking one may just make you feel like busting out one of these trendy dance moves. It produces an elevated mood and fills one with vim, vigor, and voraciousness. Given all this wonderfulness, it is easy to see why 5-Hour Energy has taken the nation by storm. This “energy shot” is literally in every check-out line in almost every store in America. It’s just sitting there, saying, “Drink me and prosper.” Or at least feel slightly better for a few hours. Either way, for $2-$3, consider it sold. But is it safe? Is it effective? What’s in it? These are typically questions we ask after a product has already been on the shelves for years and ingested by millions. Since this is the case with 5-Hour Energy, it seems like the appropriate time to ask and attempt to answer these questions.

So what exactly is in 5-Hour Energy? The energy itself is primarily provided by caffeine, the same stimulant found naturally in coffee, tea, and chocolate. Caffeine has been used almost universally by humans for thousands of years. It is considered a mild stimulant (relative to drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine, anyway) and has even been shown to be protective against diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and diabetes. So how much caffeine does a 5-Hour Energy contain? Well, we don’t really know and this is kind of where it gets sticky. The FDA, in its infinite wisdom, does not require that companies list or disclose the exact amount of caffeine contained in their products. A bottle of 5-Hour Energy claims to contain “as much caffeine as a leading cup of premium coffee.” How much is that? Who knows. Caffeine contents of coffee can vary pretty significantly, but typically it is estimated that an average cup of coffee contains about 100mg of caffeine. However, multiple independent lab analyses of 5-Hour Energy puts the caffeine content somewhere between 150-200mg. The best way to sell a product is to make sure it works, and most/all of what people feel when they ingest a 5-Hour Energy is the caffeine rush, so it would make sense that the company would add enough caffeine to really get you out of your chair and make you clean the toilet, bathe the dog, do your homework, or whatever else you had to do but couldn’t without a jolt of caffeine. Is 150-200mg of caffeine safe? For most adults, the answer is yes. But if you’ve already had coffee, tea, or an energy drink that day, then maybe you’ve hit your caffeine quota and now the only thing you’re doing is producing irritability, restlessness, and insomnia.

The other ingredients in 5-Hour Energy are mostly a mix of B-vitamins and other purported energy-giving chemical compounds. The B-vitamins are a mix of B6, B12, Niacin, and Folic Acid. All of these perform many functions throughout the body, but one primary function is energy production. That is, turning the food we eat into energy we can use. B-vitamins are found naturally in foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and meats. The other supposed energy-giving compounds found in 5-Hour Energy are things like malic acid, glucuronolactone, and amino acids. The fact is that while the B-vitamins and other compounds may be involved in energy production, ingesting more does not produce more energy. The mood and energy boost provided by a product like 5-Hour Energy is at least 98% due to the caffeine.

That said, 5-Hour Energy is as safe as anything else that contains caffeine. Are multiple shots of it safe? Probably not, even though by the time you got caffeine overdosed you’d have probably already cleaned your entire house and half of your neighbor’s. But one 5-Hour Energy would be essentially equivalent to eating a meal with a cup or two of coffee. Or drinking a standard energy drink, all of which contain a comparable amount of caffeine and vitamins. You could even just take a multivitamin and a caffeine pill, at the cost of about .10 cents, instead of paying $3 for your 5 hours of energy. Ultimately, there are simply cheaper and healthier ways to ingest caffeine and vitamins. Coffee and tea also contain significant amounts of antioxidants, the universally healthy compounds that fight heart disease, cancer, and lead to better overall health both mentally and physically. At the end of the day, 5-Hour Energy is not unhealthy, is effective because of its caffeine content, and is basically just a chemical cocktail of caffeine, vitamins, and amino acids. It is essentially an energy drink in a shot. But getting caffeine from a natural source like coffee or tea and vitamins and amino acids from a natural source (like, oh, say…food?) will be healthier and more effective at giving you the energy and elevated mood you seek.

Article Courtesy:  Andrew Steingrube

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