If you’ve watched cable TV lately, you’ve likely seen the commercials for a product called 5-Hour Energy. The product promises “long-lasting energy without the crash.” It’s an intriguing claim. The question is, does it have any credence?
Like all of these types of products, 5-Hour Energy contains a “proprietary blend” of ingredients. This means the manufacturer doesn’t disclose the exact formula purported to produce results. Fair enough. A look at the ingredient list, however, does shed a good deal of light on the potential efficacy of the supplement.
On the plus side, 5-Hour Energy contains no sugar, supporting the claims that it won’t produce a crash. Consuming high levels of simple sugars causes hyperglycemia, which initiates an insulin spike to remove the excess sugar from circulation. This causes a rebound effect, where a hypoglycemic state is induced, resulting in lethargy. No sugar means no rebound effect and thus no crash. Unfortunately, though, that’s where the good news ends.
A major component of the supplement is a variety of B-vitamins, including vitamin B-3 (niacin), B-6, B-9 (folic acid), and B-12. The B-vitamins have a variety of functions in the body, including acting as co-factors in the production of energy. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that this means increasing B-vitamin consumption will increase energy levels. Provided you consume adequate amounts of B-vitamins (which is relatively easy to do as long as you eat a balanced diet), taking more confers no additional benefits with respect to energy production.
5-Hour Energy also contains an “energy blend” that includes citicoline, tyrosine, phenylalanine, taurine, malic acid, and glucuronolactone. While all of these ingredients have putative functions in supporting cognition, memory, mood, and other markers of mental well-being, they are obtained either through your diet or through normal bodily processes. Research into the advantages of supplementation have failed to show any clear benefits.
The primary component in 5-Hour Energy likely to give an energy boost is good old caffeine. According to the manufacturer, 5-Hour Energy contains as much caffeine as a cup of the leading premium coffee. And this is the rub: You can brew a cup of java for a fraction of the cost of the product and get essentially the same benefits. With this in mind, the decision becomes a no-brainer: don’t waste your money.