Friday, February 10, 2012

Energy Shots: Are they healthy?

I'm guessing that by now you've been in enough gas stations and grocery stores to notice the little cardboard boxes of capsules near the register, with every bottle proclaiming something along the lines of "5 Hour Energy" or "worX Energy."  You've also probably seen the commercials stating how great these little capsules are and exactly what they can do for you in terms of energy and alertness.  But what are these things?  And what exactly is in an energy shot?  Let's explore them a little more closely, and see if we can determine whether or not these things are healthy/beneficial for your body.

5 Hour Energy's biggest slogan is "hours of energy now, no crash later."  Is that really possible?  How can you suddenly get a huge energy high, but avoid the inevitable spiraling down later in the day?  Well, this is partially accomplished in energy shots because they're so darn light.  By light, I mean they're sugar and carbohydrate free.  Sugar is the main culprit for energy crashes due to glucose fluctuations affecting the body.  Take away the sugar, you take away a large portion of the problem.

But then, where does the energy come from?  Well, it's not hard to guess, and I believe you could get it right first try.  Caffeine!  That's right, those little energy shots, despite sounding so darn fancy and new-age, have caffeine as their main energy source.  Now keep in mind, it isn't some ridiculous amount of the stuff.  They claim it's comparable to a cup of premium coffee, and from all that I can gather they're just about right.  Coffee generally has about 100-200 mg of caffeine per cup, and 5 hour energy has about 140 mg of caffeine.  So you're not getting any insane dosage from those little shots, you just have to be careful because they're so easy to drink quickly due the tiny amount of liquid.  Don't go overboard.

Another small assist to the caffeine dose in 5 Hour Energy and other energy shots (6 hour power, worX, etc.), is an added blend of amino acids like taurine, citicoline, and tyrosine.  These amino acids have varying effects on certain body parts that tend to help the caffeine to do its job more effectively.

And of note, while I'm not sure if other energy shots do this, 5 Hour Energy completely loads their energy shot with massive amounts of B vitamins.  In fact, with one shot of 5 Hour Energy you'll be getting 2000% of your daily value of vitamin B6, and 8333% of your daily value of vitamin B12.  That's a LOT of B vitamins.  Now it should be mentioned that these vitamins are water soluble, so if you keep your water intake high for the day you should be able to flush out any extra unused amounts of these dosages.  YOU SHOULD MAKE A POINT OF DRINKING MORE WATER on a day you take 5 hour energy though, because this amount of B vitamins really isn't necessary for your body, and it's going to need to get rid of some to prevent an eventual overdose.  It's not something to freak out about, but have at least two more glasses of water than you normally would on any other day.

Can you get addicted to these energy shots?  Sure can, but that goes for any caffeinated drink.  Caffeine IS addicting, and it's one of the most common addictions out there right now.  It's not a horrible thing if managed, but don't start drinking 3-4 energy shots per day, because they'll start reeking havoc on your body.  Keep these things as an "every now and then" kind of thing, because they are very concentrated.

But do they work?  Of course they do!  I've taken energy shots on multiple occasions and been quite pleased with the resulting focus, alertness, and energy.  If anyone ever asks about them, I tell them what I'm telling you.  They're not dangerous if they're managed, and believe me I actually think they're quite a bit healthier than your average cup of coffee.  Why's that?  Because they have no added sugar, a ton of added vitamins and amino acids, and between 0-4 calories.  Not bad in my book.

In case you're interested, here are the caffeine dosages in a bunch of different leading energy shots:

DrinkFluid ouncesCaffeine (mg)mg/floz

So there's the scoop on those little bottles.  At the end of the day, they're nothing that'll kill you, and they can actually be quite helpful.  Are they healthy?  Well, I'll just say they're not unhealthy.  However they won't do anything for your diet that another food couldn't do a LOT better.  They're just a quick boost when you really need it.  And they do work, believe me.

Respect the shots, keep alert, and as always, GOOD LUCK!


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