Perhaps you’ve just finished your lunch and are feeling a bit sleepy, or you want to stay up late to finish that project and study for your finals. A jolt of energy to get you through the next few hours would be great. One increasingly popular way to get a quick boost is drinking a two ounce bottle of 5 Hour Energy.
Consumer Edge Research currently estimates 5 Hour Energy to be responsible for approximately 75% of all energy drink sales in the U.S. Unlike many other energy drinks such as Red Bull or Monster which contain sugar, 5 Hour Energy is artificially sweetened with sucralose, the main sweetening agent in Splenda. This allows the consumer to get the same energy increase, but without the added calories; 5 Hour Energy only contains four calories in a two ounce serving versus 25 calories in the same serving of Red Bull.
Advertisements for 5 Hour Energy tout the effectiveness of their trademark “energy blend,” but the sole ingredient in 5 Hour Energy definitively proven to increase energy levels is caffeine. The 5 Hour Energy website says that each two ounce bottle contains as much caffeine as “a premium cup of coffee.” This description is disconcertingly vague, as the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee can vary quite a bit, but to put things in perspective, Starbucks states on its website that a cup of its signature coffee contains 180 milligrams of caffeine. According to a 1973 Vincent Marks publication, caffeine is rapidly absorbed into the gastrointestinal tract, and it reaches maximum absorption about 45 min after ingestion. This means that if someone could ingest that 180 milligrams of caffeine in only two ounces of 5 Hour Energy instead of the eight ounces it would take to consume it in a cup of coffee, the 5 Hour Energy consumer would feel the increased levels of energy much more quickly than the coffee drinker especially considering that some people sip their coffee slowly. The source of the name for 5 Hour Energy is likely related to this key ingredient. WebMD.com states that the half-life of caffeine in your system is about four to five hours and will be completely out of your system after about 10 to 12 hours. This half-life is probably the basis for the drink’s allusion to giving you five hours of energy.
The manufacturers of 5 Hour Energy claim that other ingredients in their “energy blend” such as taurine, glucuronolactone and phenylalanine, also reduce sleepiness and increase alertness, but research has not conclusively supported these claims. For example, in the case of taurine, the Mayo Clinic website says some studies have found that taurine supplementation can improve athletic performance, but the results are inconsistent and remain controversial. 5 Hour Energy also contains unnecessarily high levels of B vitamins such as vitamin B6, vitamin B12, niacin (vitamin B3), and folic acid (vitamin B9). Dr. Brent Bauer of the Mayo Clinic says on the WebMD website that “[B vitamins aren’t] . . . going to boost energy unless you’re B-deficient.”
Despite the claims made about the ingredients of 5 Hour Energy on its website, drinking some will give you a lift when you need one because it does contain caffeine. However, whether or not this increase in energy will last exactly five hours is yet to be determined.