What is 5 HOUR ENERGY?
"YAWN......just a few more hours is all I need...."
A few more hours to study for that big exam...
A few more hours of driving before I stop for the night...
A few more hours before that big deadline for work....have...to...keep...going...
We have all been there at one time or another. We want to sleep. Our bodies are craving some rest. But we just can't stop what we are doing for one reason or another. WE NEED ENERGY!!
For many consumers this dilemma has been solved by a product known as 5 Hour Energy. In this article, I will explain exactly what 5 Hour Energy is, what it contains, and give you my opinion on its safety.
5 Hour Energy is a product of Living Essentials, LLC. The company CEO, Manoj Bhargava, was born in India, but moved to the U.S. in 1967 at the age of 14. Some reports suggest he is the wealthiest Indian in the U.S. He dropped out of Princeton University after 1 year. He introduced 5 Hour Energy to the US market in 2004. By 2011 sales grew to over 1 billion dollars annually. The drink is manufactured in Wabash, Indiana.
5 HOUR ENERGY INGREDIENTS:
Below you will find a complete list of what is in 5 hour energy, along with my explanation and discussion of each ingredient.
For convenience, I have divided the discussion of the ingredients in 5 Hour Energy into two sections:
1. The Vitamins
2. The Other Ingredients (i.e. their "energy blend")
Be sure to read beyond the ingredients for my own personal recommendations and advice on the use of 5 Hour Energy.
1. The Vitamins:
Niacin 30mg (niacinamide): Also known as Vitamin B3. Niacin is an essential vitamin found in meat, fish, milk and eggs amongst other things. A deficiency of vitamin B3 is known as "pellagra" which manifests itself in skin disorders, dementia and diarrhea. The 5 Hour Energy website warns about a possible "niacin flush" with their product. However, if it truly contains "niacinamide" (a form of niacin) then the flush would not occur. Pure niacin could cause a niacin "flush" but not niacinamide. You can buy Niacin in doses of 250mg or even 500mg. In other words, 1 small tablet of 500mg Niacin has as much niacin as about 17 bottles of 5 Hour Energy. Not much to worry about here.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) 40mg: Vitamin B6 is another essential vitamin whose primary function is to assist other enzymes in the metabolism and synthesis of important nutrients.
Folic Acid 400mcg: Sometimes called Vitamin B9, is an important vitamin that our bodies need to manufacture and repair DNA. Folic acid is also important to produce healthy red blood cells. Natural sources include green leafy vegetables. Proper folic acid intake both before and during pregnancy is very important.
Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) 500mcg: Vitamin B12 is an important vitamin for the development of blood cells and nerve cells in our bodies. Supplementing with B12 is often necessary following certain surgeries which remove a portion of the digestive tract. Seafood is a great source of B12 (like shellfish, crab or clams). It is also found in meat, cheese and eggs.
Sodium 18mg: A mystery ingredient. Actually, it is not so mysterious. If you look at their "inactive" ingredients you will note that 5 Hour Energy contains "sodium benzoate" (which is a preservative). Probably most of the sodium is from this.
2. The Energy Blend:
Then they mix in what they call their "Energy Blend." They do not reveal the exact amount of each of these secret ingredients, but the total of all of them amounts to 1870mg:
Taurine: First isolated from ox bile (yes, you read that right, ox bile) and thus given the name "taurine" from the Latin "taurus" for bull. It therefore is not entirely wrong to say the 5 hour energy is a bunch of bull (smile). Seriously, we have plenty of taurine in us already. It is an organic acid found throughout our bodies.
Glucuronic Acid: The word "glucuronic" comes from the Greek, meaning, quite literally, "sweet pee" or "sweet urine." Basically, our body makes glucuronic acid from glucose, and it appears to help the liver in the process of detoxifying certain substances. The manufacturers of 5 Hour Energy claim this substance help ward off sleepiness, though they admit no studies exist to prove this.
Malic Acid: First isolated from apple juice, this product is normally produced in our bodies during the metabolism of carbohydrates. I do get a kick out of the "spin" that 5 Hour Energy puts on this substance on their site. They mention that it is produced when our body "converts carbohydrates to energy." Wow. Sounds like this will give us POWER! Well, actually the only reason they include it is probably because it creates a "tart" taste to their product. Malic Acid is what makes green apples sour, and is in many other "tart" fruits also.
N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine: One of our 22 essential amino acids. Our body can make tyrosine from phenylalanine (unless, of course, you have a disease known as PKU - which prevents this process). We can also get it from meats, fish, eggs or wheat. It has been suggested, though yet unproven, that tyrosine helps promote mental alertness. Our body uses Tyrosine in the process of producing neurotransmitters like norepinephrine.
L-phenylalanine: If you read the above, you will know that we use phenylalanine to make tyrosine. So I guess they just through this in for good measure.
Caffeine: The original formula claims to have as much caffeine as a "cup of the leading premium coffee." So, basically, they don't want to tell you how much is in it. But if we turn to our trusted "coffee" experts, we discover that a Starbucks 8oz coffee contains about 180mg of caffeine. By comparison, resources say that a 10oz Dunkin Donuts coffee only contains 132mg of caffeine. Just fyi, a McDonalds 16oz coffee only has about 100mg of caffeine. If you are looking for a pick-me-up, don't waste your money at McDonalds. Just sayin.
Citicoline: This is an interesting one. Several studies do seem to suggest that citicoline may improve brain function and be useful in the treatment of memory impairment diseases like Alzheimers. It is, however, probably too much to expect that a single dose will help you recall those elusive names and dates for your history exam on Friday. Oh well.
SHOULD YOU USE 5 HOUR ENERGY? IS IT SAFE?
Okay, on to the most important question: Should I use it?
From my comprehensive review of the active ingredients in 5 Hour Energy my professional opinion is that:
#1) 5 Hour Energy is safe for anyone who is not trying to reduce their caffeine intake, or needs to limit their caffeine intake. I do not recommend using it during pregnancy. You should not use it if you have a condition known as PKU.
#2) 5 Hour Energy is a relatively quick and convenient source of stimulation to keep a person awake for a short period of time.
#3) 5 Hour Energy works. It will, unless you are immune to the effects of caffeine, make you feel more awake for a short amount of time.
#4) "5 Hours" is just an average. The stimulation obtained from this product is virtually all from caffeine. The half-life (how long it takes for our bodies to metabolize half of any substance) of caffeine is about 4.9 hours. But this varies WIDELY depending on a person's age and liver function. Certain drugs, like oral contraceptives, can greatly increase the half-life of caffeine.
#5) 5 Hour Energy is expensive when compared to other sources of caffeine. A bottle of "No Doz" contains about 60 tablets of caffeine (200mg each) for about the same price as a 2-pack of 5 Hour Energy. Therefore, in my opinion, you are paying 30 times more for the same thing. Personally, I would rather spend the money on a tall Starbucks Coffee if I had to.
Pharmacist As Counselor
Okay, if you have read this far without falling asleep you are doing well. If you have a 5 Hour Energy handy, why not take just another sip and see if you can read a bit more. I want to talk to you as a pharmacist - counselor at the moment.
First - Understand that, technically speaking, 5 Hour Energy gives you NO real energy. "Energy" is the result of burning calories - carbohydrates, protein or fat. 5 Hour Energy has none of these. It has zero calories. Thus it can provide - in a 'technical' sense - no true energy. It is a stimulant. It is a chemical prod - poking you to keep going even though your body wants to quit.
Second - It is important to remember that our body wants to sleep for a reason. When you rob your body of sleep - you are sort of robbing the bank (so to speak). Well, maybe we could just say you are "borrowing" from your bodies "sleep account."
We all have to "borrow" from time to time. You need a car - you borrow. You need a house - you borrow. You need a book from the library - you borrow. But in principle what you borrow MUST BE RETURNED. The same is true for sleep. An occasional "borrowing" from the sleep account is okay - but you must have a plan to "repay" that sleep very soon. Daily borrowing from the bank would lead to bankruptcy. Daily borrowing from your sleep will lead to illness, emotional distress and even death. If you are getting enough sleep every night (8-9 hours for most adults) then you shouldn't have to be "borrowing" from the bottle very often.
So - while I do not condemn the occasional use of 5 Hour Energy for a little extra stimulation to get through an unexpected challenge - I do suggest you make this rare. If you need this stimulation every day, talk with your doctor about it.