Q: I drank 2 bottles of 5-hour Energy and got warm, red in the face and jittery. Is this stuff safe? Does it work?
A: 5-Hour Energy, the little bottle that has sprouted like dandelions across grocery store counters everywhere, promises an immediate energy boost that lasts for hours but without the “crash” associated with other energy drinks. Its main ingredients are B Vitamins and an “energy blend” consisting of citicoline, tyrosine, phenylalanine, taurine, malic acid, glucuronolactone and caffeine.
We put caffeine in bold letters because while all that other stuff has that really cool “medical yet natural” sound to it, the only thing in 5-Hour Energy (or Monster or Red Bull or RockStar or any other “energy” product) that has been proven to improve mental alertness is caffeine.
The B Vitamins in a can of 5-Hour Energy (and their percentage of Recommended Daily Allowance) include: Vitamin B3 (150%), Vitamin B6 (2000%) and Vitamin B12 (8333%). All of these vitamins are important for your metabolism and while not having enough can hurt you, it’s never been proven that having extra will help you – or increase your energy. And while unlikely to be dangerous, an excess of Vitamin B3 (Niacin) can produce that uncomfortable flushing sensation that you experienced. In addition, consuming 200mg or more of Vitamin B6 (about 5 bottles) could impair the normal functioning of your nerves and muscles.
In terms of the “crash” that 5-Hour Energy supposedly avoids, we can only assume that they are referring to the fact that it contains no sugar. Some people – especially those with insulin resistance like diabetics – do feel a “crash” sensation when their blood sugar level goes up and then down after consuming a large amount of sugar, so this may be a theoretical benefit compared to energy drinks with sugar in them. But again, it’s never been actually tested so we don’t really know.
Like almost all “energy” products, 5-Hour Energy is ultimately just a glorified caffeine delivery system. And like all drugs, caffeine has side effects: jitteriness, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure and insomnia. If you decide to try 5-hour Energy, the best we can say is never drink more than two bottles and don’t mix it with any other caffeine containing products. If you need some quick energy for a late night of studying or driving, it probably won’t hurt you any more than a cup of coffee will.
Adam Brandeberry, Med IV (OSU COM)
John Vaughn, MD (OSU SHS)