The Real 5 Hour Energy

January 21st, 2010

The 5 Hour Energy shots have been heavily marketed as an energy booster that’s healthier and more effective than the typical energy drink, but is this really the case?

Many energy boosting products are loaded with sugar and caffeine and may even contain artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, preservatives, and other potentially harmful ingredients. According to the marketing, 5 Hour Energy is supposed to be different. While it does contain seemingly healthy ingredients like vitamins and amino acids, it also contains a number of questionable ingredients as well. Furthermore, even if 5 Hour Energy contained only the most natural and healthful ingredients, it’s also important to consider the flawed mentality behind the most commonly perceived need for such a product.

Only 4 Calories

Most energy drinks are loaded with sugar, and as many people are beginning to realize, sugar is unhealthy and causes blood sugar fluctuation that can lead to a number of additional problems. In addition, the energy it provides is often proceeded by significant fatigue and a craving for more sugar. Many of the 5 Hour Energy commercials point this out and boast about the fact that it doesn’t contain sugar. What they don’t tell you is that 5 Hour Energy contains sucralose, also known as the controversial artificial sweetener Splenda.

Splenda is marketed in a way that might lead you to believe that it’s a natural substance. Although it starts out as sugar, it’s highly processed until it becomes a type of chemical called an organochloride and is anything but natural. In fact, most organochlorides are pesticides, and Splenda is the only organochloride intended for human consumption. Like the infamous sweetener aspartame, a lot of politics were involved with the approval of Splenda. In addition, many people have reported adverse reactions from using it, and some research suggests that it could potentially damage DNA and be carcinogenic.1 By using Splenda instead of sugar, 5 Hour Energy is merely trading one problem for another.

B Vitamins and Amino Acids

It’s well known that B vitamins and amino acids have an important influence on your energy levels. In fact, amino acids can influence your moods as well. However, if you’re eating a well rounded diet based on natural whole foods, then you should be getting plenty of these nutrients and not have a need to obtain them from an energy product like 5 Hour Energy. Furthermore, it’s generally safer and more effective to obtain vitamins and amino acids as they naturally exist in food rather than in isolation or synthetic form.

Although there are some exceptions, most people who rely on energy drinks, shots, or supplements are only compensating for the unhealthy habits that are making them tired. In addition, those who really do need vitamin or amino acid supplementation would be much better off with a specific supplement program than a generic energy product.

Unnatural Additives

Splenda isn’t the only unnatural and potentially dangerous ingredient in 5 Hour Energy. In addition to unnamed artificial flavors, it also contains the preservatives sodium benzoate and EDTA.

Sodium benzoate is a commonly used preservative in the food industry that has the potential to damage DNA and produce the carcinogen benzene when combined with the ascorbic acid form of vitamin C.2 As is the case with 5 Hour Energy, many products that contain sodium benzoate also contain EDTA because it helps to reduce the formation of benzene. However, like sodium benzoate, EDTA has the potential to damage DNA. It’s also toxic to cells and is considered to be an environmental pollutant that degrades slowly.3

In an interview with the marketing director of the company that makes 5 Hour Energy, journalist and spokesperson Dr. Wendy Walsh supports 5 Hour Energy by saying that other energy boosting products are loaded with unknown herbal stimulants. Is that any worse than potentially harmful preservatives that don’t even contribute to the effectiveness of the product?

That 2:30 Afternoon Feeling

The most popular commercials for 5 Hour Energy show the typical office environment with people who are tired and relying on coffee to get through the day. They point out that the energy provided by coffee won’t last and will leave you coming back for more. Despite this legitimate criticism of coffee, caffeine is one of the key ingredients of 5 Hour Energy. In fact, according to their website, 5 Hour Energy contains about the same amount of caffeine as a “premium cup of coffee.”

Although there’s a decaffeinated version of 5 Hour Energy, it clearly isn’t the one that’s been advertised so heavily, and even if the effects of 5 Hour Energy really do last longer than coffee, it’s still not the long term answer to “that 2:30 afternoon feeling” that so many people experience on a regular basis.

A Better Way to Have 5 Hours of Energy and More

Using a product like 5 Hour Energy on occasion is unlikely to do much harm, especially if it’s one that contains fewer unnatural ingredients, but doing so on a regular basis is asking for trouble. This is because it only addresses the symptoms of fatigue and neglects the underlying causes of it. Furthermore, because the artificial boost in energy allows you to push yourself beyond your capacity, it’s likely that the fatigue will worsen over time and may even lead to adrenal fatigue or other more serious health issues.

Fatigue is typically a result of poor diet, inadequate rest, excessive and persistent stress, or too much physical exertion, and in many cases, it’s a combination of these factors. Instead of correcting these problems, most people look for a quick and compensatory fix like 5 Hour Energy. Over time, this can lead to chronic and persistent fatigue, and I can tell you from personal experience that it’s quite unpleasant. By implementing much healthier lifestyle habits, I now have much more energy, and it remains consistent throughout the day. I never have the desire for an artificial energy boost, and whenever I’m unexpectedly tired, I think about the potential causes and take action to correct them. This may mean getting to bed earlier, being more careful about my food choices, dealing with stress better, or simply slowing down, but it definitely doesn’t involve any type of energy product like 5 Hour Energy.

In addition to having more energy, this type of mentality has also made it possible for me to enjoy many of the other benefits of optimal health. To learn more about some of the healthy lifestyle principles that have helped me tremendously improve my energy and my life in general, sign up for my free course, 7 Simple Steps to a Leaner, Happier, and Healthier You.

[1. Mercola, Joseph with Pearsall, Kendra. Sweet Deception: Why Splenda, NutraSweet, and the FDA May Be Hazardous to Your Health.]

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