A Dietitian's Take on 5-Hour Energy Drinks

By , SparkPeople Blogger
(Photo credit: Flickr)

The break room was set up with my presentation displayed on the large white wall, handouts neatly stacked on a corner table.  The alarm sounded and 100 assembly line workers hustled into the room.  They each grabbed a packed lunch, found a seat, and prepared to devour their meal along with the ''lunch and learn'' topic of the day.  Exactly 22 minutes later, they were all out the door and back to work.  This scenario took place five times throughout the day to assure that all shifts received the same information. 

These are not the folks who live a sedentary nine to five lifestyle, pushing pencils and attached to a computer screen.  Rather, these folks are working very early mornings and graveyard shifts…lifting, toting, screwing, wiring, welding, and painting.  This work forces the body to develop an unnatural alarm clock, accompanied by many missed family functions and numerous stress-related health complications.  These folks are trying to make ends meet, feed the family, and pray daily that their line doesn’t get moved out of the country. 

As I talked with these men and women about feeding their families healthy foods, the question that surfaced again and again each and every shift was: ''Hey Becky, What do you think about the 5-Hour Energy Drink?''

What About 5-Hour Energy Drinks?  I recently read a Forbes Magazine article that detailed the story of 5-Hour Energy Drink founder Manoj Bhargava's rise to billionaire status. Here’s a man who found himself at a natural products trade show in 2003.  He tasted this secret concoction which claimed to boost energy and felt the results.  Not wanting to share shelf space with the numerous 16-ounce versions of energy drinks already on the market, Mr. Bhargava decided to make it gulp-sized, just two ounces.  A cute, sexy little bottle, running-man logo and highly coveted shelf space in the check-out lines at various superstores…and the rest is history. 

Who doesn’t enjoy reading about the ''little guy'' who, with hard work and dedication, makes it big?  I know I do.  It’s one of the reasons I have such admiration and respect for our SparkPeople founder, Chris Downie. However, the comparison stops there! 

My Take on the Secret Sauce: 
  • For a healthy adult, one 5-Hour Energy Drink per day doesn’t present any major potential health risk.  The drink provides about 157 milligrams of caffeine, based on a Forbes-commissioned lab test.  Remember that the recommendation for caffeine intake for the healthy adult is no more than 400 milligrams daily.  Now, if you are downing several 5-Hour Energy Drinks, along with cups of coffee and cans of soda, you could be easily exceeding the recommendation, which may result in an overstimulated heart and body.  Yes, there have been hospital admissions due to excessive caffeine intake. For pregnant and breastfeeding women, the recommendation for caffeine is no more than 200 milligrams daily.  As for children and teens, The American Academy of Pediatrics states that caffeine and other stimulant substances contained in energy drinks have ''no place'' in the diet of children and adolescents. That’s right, no place in their diets!
  • What about the other ingredients in the drink, like taurine and B-vitamins, which are found in levels thousands of times higher than your recommended daily allowance? To be honest, you are probably just ''feeding your toilet.'' (B vitamins are water-soluble, which means any extra will be excreted in the urine not stored in the body.) You got it… these ingredients don't really add any significant ''energizing'' benefits and are there to just look pretty and make this little bottle appear important.  Don’t be fooled by fancy marketing!
  • As for the cost: each tiny bottle is $3.99!  A big part of my job is to help families budget their dollars so they can obtain the nutritious foods they need.  So let’s do some quick calculations.  It would cost about $16 for a family of four with mom, dad, and two teens each consuming one of these drinks a day.  Over the course of a year, this adds up to roughly $5,800.  That’s a whole lotta fresh fruits, veggies, lean meats, whole grains and lowfat dairy.   Do this for 10 years and you are up to $58,000, which basically pays for two years of college at a state school in my home state of Indiana—at current tuition rates.
Isn’t it time to just give up this energy? Start eating healthier, exercise about 30 minutes most days of the week, get seven to eight hours of sleep each night and reap the benefits of true energy, while pocketing major savings! 5-Hour Energy isn’t going to kill you, but we don't know the long-term effects of the drink--plus, it sure could break your piggy bank for just a little afternoon caffeine buzz!

Do you drink 5-Hour Energy Drinks?

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RYCGIRL 11/19/2020
thx Report
JUDY1676 11/15/2020
Thanks Report
_CYNDY55_ 10/11/2020
Thanks so much Report
JRASSETT 9/30/2020
I have never taken an energy drink and I am glad to have read this. I'll stick to my Diet Coke. Thanks Report
KB8277 7/22/2020
Caffeine pills are my answer. A bottle of one hundred 200mg pills for less than $6 lasts me months. No stained teeth, no extra sugar, no wasting calories. And waaay more wallet-friendly. Report
Very interesting article. I will pass this information along to others. Report
AGDOREN 7/17/2020
I've used them in the past, coffee does not agree with me. I switched to multivitamins though and have kicked caffeine altogether. Report
Not a fan of energy drinks. I tried it once and didn't care for the taste. Report
Never drank any energy drink and don't intend to start now.
Good article, Becky. Report
Great Article Report
I have never drank an energy drink. I don’t plan on ever drinking one. Report
I have never had one. Report
I use them when I have a three day drive (6-8 hours each day) by myself. I take frequent breaks but do not want to fall asleep at the wheel. Report
Never had one. Thanks! Report
Besides, they taste awful! Report
Bought some on sale, but never did consume them. Report
Wouldn’t touch one Report
Thanks Report
Not a fan. I'd have a Mountain Dew if I needed a boost. Report
My son collapse with chest pain at a track meet after drinking "runners goo," which over caffeinates kids. He got a cardiology workup to rule out medicAL issues. The coach banned goo and 5 hour drinks. It should be banned for all bodies. Report
IMO definitely NOT a healthy choice. And, yes, I have a family member who was hospitalized w/ an erratic heartbeat for combining too many servings of (caffeine) ie. Monster Drinks and espresso-rich coffee. : ( Report
These little shots are disgusting in taste... I’ve tried to gag them down but they’re just too bad tasting. Report
I never had such kind of energy drinks for any thing in my body just to painalleviator.com) reduce back pain. these drinks are terrible in taste and I can only eat and drink something that taste great. Report
I have used them. And they did help me. I would only drink half of one. I have never used them daily bc of the cost and concerns for health. I don't drink much caffeine and FHE never made me jittery like coffee would. But I still didn't trust it enough to drink them daily. Report
Those things are awful! Report
$5,800/year?? NOBODY drinks these every day, and just because ONE person in a family occasionally uses one doesn't mean everyone else necessarily does.

Had to laugh when I read the statement about caffeine having "no place" in the diets of children and teens; I have, in fact, been drinking coffee since I was 8 years old! And I turned out just fine; never sick, no health conditions. Report
Great information, regardless of the rude comments on here. I'm so glad i do not use any of the 5 hour drinks. Report
Overall, it's a well-written article, until the hyperbole regarding cost. Considering that you stated "energy drinks have ''no place'' in the diet of children and adolescents. That’s right, no place in their diets." Then why include daily shots for 2 teenagers in the cost analysis? Simply stating that a single daily dose of 5-hr. Energy adds up to almost $1,500 a year for 1 person would still make the point. Report
The energy drink market is for younger folks who like all of us, are doing way to much with our days. Report
The energy drink market is for younger folks who like all of us, are doing way to much with our days. Report
I try to avoid as many supplements as I possibly can and try to stay energized pretty much as Becky stated in the article. The only thing I would add is to drink plenty of water - especially when I start to feel tired. A big drink of water and a quick stroll around the building usually get me back in mental line for the afternoon. Report
I use this product only when I need it ,which is not very often, I don't over do the caffeine. Report
This product has been very helpful to me while driving long distances. I dont drink coffee or have any other caffeine. This helps me feel normal, not drowsy, and not SCREEMINGLY AWAKE. It does not make me feel jittery or uncomfortable.. It is like most things, if it is used occasionally in a responsible manner, it can be beneficial. Report
I drink them every once in awhile when I'm super tired (especially on rainy days) and they seem to work for me. I don't think I drink them enough for it to be a health issue, so I'll continue using them when I feel that I need them. Report
I have tried these but use them very rarely, usually it's after a very late night when I can't get my hands on good old fashioned coffee. They sell them at work, I usually take half, and the rest later in the day or another day if I need it. Maybe 3-4 a year they don't taste very good so I chase mine with a big gulp of h2o. Report
Generally speaking, I'd rather drink a canned energy drink if I'm going to be spending that kind of money. My absolute favorite is Monster Zero Ultra, in the white can; it tastes like grapefruit soda without the minerally aftertaste of most energy drinks, and it's calorie-free. Rockstar Recovery is kind of interesting, too; it's uncarbonated, kind of like a strange lemonade, and I think has about 20 calories per (standard size) can. I tend to prefer the low-calorie drinks because the others taste too syrupy to me.

I'm more concerned about the artificial ingredients than the caffeine or B-vitamins. I probably only have three or four energy drinks per year, though, so it doesn't particularly worry me. Report
I tried one once. My thoughts? You know that burning bitter tasting stuff that you start vomiting up when there is nothing left in your stomach... This is a mixture of stomach acid and bile.... That is what i thought 5 hour energy tasted like. Report
Five hour energy drinks sound all well and good, until you realize that at least four and a half of them will be spent in the bathroom... That is a tiny bottle of concentrated evil. Report
I'm a big FHE fan. A good article. Though you should be able to get them for closer to $17 for 10. I do not use more than one a day. I typically only have one a couple times a week.

If you hate the taste -- GOOD. That is why they sell it in a shot size serving. You don't really need to taste it.

If you are feeling sick after one of those, it is because you have convinced yourself that will be the result. There is no reason anything in there should make you feel sick.

Personally, I feel more mentally sharp and alert. There are a number of activities that I show better results on with FHE than without.

That said, that is anecdotal evidence, not empirical data. Of course, that is the case for all of the negative energy drink comments on here as well.

Part of having a healthy body is having an open mind. Don't get stuck in assumptions that close your mind (like if it is natural it is automatically good).

That said, working out, getting sleep and reducing stress does more for my energy and alertness than anything else. Report
I had one someone gave me on a road trip with my son and daughter. I don't remember if it gave me energy. All I remember is it tasted like turpentine !! Yuck!! My daughter laughed at the faces I was giving. If need be I just settle for Rock Star or Monster.. Report
I don't drink 5 hour energy because I don't like the taste and they're way too expensive to be gross. I do drink some other energy drinks as well as some other similar energy shots that taste much better. I can drink caffeinated beverages all day and never experience those side effects others have Report
I confess I drink one at least once a month...right around that time. Report
Never heard of these drinks, but thanks, Becky, for a well-written, informative article. Report
I don't drink energy drinks. I take natural vitamins from the health food store because they are more pure than the vitamins you get from a grocery or department store. And I will confess to drinking caffeinated drinks. But, I am hypoglycemic and the energy drinks have too much sugar in them, so if I drank them the after-effects of feeling bad days wouldn't be worth the benefit of the uplift of a few hours. Report
I drink one two or three times per year when I go out. Like on New Year's Eve or a special occasion like that. I don't drink sodas, tea or coffee.I usually only drink water. Maybe that's why it works on me. But I think on an occasional basis it is fine. Report
There would never be a reason I'd choose any caffeinated drink over COFFEE or ICED TEA : )

My only experience with an energy drink was Red Bull. I took it while fueling the car on a cross country road trip and IMMEDIATELY had to pull of the road to sleep it off. I literally could not open my eyes after consuming the drink. Report