5 On Your Side

Energy shots provide boost, but no more than coffee

Posted February 8, 2011

It's a tiny 2-ounce bottle with a very big kick. Sales are soaring for energy shots such as 5-Hour Energy, the most popular of a slew of products that promise an energy boost. 

The ads for 5-Hour Energy target busy parents and working adults, as well as young people through YouTube and Facebook.  The brightly colored bottles stand out at checkout counters in grocery stores and gas stations across the country. The company says customers drink more than 7 million energy shots a week.

5-Hour Energy claims that customers will "feel it in minutes" and it "lasts for hours." Consumer Reports checked into these promises.

"The company showed us a summary of a study it conducted that supports its claims of increasing attention and alertness. But the study hasn't been published, and the company wouldn't let us keep a copy," said Jamie Hirsh of Consumer Reports. 

5-Hour Energy contains B vitamins and 1,870 milligrams of what it calls an "energy blend," a long list of ingredients including caffeine.

"While caffeine is a known stimulant, we found little, if any, published scientific research showing that the other ingredients in the 'energy blend' provide such a boost," Hirsh said.

The company won't say exactly how much caffeine is in the drink, just that it's comparable to a cup of "the leading premium coffee."

But a recent analysis by the independent website Consumerlab.com found that one shot contains 201 milligrams of caffeine, about 15 percent more than an 8-ounce cup of Starbucks' bold coffee.

Consumer Reports concluded that the $3 energy shot is an expensive coffee alternative.

"The bottom line is 5-Hour Energy will probably chase away grogginess. But so will a cup of coffee, and it costs a lot less," Hirsh said.

The label cautions people: "do not exceed two bottles daily, consumed several hours apart." This may be because energy drinks have been linked to reports of nausea, abnormal heart rhythms and emergency room visits.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Massdaddy Feb 15, 2011

    I usually pour one of these in my Monster Energy drink...of course after I have my morning coffee. :-)

  • Loves2Read Feb 14, 2011

    I had to stop drinking caffeine years ago, as it started to increase my pulse rate to a dangerous level. Against doctors advice it scared me so bad I quit cold turkey. I actually went through withdrawal syptoms and was miserable until it all got out of my system. WRAL just did a story this morning on how energy drinks are so bad for you they should be regulated like tobacco. Does anyone have a link to this story? I couldn't find it on the website.

  • tarheelgrad1998 Feb 11, 2011

    Caffeine isn't a necessary item, I don't care who you are. I kicked the habit 3 years ago, and don't regret it one bit. I sleep better, and never have the "crash" anymore. It's really no different than many other drugs, and people who use it frequently need more and more to feel the same effects. Only, people wrongly believe it is harmless.

  • sunydaze Feb 10, 2011

    targheelgrad, thanks for your opinion on what America needs to do. the beauty of America is that we get to decide if we drink caffiene, not you. until it becomes illegal, thanks for sharing, but live my life for a week and tell me caffiene isn't a necessary item.

  • ctya Feb 9, 2011

    they work for me. I can't drink a whole bottle. the one time I did I didn't sleep for 3 days. My daughter also can't drink a whole bottle. So we only drink half and it works all day for us.

  • Desiderata Feb 9, 2011

    This stuff works for me..and gives me that "extra" when I need to keep going. Caffein causes diuresis (when I am trying to keep hydrated) with increased heart rate and I get PVC's if I have too much caffeine. It is all what works for you. I do not like the taste of coffee, and dark colas have an acid in it which causes bones to deminieralize (old women drink their "diet" colas all they time, and should not because of this,and taking tums for the calcium..not good enither,,it is like eating chalk, calcium citrate with vit D is what can be better.

  • myskyy99 Feb 9, 2011

    I love these shots and they work for me better than coffee. When they don't work for me anymore, I'll stop drinking them but until then, bottoms up!

  • tarheelgrad1998 Feb 9, 2011

    America needs to kick its caffeine addiction. It's getting ridiculous.

  • snowl Feb 8, 2011

    I enjoy the taste of hot coffee, or a cola drink with caffeine, so I would never drink any of these so called energy drinks.