We all have those moments when the eyelids are fluttering, the mind is wandering, and we are jolted back into relative alertness only after our foreheads bang against desk. Too many hours at work, too little sleep the night before, too much good food, it doesn’t matter…there are times a caffeine pick-me-up or a nap are the only solutions. And when a nap is not in the offing, we reach for caffeine.
We’ve used many things over the years, coffee being the most mild, Red Bull and other such canned energy inducements being the most extreme. Each has its pluses and minuses. Some folks we know have noted that even some extra shots of caffeine don’t really make them more alert – just jittery and buzzed while still sleepy. When we first saw all the hype over the 2-ounce bottles of 5-Hour Energy, we were skeptical. But, naturally, we bellied up to the bar in the name of science…burp.
First, it is important to state that no one energy source works the same for everyone, and some folks might find they get downright jittery, ornery, and even a bit sick to the stomach with energy boosts, either caffeine or herbal concoctions. It’s important for each person to experiment to discover his or her reaction.
That warning aside, here is the basic concept behind 5-Hour Energy: One tiny bottle contains two ounces of liquid. There is no sugar, meaning four calories per shot, but it includes sucralose as the sweetener. For the energy, you get caffeine, but they won’t say how much beyond being “comparable to a cup of leading premium coffee,” which we will estimate could mean anywhere from about 150 to 300 milligrams of caffeine. We were told that boost comes from a “proprietary blend,” so the company won’t get detailed other than to list taurine (a natural, caffeine-like substance) and a mixture of amino acids and vitamins, including a significant amount of B12. There is a decaffeinated version (yeah, we wondered what the point was too) that we were told has the equivalent in caffeine of about half a cup of decaffeinated coffee, which is too trivial to mean anything.
To test, we turned to two baby boomer adults (one male and one female) who are regular coffee drinkers, and to a 20-something female, also a regular drinker not only of coffee but also Red Bull. All were in situations where fatigue was a problem. With the male tester, we had him stay up most of the night, then work a trade show the following day. By 5 p.m., as expected, he was heading down for the count. He described the feeling as being in a fog, not alert, and wanting to fall asleep even standing up for short periods. Enter 5-hour Energy with caffeine. The taste didn’t bother him although he noted he wouldn’t drink it for pleasure. Within minutes, he reported feeling much more alert. Within 30 minutes, he felt wide awake, but not buzzed or jittery. The real test came at 10:30 p.m. when he returned to his hotel room to sleep. While still not feeling overly fatigued, he was able to fall asleep relatively easily, and awoke the next morning feeling refreshed.
Our older female tester, who gets easily buzzed from too much caffeine, had returned from an international business trip, hadn’t slept well for two nights, then had to drive 90 minutes to take a night class, then drive 90 minutes home at her normal bedtime. Enter 5-Hour Energy with caffeine, at about 5 p.m. She popped the top and took a slug. Yuck, was her first response. It was thin with a really fake orange flavor that was overly sweet and somewhat medicinal. She gulped it down, grimaced and then reached for water and a bite of a snack bar to try to get the flavor out of her mouth. Within 30 minutes she felt alert but not buzzed at all. Of note was that she’d taken it on an empty stomach and did feel just a teeny queasy until she’d gotten some dinner. (Of note is that she had an orange flavor, which is not a flavor she likes much anyway.) As above, she had no problem going to sleep six hours later.
Our 20-something Red Bull drinker embarked on a road trip from California to Georgia. She reported taking her first 2-ounce shot of Extra Strength 5-Hour Energy about the time she hit Salt Lake City, Utah, 10 hours after departing California at 2 a.m. Like our male tester, within minutes, she felt alert and good, and was able to drive on. She also tried the “decaf” version (citrus) and the results were not as favorable. She reported that she took that about the time she hit Kansas City, after driving from Denver following a hotel stop. It had no effect at all she reports, and tasted bad as well.
Would we use it again? Very likely, at least the regular and extra-strength versions. While the taste was nothing to write home about with any of the flavors we are not drinking this elixir for the taste. Still our older female tester may nix another use because of that. For our testers, it worked well. Again, this is no guarantee that it will work the same way for others.
SNEWS® Rating: 4 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $2.50 per 2-ounce bottle