June 25, 2012 || 9:44 am || Leave a comment
As the glory days of college drift further and further away, it seems mustering up the energy for a night out on the town is getting harder and harder. At a recent bachelorette party I couldn’t believe how many people relied on those quick energy shots for a quick boost before a night out. While I thought they were geared towards adolescent boys, turns out they are quite popular among young professionals who need an afternoon or late night kickstart. Then, a few weeks later, I was at wedding where the bridal party was downing these shots before the ceremony. I decided it was time to check them out for myself. People claimed they were “all-natural” because they only have a bunch of vitamins but I took a closer look to see what the science says about these “natural” energy boosters. Do they work and are they really safe?
First off, these shots are loaded with B vitamins. Niacin, B6, Folic Acid and B12 are given in large amounts (some up to 2000% the recommended daily amount). While the theory is that all of these are involved in the production of energy in the body (and therefore will boost your energy), they actually won’t produce any noticeable effect unless you are happen to be deficient in any of these vitamins. Which is quite unlikely given they are found in common foods like meat, eggs and whole grains. There is no evidence suggesting that ingesting extra doses of these vitamins provides any added benefit. In fact, they all happen to be water soluble vitamins, meaning that anything not needed by the body will simply be excreted in urine. While ingesting these vitamins in large doses is generally safe, it is important to note that people can be sensitive to niacin and may experience a “niacin flush” characterized by a hot prickling feeling and skin redness. That doesn’t sound too pleasant.
Beyond the vitamins, these energy shots also have an “energy blend” made up primarily of different amino acids and caffeine. Caffeine is the only ingredient that has actually been proven to improve mental alertness. It appears that most of the energy boost seems to come from the caffeine. Meaning that you will get the same benefits from a simple cup of coffee. Since these shots don’t require FDA approval or labeling of exact caffeine amount, there is no safe way to know how much you are ingesting. Or how the mixing of all these different ingredients may actually affect the body. Since none of the claims are backed by any clinical research, it appears that you are paying more for the hype. And some pretty expensive urine.
Bottom line – stick with a cup of coffee. Or try a nap.