I frequently get asked about my opinion of energy drinks and shots so I thought it would be a good idea to do a blog posts on the subject. As you can see in the title of this post I’ll be reviewing the Advocare Spark product and popular 5 Hour Energy shots.
There’s little need to review most convenience store energy drinks because quite simply I wouldn’t recommend them. The majority are so chocked full of sugar that they’re automatically tagged as garbage in my book.
Let me preface this whole discussion by stating my position on energy drinks in general. Could they serve a beneficial purpose in an otherwise healthy diet? Yes, absolutely but it all comes down to how much and how often you use them.
No surprises here but the main ingredient in most energy drinks is caffeine. While low-moderate doses of caffeine can be safely consumed by some individuals it’s not for everyone. If you suffer from adrenal fatigue or have cardiovascular health problems you’ll want to avoid caffeine.
Caffeine works in your body by stimulating your sympathetic nervous system. It causes your adrenals to release catecholomines which provide the increase in energy.
In low-moderate doses in otherwise healthy individuals this can stimulate the rate of thermogenesis and fat burning when conditions are right. Caffeine can also help sustain physical activity during workouts.
I’ve written extensively on the potential benefits of caffeine taken prior to a workout. In all fairness there are two sides to the argument for caffeine supplementation.
I’ve seen enough research and positive results with clients to concur that it can be beneficial in some instances. Once again though it comes down to the individual, how it’s being used and the amount.
Ok, with all that being said let’s get into the comparison of Advocare Spark versus 5 Hour Energy Shots.
We’ll look at the ingredients and then get into details on each.
5 Hour Energy Shots
Ingredients: Purified water, natural and artificial flavors, Sucralose, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, and EDTA (to protect freshness).
Serving size: 1.93 fl. oz.
Niacin: 30 mg – 150% daily value
Vitamin B6 40 mg- 2000% daily value
Folic Acid 400mcg- 100% daily value
Vitamin B12 500mcg- 8333% daily value
Sodium 18mg- <1% daily value
Energy Blend 1870 mg- Taurine, Glucuronic Acid, Malic Acid, N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine, L-Phenylaline, Caffeine, Citcoline.
Let’s review the Advocare Spark product before I get into further review.
Advocare Spark Energy Drink
I’ll post the picture of the product label instead of listing out all the ingredients.
There are few things I want to draw your attention to here.
For starters, the Advocare Energy Drink comes in powdered form. You blend the powder in 8-12 ounces of water and drink. It’s not a condensed shot. This is an important difference which I’ll discuss in a second.
You’ll notice there are also a host of additional vitamins and minerals contained in the Advocare formula and not just B vitamins like with the 5 hour Energy shots. The dosages for B vitamins in the Spark drink are much lower and within more acceptable ranges.
Vitamins & minerals comparison:
B Vitamins (Thiamine B-1, Riboflavin B-2, Niacin B-3, Pantothenic acid B-5, Pyridoxine B-6, Cyanocobalamin B-12)
5 hour Energy Shots
B Vitamins (Niacin B-3, Pyridoxine B-6, Folic acid B-9, Cyanocobalamin B-12)
While B vitamins are water soluble which make toxicity much less of a risk, there may be possible concern for individuals who consume several 5 hour Energy Shots per day. A single serving provides over 2000% Vitamin B6 and 8000% Vitamin B12.
The body will work to remove excess B vitamins by filtering them through the kidneys. Since these energy shots come in condensed form with very little water, if an individual is not adequately hydrated they’re going to be placing an extra workload on the kidneys and internal organs.
More on that in a minute…
From a caffeine perspective you’ll notice that the Advocare Spark is clearly labeled at 120 mg. Once again a lower amount than the 5 Hour Energy Shots although more than enough to work synergistically with the other ingredients to provide a sustainable energy boost.
How much caffeine is in a shot of 5 Hour Energy?
Interestingly, the total amount of caffeine is NOT listed on the product label. The manufacturer states “it contains about as much caffeine as a cup of the leading premium coffee.” Say what? Well how much is that and why won’t they just come out and put it on the label? You can be the judge on that.
ConsumerLab.com recently ran tests on 5 Hour Energy shots and found they contained on average over 200 mg of caffeine!
To put that in perspective an 8oz serving of Starbucks Bold coffee contains 180mg caffeine. The amount of caffeine in coffee will vary from approximately 60mg to 180mg depending on the strength of blend and brewing method used.
Sugar and Sweetener comparison
Both products use Sucralose as the main sweetener. Neither contain Aspartame so that’s a big plus.
You’ll notice the Advocare Spark contains 11 grams of total carbohydrate while the 5 Hour Energy Shots list none.
While the Advocare product is “sugar-free” it does contain 11g of carbs from maltodextrin which is a glucose polymer. This makes it ideally suited for a pre-workout drink.
While this might not be all that big of a deal (for some) I want to draw your attention to an ingredient listed in the 5 Hour Energy Shots that most people will overlook.
What is glucuronic acid and why is it in the 5 Hour Energy Shots? Here’s a brief explanation of glucuronic acid.
Glucuronic acid is a carboxylic acid derived from the glucose, the basic form of sugar in the human body. It is formed when glucose interacts with oxygen and creates a slightly different structure, through a process known as oxidation. Glucuronic acidâ€™s main function is to combine with toxins and eliminate them from the body.
The main function of glucuronic acids is to combine with other substances such as drugs, toxins, and hormones, and either carry them to other parts of the body or eliminate them. This combining, known as conjugation, makes the substances more water-soluble and easier to pass out of the body through the urine.
Glucuronic acids also assist in the biosynthesis of ascorbic acid in every animal but guinea pigs and primates. Go to reference.
Ok, perhaps one could conclude that glucuronic acid was included in the 5 Hour Energy Shots to assist with the biosynthesis of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C). But the only thing is there’s no vitamin C listed in the ingredients. Hum?
Makes you wonder why it was included. Purely speculation on my part but perhaps it’s because the manufacturer fully recognizes that a condensed shot of caffeine and high amounts of B vitamins have the potential to be over-consumed and could pose a risk to those individuals who are dehydrated.
Say for example someone taking several doses while coming off a hangover. Probably not a good idea. The body will be working hard enough to remove toxins in a state of likely dehydration.
All we know is that glucuronic acid works to help the body make substances such as toxins more water soluble so they can be eliminated. It’s included for some reason. We’ll leave it at that.
And the winner is….
In a head to head comparison I believe the Advocare Spark Energy Drink is the superior choice on just about all levels.
It provides a more moderate dosage of caffeine and B-Vitamins and also contains a much broader spectrum of vitamins and minerals. One of the biggest pluses is that the powder is mixed with 8-12 ounces of water instead of being a condensed shot. This factor rarely gets discussed but it’s very important.
We’ve talked about how taking frequent doses of the condensed shots without adequate hydration may lead to the kidneys and liver working extra hard to metabolize the caffeine and B-Vitamins.
In sort of a boomer-rang effect the burden of the internal organs could be sapping you of energy that the caffeine worked to provide in the first place. While this won’t necessarily cause a “crash,” it could lead you to just needing it more often.
While I don’t have evidence to back this up I’d venture to guess in some cases where individuals have experienced heart attacks and other health problems while consuming 5 Hour Energy shots, there were probably large amounts being consumed without sufficient hydration.
A New York Times article reported back in November 2012 that federal officials had received reports of 13 deaths over the last four years that cited the possible involvement of 5-Hour Energy Shots. Go to story.
It’s important that I clarify this is not a complete bash on 5 Hour Energy shots. I suspect that 1-2 servings a day for healthy adults with a good diet and sufficient hydration shouldn’t pose any problems. Relying on any more than that and combining with a poor diet and insufficient hydration, and there could be potential risks/downsides.
If you’re going to consume 5-Hour Energy Shots I’d say most definitely keep them to under 2 servings a day and avoid taking them when dehydrated. If you find yourself needing a energy pick up on a daily basis, there are bigger issues to deal with regarding your health and lifestyle habits.
For all the reasons I’ve laid out I’d recommend the Advocare Spark Energy Drink as my preferred choice.
Click here to learn more or to order
I personally use this product by drinking it prior and during my workouts. It could also be used in conjunction with a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack. The formula contains a more moderate dose of caffeine along with a broader vitamin and mineral profile.
Last but not least, Advocare products are some of the most rigorously tested supplements available on the market. There are more clinical studies and independent reviews to support product effectiveness and safety than any other supplement manufacturer I’ve found.
Shane Doll is a certified personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Fitness Training Studios. If you’re looking for a personal trainer in Charleston, you can receive a no-obligations personal training trial and consultation without risking a dime. Over 1000 Charleston area residents have transformed their bodies following our unique burst training workouts and whole food nutrition programs. Experience the Shaping Concepts difference today.