From ancient herbs and extracts to synthetic tablets and drink mixes, there have always been a host of products that promise to wipe out fatigue and deliver a prolonged period of peak abundant energy. Some of these products have been straight forward like caffeine, but others are derived from ancient Oriental medicine or even appear to be a hocus-pocus act from some crazy scientist.
Everyone needs more energy!
Perhaps, right now, you've got an IV of caffeine going to straight into your blood. Just kidding, but we all can use a pick-me-up and especially those who work full time (both at their job and on the social scene), chase around friends, family and kids, and who exercise regularly. Which products can be counted on? Which ones may let you down? Increased energy is easy, but the crash from it is all too familiar. Sustained energy is the hard part and those products which can deliver over the long haul are the ones which will help you finish with a kick during your
10 K run
or finish a
workout with an extra set or two.
In order to help you make informed choices among so many
alternatives, we've assembled a
of the best products available. As always, we've broken down and assessed the overall effectiveness and practicality of the ingredients found in each of the most popular formulations listed below.
1. Product: Raptor Extreme Endurance Bar - Supreme Protein
Price: $22.95 / 12 bars (Prosource.net)
What is it?
A new player in the endurance bar category, the makers of
) have done their homework regarding this formulation. Looking to approach energy from a different angle, the bar provides a comprehensive array of the necessary nutrients required by the body to produce energy and recover from stressful exercise. Instead of loading up with caffeine, various herbs and extracts, the bar's formulation is centered on a proprietary gel system to deliver needed carbohydrates, plus a well-balanced mixture of essential amino acids to promote energy production during short and very long bouts of exercise.
The carbohydrate delivery gel capitalizes on recent research that maximizes carbohydrate oxidative during exercise and delivers the necessary amino acids which are essential for muscle recovery.
This bar is ideally suited for elite athletes who demand optimal recovery and delivery of energy during their hours of training. Several studies have documented the effectiveness of a 4:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio for minimizing muscle damage and promoting recovery of muscle carbohydrate (Ivy J et al. 2002, Williams MB et al. 2003, Ivy J et al. 2008). Further, the delivery of essential amino acids is imperative in maximizing muscle protein balance and recovery (Tipton K et al. 1999, Borsheim E et al. 2002, Borsheim E et al. 2004).
2. Product: BetaStax - BioQuest
Price: $28.89 / 60 Capsules
What is it?
contains a unique thermogenic technology that has been shown to
enhance energy and target fat loss concurrently. Not relying exclusively on stimulants like so many other thermogenic formulas on the market, BetaStax's transformational power derives from a matrix of ultra-bioactive energy factors combined with a breakthrough weight-loss technology called PureWaySlim. This new technology has generated some of the most remarkable results ever seen in this category.
Simply put, this product really works! In fact, in a recent landmark clinical study, subjects who took the active ingredient in BetaStax prior to two major meals daily experienced significantly greater reduction in body weight, waist and hip circumferences (when compared to placebo treatment) as early as two weeks and continuing throughout the duration of the study. Anecdotal evidence from hard-training athletes also credits BetaStax with remarkable upsurges in energy, vitality and intensity, with no consequent energy crash.
If you want explosive energy that you can feel within minutes along with measurable weight-loss in as little as two weeks,
is the clear standout product in the highly competitive thermogenic category.
3. Product: Sublingual B-12 - ProSource
Price: $4.75 /100 Lozenges
What is it?
Known as the "
is a nutrient valued for restoring vitality and enhancing energy levels. This fruit flavored lozenge contains cyanocobalamin, a form of B-12 that can be absorbed under the tongue for a superior delivery directly into the blood stream. A
deficiency is linked with low energy levels, depression and poor cognitive functioning.
If maintaining enhanced energy production and mental
focus over extended intervals is important to you, then you should strongly consider
supplementation. When you do, make sure you supplement with a maximum-potency, premium-grade formulation like ProSource's
, for superior bioavailability and assimilation. In short, super-potency B12 is a highly safe energy booster that can potentially make the difference between faltering in the stretch run and cruising on to victory in any athletic endeavor.
Vitamin B12 is an important factor for maintaining the neurological health balance and the synthesis of myelin (a complex protein, constituting the sheath protecting nerve fibers). It is also a key component in the metabolism of fatty acids and the synthesis of proteins and carbohydrates. Furthermore, B12 enhances the activity of the immune system and the body's ability to withstand stressful conditions.
As people age, their ability to absorb B-12 declines. By avoiding poor absorption in the GI tract, the sublingual route is an optimal means of supplementation with this vitamin.
4. Product: Co-Enzyme-Q10 - ProSource
Price: $16.95 / 60 capsules
What is it?
A critically important nutrient that occurs naturally in the body and i
s required for the mitochondria to make ATP (your energy currency) and convert the foods we eat into energy. However, due to excessive periods of high energy, exercise, and or physical stress the body often cannot supply enough CoQ10 for optimum energy output. Thus, CoQ10 supplemen
tation is promoted to offer an important performance edge, particularly to endurance athletes who may be deficient in the nutrient.
CoQ10 has stimulating effects on the body's metabolism and it delivers powerful antioxidant support for heart health. (Indeed, CoQ10 levels have been shown to be tremendously depleted in patients with a variety of heart conditions and in patients during therapy with cholesterol-lowering drugs.)
plays a critical role in the most basic of intracellular processes for active people; it facilitates the electron transport chain in the Krebs cycle, which is critical for producing energy via ATP.
5. Product: FRS Healthy Energy Drink Mix - FRS
Price:$12.95 / Box of 14 single serving packets
What is it?
Give FRS some credit, when they go and out and find people to stand by their product, they have an impressive list. First there is Lance Armstrong. A seven-time Tour de France winner and recent 3rd place finisher after taking two years off at the age of 37, Lance is an endurance icon. Add to this list, NBA champion Derek Fisher and a Harvard medical school trained sports physician and people in the public will likely listen. FRS has emerged as one of
the top natural energy boosting performance brands. This powdered drink mix comes in a box of 14 single serving packets designed to deliver a healthy sustained energy boost. With only 10 calories per packet, the mix combines key ingredients - quercetin (250 to 323 mg) and catechins (20 to 100 mg) from green tea extract along with vitamins E, C and a spectrum of B vitamins to reportedly deliver a sustained energy enhancement. In addition to their original powder formulation, FRS now is available as candy chews, ready-to-drinks and a concentrated formula to be mixed with water.
In the last few years, independently reported study res
ults have finally begun to appear on FRS. Relative to energy production and performance, the ergogenic benefits are not well documented, however, improvements in immune function are consistently found. As part of a daily strategy to offset the stress of training, it may have some benefit.
Nieman DC and colleagues (2007) concluded that daily quercitin supplementation did not alter immune function, but did reduce the incidence of upper-respiratory tract infections and in 2009 the same research group found that two weeks of supplementation augmented oxidative stress activity and altered in a positive way the inflammatory response seen after 3 days of heavy cycling. In fact, several studies by this research group have consistently shown improvements in immune responses (See Nieman DC).
6. Product: 5-Hour Energy - Living Essentials
Price: Retail: $2.99/2-oz (59 mL) or $23.95 / 12 bottle case
What is it?
Promoted as a blend of B-vitamins (B3, B6, folic acid B12), minerals (sodium), amino acids (taurine, phenylalanine, tyrosine) and caffeine designed to deliver a sustained energy boost, 5-Hour Energy contains virtually the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee. Conveniently available in gas stations and grocery stores across the U.S. and Canada, 5-Hour Energy was the first shot energy drink to hit the market and is currently the number one selling brand of its kind. Like Red Bull, it markets itself across many sectors of professional sports and sporting activities.
Some of the ingredients may offer the brain a small boost, but this is not a full-spectrum energy product.
Low in carbs so avoids the typical spike and crash phenomena associated with many products that have fast absorbing sugars. The caffeine and amino acids provide a short-term stimulation of energy levels.
7. Product: NO-Xplode
Price:$35.50 / 2.25 lb
What is it?
A wide-reaching formulation of ingredients that will impact muscle hypertrophy, vasodilation and recovery. As a class of products, nitric-oxide (hence the NO in
) modulators are designed to key on a physiological mechanism that increases vasodilation and improves delivery of nutrients resulting in greater training adaptations. Marketed more towards resistance training athletes, the product also contains creatine, other amino acids, caffeine, vitamins, minerals and other factors.
Certainly, the inclusion of ingredients such as creatine, beta-alanine and other amino acids will facilitate adaptations to regular resistance training. Arginine and nitric oxide modulators have been shown to increase vasodilation.
A study by Campbell B et al. 2006 reported marginal improvements for increases in bench press strength and cycling power in men who resistance-trained for several weeks. Across the entire spectrum of nutrients, a wide array is provided. Several ingredients are key components to our physiological energy systems.
8. Product: Ginseng - NOW
Price:$13.95 / 250 capsules
What is it?
One of the most researched herbs on earth, ginseng has been used for thousands of years in China as a universal remedy for balancing energy, stress, mood, and immunity. Modern day ginseng supplementation is said to improve exercise performance, stamina, and reduce fatigue by reducing the body's need for the adrenal gland to produce cortisol.
Many health claims have been attributed to ginseng, but dosages vary widely among brands.
The results of studies investigating the effects of ginseng on exercise performance are mixed, but many have been relatively uncontrolled or used too low a dose to show effectiveness. Controlled studies have shown a moderate effect for improving endurance exercise capacity. Recent studies suggest it may aid in recovery by improving oxidative stress responses (Kim SH et al. 2005), but this remains to be validated.
9. Product: Red Bull Energy Drink
Price: $2.00 / 8.3 ounce can
What is it?
One of the dominant players in the energy drink market in the U.S. and worldwide. Sales data from 2006 reports over 3 billion cans sold in over 1
0 countries. Sponsoring numerous activities ranging from extreme sporting events like windsurfing, snowboarding, skateboarding, wakeboarding, cliff-diving, surfing, Formula 1 racing, and breakdancing to art shows, mus
ic, and video games, Red Bull's company slogan is "It give you Wi-i-iings." With active ingredients such as taurine, glucuronolactone, inositol, and high amounts of sugar (27g) and caffeine (80.0 mg per can - double the amount of the average soft drink but similar to a cup of coffee), Red Bull is known to give an intense short-term energy boost.
Expert Opinion: A rather simple but effective formula (sugar and caffeine) to promote increases in energy. Energy response, however, is transient, meaning it has a quick onset and unfortunately a quick departure. Study res
ults are mixed as Ivy J et al. 2009 reported an increase in time-to-exhaustion cycling performance and Forbes SC et al. 2007 an increase in upper-body muscle endurance. Similar studies, however, have found no changes in average power output during sprint (Forbes SC et al. 2007) and a run to exhaustion of 80% maximal capacity (Candow DG et al. 2009).
Carbohydrates (sugar) are a valuable source of energ
y to our muscles during exercise. Caffeine is a popular supplement that has been well researched to increase fat burning, improve endurance and decrease perceived exertion.
10. Product: Monster Energy
Price:$32.00/24-pack of 16 fl oz. cans (amazon.com)
What is it?
A wildly popular energy drink much in the same class as Red Bull, Rockstar, etc. Like all other energy drinks, Monster contains a mixture of high amounts of sugar, caffeine, taurine, ginseng, carnitine, glucuronolactone and vitamins.
If you've had one you've had them all. Much of the mixtures and formulations are the same with a tweak here and a tweak there. Yes, they will increase your energy levels, but consuming them as a part of a weight loss or weight management program has not been shown to promote beneficial outcomes. Any increase in calorie burning will be largely offset by the calories contained in the drink.
Ingredients will certainly result in a sharp increase in feelings of energy. The sugars found in the drink will help to provide a source of energy during exercise. Carnitine and taurine may help to facilitate fat burning but these findings have yet to substantiated in humans during exercise.
About the Authors:
Daniel Collier is a product analyst and staff writer here at ProSource. Dr. Kerksick is an Assistant Professor in The Health & Exercise Science Department at The University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK. He has a Ph.D. in Exercise, Nutrition and Preventive Health (Baylor University). Dr. Kerksick has published nearly 200 scientific articles, abstracts and chapters in areas related to weight loss, diet strategies and sports nutrition.