Do doctors really approve 5-Hour Energy?

By John Taylor | Sep 04, 2012

If you watch television, you’ve probably seen the new commercial for the energy supplement, 5-Hour Energy, in which a spokesperson claims that more than 3,000 medical doctors were surveyed regarding their willingness to recommend 5-Hour Energy as a dietary supplement to their patients. According to the spokesperson, 73 percent of the doctors surveyed said they would recommend the product if patients were looking to use an over-the-counter energy product.  
Since I tend to be a skeptic when it comes to the effectiveness of many over-the-counter products, I requested a copy of the survey and results from Living Essentials in Wabash, Indiana, the parent company of 5-Hour Energy. Surprisingly, I received the requested paperwork via email four days later, but for purposes of confidentiality, I was not provided with the names of the doctors in the survey.
However, I was given the research design that was used to create the surveys, and the demographics of the doctors that were chosen to be included in the study.
Every doctor who evaluated 5-Hour Energy was a primary care physician, not an endocrinologist who may have more expertise to evaluate the effectiveness of the product. I leanred that 503 physicians were provided the survey online, and 2,500 were provided an in-person survey by 5-Hour Energy representatives. The survey results indicated that 5,000 doctors were actually asked, meaning that Living Essentials had a 50 percent response rate, which in the world of research is actually an excellent rate of return.
In both the online and in-person surveys, doctors agreed to evaluate to effectiveness of the 5-Hour Energy ingredients listed on the product label. After the evaluations were performed, the results indicated the 73 percent of the doctors in the survey stated they would recommend a low-calorie energy supplement to their healthy patients who use energy supplements.
Let’s analyze these results a bit. First, the doctors in the survey were given the list of ingredients that are included in 5-Hour Energy, and were asked to analyze the effectiveness of their energy properties.  As it turns out, other than modest doses of B vitamins and caffeine, there are only six other ingredients in the product, including citiocoline, needed for synthesizing certain brain tissue; tyrosine; an amino acid that helps transmit nerve impulses to the brain; phenylalanine; an amino acid needed to create the adrenaline hormone; and taurine, a chemical needed to regenerate white blood cells; skeletal muscles, and helps maintain heart and central nervous system health.
Also found in 5-Hour Energy is malic acid, used by the body to covert carbohydrates to energy; and glucuronolactone, an important chemical the body uses to repair almost every connective tissue.
What 5-Hour Energy doesn’t  say in the ad is that most of these ingredients are commonly found foods we already eat, including meats, dairy and vegetables. Furthermore, notice the survey results didn’t find that doctors recommend 5-Hour Energy. They merely said that if a person is going to use an energy supplement, it should be a low-calorie product. Since 5-Hour Energy is only four calories, it does meet the doctor-recommended criteria for using an energy product, but isn’t 5-Hour Energy’s stance on the survey results similar  me saying, “I know my fiancée, Andreya, likes white cars, so I bought a white minivan because it met her purchasing criteria?”
Believe me, if I came home with a minivan, regardless of color, Andreya would have words with me for a very long time.
Now unlike some writers, I’m not here to blast the 5-Hour Energy product. Like many active adults, I use over-the-counter energy supplements on a regular basis. Though I know that their consumption should always be limited, and I take certain precautions while taking these products such as drinking the low- and zero-calorie brands, staying hydrated to avoid caffeine-related dehydration, and waiting eight hours before consuming a second one, if needed.
However, I do know how I feel when I workout or compete in an athletic event without using one of these supplements. You can argue that it may be a psychosomatic, but I know that I’m more likely to place higher in a 5K race or mud run if I took my zero-calorie Monster Energy Drink before my competition.