Does 5-Hour Energy Work? An Ingredient Analysis

Does 5-Hour Energy Work? An Ingredient Analysis


| |
| |

Disclaimer: None of the information in this article constitutes medical advice, and is just the opinion of the writer(s). We recommend that individuals follow their doctor’s guidance in regard to energy drinks.

5-hour Energy is one of the most popular energy drinks in the U.S. It comes in a small, convenient bottle that's available at many stores and gas stations, and the brand claims that "Within moments, you'll start to feel like your alert and energized self again."

But does 5-hour Energy contain research-backed ingredients for improving energy levels, or is this just a marketing claim? Does the supplement contain any questionable additive ingredients? Has its use been associated with any deaths? And how do real customers rate and describe the effects of 5-hour Energy?

In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more as we analyze the ingredients in 5-hour Energy based on medical studies to give our take on whether the drink is likely to be effective for improving energy levels or if it's a waste of money.

We'll explain whether any deaths have been attributed to use of the drink based on a New York Times investigation and feature real, unsponsored user 5-hour Energy user reviews.

We'll also document a concerning ingredient discrepancy between the brand's Amazon listing and website.

Ingredient Analysis

5-hour Energy Regular Strength ingredients

The ingredients in 5-hour Energy Regular Strength are shown above.

There are some research-backed ingredients in this drink for increasing energy.

Caffeine has been clinically shown to improve mental energy (source) and improve physical energy (source). The 200 milligram (mg) dose in 5-hour Energy is equivalent to around two cups of coffee, and is an effective dose according to the above-cited medical studies.

Glucuronolactone is a naturally-occuring substance that was shown in a clinical trial published in the Amino Acids journal to reduce fatigue when combined with caffeine and taurine (both ingredients are in 5-hour Energy).

Citicoline was shown to improve memory in older adults with memory impairments in a 2021 clinical trial, but the daily dose used in the trial was 500 mg, while the average ingredient dose in 5-hour Energy's prop blend is only 267 mg. 

Vitamin B12, vitamin B6 and niacin are B-vitamins included at high doses. We can't find any clinical evidence that taking supplemental vitamins improves energy levels in healthy adults, nor does the brand cite any on their product page at the time of updating this article.

While there are some research-backed ingredients in this drink for improving energy, there are also some ingredients that may be questionable from a health perspective.

The combination of caffeine, taurine and glucuronolactone was shown to cause negative changes to blood pressure and insulin sensitivity in a clinical trial, as we documented in our review of Gfuel, another energy supplement containing this combination.

Sucralose is an artificial sweetener that was shown to cause negative changes to insulin levels in young, healthy adults in a clinical trial published in the Nutrition Journal.

Potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate and EDTA are preservatives, and a 2010 clinical trial concluded that potassium sorbate was "clearly seen to be genotoxic" to human cells when studied in a test tube.

Overall, we do consider 5-hour Enregy likely to improve energy levels given the combination of active ingredients caffeine, taurine and glucuronolactone. However, we don't currently recommend the supplement due to the questionable inactive ingredients highlighted above.

But has 5-hour Energy use been associated with deaths? We'll discuss in the next section.

Has 5-hour Energy Caused Deaths?

In 2012, the New York Times reported that there were 13 deaths attributed to the use of 5-hour Energy, and that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S. was investigating. We haven’t seen the results of any such investigation.

While this doesn’t necessarily mean that 5-hour Energy drinks directly caused the deaths, it is a warning sign that consumers should heed. This is especially true for consumers with pre-existing health conditions like high blood pressure.

Given the stimulant ingredients in 5-hour Energy, we recommend that consumers with pre-existing health conditions speak with their doctor prior to using this supplement.

A video published by Slate is under one minute long and covers the relevant facts of this matter:

We Tried 5-hour Energy Ourselves

5-Hour Energy UGC

One of our product testers named Matt Donnelly tried 5-hour Energy. Here's his experience:

The packaging of the product is simple and easy-to-use. It's single-serve.

The package comes with a plastic shaker that has an 8-ounce fill line, so I knew how much almond milk to add. The individual packets had easy-to-open tear-away tops.

The taste was sweet but not too fruity or overly flavored.

The effects were not very noticeable. I skipped my afternoon coffee the day I tried it, and I believe I would have had the same boost from a cup of coffee.

I didn't experience any side effects from using this product.

I might purchase 5-hour Energy as an alternative to coffee, but if a gas station or 7-11 offers coffee and 5-hour energy, I’ll likely opt for coffee.

Overall, I'd rate 5-hour Energy 5/10, and I don't have any plans to purchase it in the near future.

Missing Ingredients on Website

The Supplement Facts label for 5-hour Energy that we showed in the ingredient analysis section was pulled from Amazon.

However, at the time of updating this article, the brand fails to include the inactive ingredients such as the artificial sweetener and artificial flavors on the Supplement Facts label on their website.

The Supplement Facts label from the brand's website can be seen below:

5-hour Energy Supplement Facts label from website

Note that the ingredients like artificial flavors and sucralose that we highlighted as questionable from a health perspective are not included in this version.

This is a major red flag and is a consumer safety issue. We urge 5-hour Energy to immediately rectify this by publishing the full ingredient list on their website in every location where there's an ingredient list or supplement facts label.

It's entirely unfair to consumers to publish a Supplement Facts label without the full ingredient list, because consumers will be making a purchase decision without the full set of information they need to make a safe and informed choice.

Real Users Review 5-hour Energy

The most popular YouTube video on 5-hour Energy has over half a million views, and has real people test 5-hour Energy. They have some pretty funny and genuine reactions:

A YouTube creator named "IM_TARAJAY" shared her experience using 5-hour Energy for the first time:

Our Clean Energy Picks

Panax ginseng extract has been clinically shown  to reduce mental fatigue and reduce physical fatigue; both health effects that can benefit e-sports athletes.

Illuminate Labs manufactures a Panax Ginseng Extract Supplement that's potent (standardized to minimum 8% ginsenosides) and third-party tested to ensure purity and label accuracy.

Interested consumers can check out Illuminate Labs Panax Ginseng Extract at this link to the secure product page on our website, where it retails for only $15 at a subscription price.

Performance Lab Energy is our top multi-ingredient energy supplement pick.

This supplement contains acetyl-l-carnitine which can "improve energy status" according to a medical review published in the Neurochemical Research journal, as well as CoQ10 which is produced by the body but decreases with age, and "is an effective and safe treatment for reducing fatigue symptoms" according to a 2022 meta-study.

Interested consumers can check out Performance Lab Energy at this link to the product page on the brand's official website. 

Real Customers Review 5-hour Energy

Amazon is a better resource for honest customer reviews than a brand's website in our opinion.

A 12-pack of the Berry Extra Strength version is the brand's most-reviewed product on Amazon, with over 3,400 total reviews and an average review rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

The top positive review from a verified purchaser is written by a user named "Ken Dunlap" who claims it's a better option than coffee:

"When I first tried this I thought the tang and flavor took some getting accustomed to. Now, I take it almost every morning to get me going, and the tang and flavor are very pleasant. It has replaced coffee."

The top negative review from a verified purchaser is written by a user named "Boogie" who claims to have experienced side effects:

"I might love this product if it werent for the sucralose & artificial flavors. Look up sucralose side effects & you wont want this product. A few times I have consumed 5 hr energy sometimes one a day for a couple weeks at a time but after a few rounds of this over a couple years, my stomach began getting upset & I’d start burping immediately after consuming it"

Pros and Cons of 5-hour Energy

Here are the pros and cons of 5-hour Energy in our opinion:

Pros:

  • Should improve energy
  • Cheap
  • Widely available in stores
  • Great Amazon reviews

Cons:

  • Contains artificial flavors
  • Contains preservatives
  • High doses of B-vitamins may have no effect on energy
  • 13 deaths attributed to its use according to NYT
  • Stimulant blend clinically shown to increase blood pressure
Stay up-to-date on our research reviews

Conclusion

5-hour Energy should improve energy levels, because it contains several active ingredients shown to do so in medical studies.

However, we don't currently recommend this supplement because it contains three active ingredients that were clinically shown to cause negative changes to blood pressure and insulin sensitivity when taken in combination.

5-hour Energy also contains a host of other questionable additives such as artificial flavors, synthetic preservatives and an artificial sweetener.

This energy drink was reported as the potential cause of 13 deaths.

At the time of updating this article, 5-hour Energy fails to clearly publish the full ingredient list including inactive ingredients on the product page on their website, which is a consumer safety issue and which we think is concerning.

5-hour Energy does have favorable customer reviews online, but we recommend that consumers exercise caution when considering this supplement.