Do the Caffeine Alternatives in Energy Drinks Work?

Do the Caffeine Alternatives in Energy Drinks Work?

Waking up in the morning and feeling ready to take on the day can be difficult for some without a cup of coffee in them. Others prefer energy drinks to get the boost they need. Either way, the main ingredient providing the energy is caffeine. But what about the caffeine-free drinks? Do they even work?

The B vitamins myth

B vitamins are necessary in the body to help convert food energy into a form of energy the cells can use, and are found naturally in unprocessed foods, especially meat products and whole grains. What is important to note is that B vitamins do not directly provide energy; they are only necessary in the process of energy conversion. And yet, energy drinks these days contain a variety of B vitamins in huge doses. 5-Hour Energy shots are a great example of this.

  • Niacin (B3): 150%
  • Vitamin B6: 2000%
  • Folic Acid (B9): 100%
  • Vitamin B12: 8333%

It would appear with those percentages that the B vitamins must have a large influence in boosting our energy. In reality, your body already has a good enough level of B vitamins to get the job done. Because of this, consuming high doses of these vitamins in energy drinks is simply providing the body with more B vitamins than it can store, and they are simply flushed away in the urine.

Energy blends

On top of the B vitamins, energy drinks have a blend of supplements that claim to give an energy boost. Some popular ingredients found are:

  • Taurine
  • Guarana
  • Glucuronic Acid
  • Ginseng
  • Caffeine

Scientific analysis on the effectiveness of these ingredients is scarce, but the studies that have been done appear to point in one direction: that caffeine and sugar are providing most (if not all) of the boost associated with an energy drink.

For instance, a 2008 study done for the American Pharmacists Association found that the levels of taurine, guarana and ginseng found in energy drinks are in too small of an amount to have an effect on energy, while caffeine is present in comparable amounts to coffee.

When it comes down to it, energy drinks are successful because of the way they market alternate ingredients while the caffeine and/or sugar is actually doing most of the work. This, perhaps combined with the placebo effect, can keep people coming back for more and more.