Energy for Sale
Energy products abound -- in drinks, herbs, bars, and some stranger forms -- goo, anyone? -- but some are better at giving you a lift, and some are bunk. Part 2 of a three-part series.
Sports, Fortified, and Energy Drinks continued...
For this reason, Camire says such drinks are more appropriate for athletes
and not for people with regular, everyday activities. She also points to a
recent study that shows the concoctions could cause gastrointestinal
Some fortified and energy drinks have so-called propriety blends that sound
mysterious. Moore says marketers play on the aura of secrecy to sell products.
"There really isn't any magical formulation," she says.
If you look at the labels of energy drinks such as Red Bull, Red Stallion,
and Sobe Adrenaline Rush, you will see that common ingredients include inositol
and taurine. They don't have any special energy-boosting powers, says Moore,
noting that our bodies already make inositol and taurine from the foods we eat.
Inositol is a chemical found in foods including beans, brown rice, and corn.
Taurine is an amino acid found in foods from animal sources.
Herbs and Supplements
Many energy products are infused with herbs that are supposed to give people
an extra charge. Popular herbs include ginseng, guarana, yerba mate, rhodiola
rosea, and cordyceps mushroom. They also come in supplement form.
How well do they work in increasing energy? Overall, it's uncertain, says
Carol Haggans, MSRD, a consultant with the Office of Dietary Supplements, a
branch of the National Institutes of Health. She says the evidence ranges from
suggestive (some small studies say it might help), to contradictory (results of
various studies differ), to nonexistent (no scientific studies have been
Of the herbs used for energy, ginseng probably has the most research, but
the studies are contradictory, says Haggans. Plus, she says there are different
types of ginseng, and the investigators don't always make it clear what kind
was used in studies.
Asian ginseng, also known as Panax ginseng, is generally known as a
stimulant and has been used by older people seeking more energy, says Andrew
Weil, author of 8 Weeks to Optimum Health. The Asian variety also has
a reputation as a sexual enhancer for men and has been used to improve athletic
American ginseng, on the other hand, is used more as a tonic and is known to
increase immunity over time, says Weil.