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Energy shots: Do they work and are they safe?

10:14 PM, Feb 14, 2011   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, Florida - Millions of people are drinking them every week: 5-hour Energy shotsJacked Up Energy bombs, Redline Energy drinks and Red Bull Energy shots. They all promise to give you a boost of energy when you need it the most.

Jillian Fiorentino says Redline Energy drinks give her the boost she needs to make it through the day. She says, "Sometimes when I'm really tired I take them or when I'm at work or when I go work out. I tried it and I just liked them after that."

At the age of 23, she juggles working out with clocking long hours as a convenience store manager and she's not alone. Millions of people are using energy boosters every week.

Also read: Study: Energy drinks may hurt kids

The makers of the popular Redline drink say theirs is a breakthrough designed especially for women. It claims to increase mood and mental focus while burning fat and decreasing your appetite.

Fiorentino says, "It just makes you feel like more awake and energetic, so it does make you feel like you could do it for longer definitely, so you don't get tired as fast."

With no calories, the maker of Redline Energy drinks claims that you get the same feeling you'd get from eating one thousand bars of chocolate. They say it's due to the Beta-phenylethylamine that raises your blood pressure and blood glucose. But is that safe?

Charlotte Lawson is a dietician for the Hillsborough County Health Department. 10 News asked her to check out the labels on several popular energy shots and energy bombs. Some are now called nutritional supplements because they're packed with a concentrated amount of nutrients and vitamins.
One features a runner on the label and tropical fruit on the other.

Lawson says, "At first glance, it's probably a big marketing scheme to tell you the truth."

She picks up the Redline Energy drink that Jillian drinks and says, "There's also things that I noticed, for instance, in this other one for instance - an herbal extract - the St. Johns Wort that's been shown to interfere with other medications, so if you were on an oral contraceptive for a female it may not work as well."

Lawson adds, "Other things that are metabolized in the liver - St. Johns Wort affects that - it can actually help it metabolize too fast and, therefore, the medication may not dissolve at an appropriate rate - anxiety medications - St. Johns Wort can also affect those."

One of the Redline drinks actually has a drink gauge on it to keep users from consuming too much and it's not to be sold to anyone under the age of 18. Lawson says, "But these do contain a higher amount of caffeine and that's probably the biggest thing we're looking at. Caffeine in high doses can cause heart palpitations and cause cause sleeplessness, anxiety."

We asked Lawson about 5-hour Energy, which claims to have only about as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, no sugar and just four calories. She says the ingredients are similar to what's in Jacked Up Energy bombs.

"They're actually concentrating certain nutrients. What most of these have in common is your B-Complex and a couple of amino acids, but they only actually help to utilize the energy from foods we're already eating. So if you haven't had anything to eat, the B-Complex is really going to go in and out. It doesn't provide the energy itself but more in the metabolism process."

Lawson adds, "Actually, when I was looking into them a little more, there were some that had 8,000% of your daily value."

The daily value being what the National Institute of Health believes our body needs each day.

The biggest surprise, Lawson says, was the Red Bull energy shot. "But the B-12 is only at 80 versus these having 8,000%. So, a little bit more moderate here and I'd actually feel more comfortable with someone using something to this degree."

So what does Jillian Fiorentino think about the energy drinks now? "I might still take them to be honest, but I won't take them as much as I used to take them."

Lawson says there's an easy way to get energy and to keep from feeling sluggish throughout the day. She says make sure you eat breakfast daily. "It helps turn on your metabolism so that your energy utilization for foods you eat later is more efficient."

She says it's critical to eat complex carbohydrates, low fat and high protein foods too. Click here for a list of those foods from the American Heart Association.

Make sure you get enough sleep and, if you're still tired, she suggests asking your doctor for a blood test to determine if your iron levels are low.

Tammie Fields, 10 News

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