Energy Drinks, Bars, Herbs, and Supplements

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If the names of today’s energy products have any truth to them, vitality and endurance are readily available in bars, drinks, gels, ices, herbs, and supplements.

PowerBar. Red Bull. Amp. Gatorade. Accelerade. Super Energizer. Energice.

Well they sure sound energizing. But are they actually any better than a candy bar or a bottle of soda? It depends on the product and its consumer, say experts, who note that the sheer variety make blanket statements difficult.

To get the full story, WebMD investigated the different kinds of energy edibles, their ingredients, and general effects on the body. Some products provide full nutritional information, while others closely guard the secrets of their proprietary blends. But many of these products just haven’t been studied very well.

We also asked the experts whether these products really add anything to our lives. Are we all limping through life, suffering from an energy crisis — a crisis that unwrapping a power bar can resolve? Or does our obsession with edible energy have very little to do with good nutrition?

Energy Bars and Gels

All energy bars, goos, and ices are not created equal. Some pack in the carbohydrates, proteins, or fats. Others bring in vitamins and minerals. The flavors are plentiful, too, with cookies and cream, cappuccino, lemon poppy seed, and fruits and vegetables color, isoflavones from soy, and polyphenols from teas. They have been linked to many things from killing viruses to reducing cholesterol to improving memory.

“What I would far rather see is for someone to eat a sandwich and a piece of fruit, instead of that PowerBar,” says Moore. “It’s still something you can hold in your hand, but you’re getting the whole grain from the bread, protein from the sandwich contents — whether that’s meat or cheese or fish — and fiber from the whole grain and from the fruit.”

Add a glass of fat-free milk, says Moore, and you will also get Hydration needs vary, depending on the individual, activity level, and the environment.

The caveat with sports drinks and flavored waters is that they contain calories, whereas water has none. This may be an important consideration for the weight conscious.

Many sports and fortified liquids also contain sodium, fatigue supplement. There is some evidence it improves aspects of mental and physical performance, but other than that, we don’t know a lot about the herb, says Haggans.

Rhodiola is often combined with cordyceps mushroom, another herb that has had little scientific research. Cordyceps mushroom by itself and the combined formula of cordyceps and rhodiola have been tested on athletic performance, and the results have been contradictory.

There are benefits to taking cordyceps mushroom, says Weil. It can reportedly provide energy to older people who have been debilitated by age or illness and to young athletes who need a boost in performance.

If you are considering the use of an herb or a supplement, it’s best to first check with your doctor. Some plant compounds, no matter how natural, can interact with drugs and may have some adverse effects.

Asian ginseng, for example, can raise medications, can affect energy levels.