The energy drink market is big business. It seems that people just can't get enough of the adrenaline hit that comes with a high dosage of caffeine and sugar in a can. The problem with most products on the market, though, is that they are not good for our bodies. They contain masses of sugar and artificial sweeteners, along with mega doses of caffeine. These things will certainly provide you with a lightning bolt of energy. But they'll also deliver a post high crash that will send you spiraling. In addition, all that sugar will make you fat.
All of which makes it a pleasant experience to encounter an energy drink that claims to provide you with the spark you need without any of the dangerous side effects that we've come to expect from energy drinks –
enter Advocare Spark.
Advocare Spark is an energy drink that is delivered in powder form, ready to be mixed with water. It is manufactured by Advocare, who have been in the sports supplement business for nearly two decades. The product can be purchased directly from the Advocare website or through other online sellers. Advocare claims to be completely sugar free. It contains a holistic blend of 21 vitamins, mineral and nutrients designed to provide a clean natural source of energy that is free from the side effects that are common to most energy drinks in a can. Advocare also claim that Spark will improve mental sharpness.
As the most widely used stimulant on earth, caffeine has been studied more than any other type of energy supplement. It has been shown to stimulate the central nervous system, allow for increased blood flow through dilation of vessels and boost mental alertness. The recommended upper intake of caffeine is 400 mg. Even at that level people may suffer side effects, which include increased heart rate, dizziness, the jitters, heart palpitations and insomnia (1).
Advocare Spark contains 120 mg of caffeine per serving. If anything, this appears to be somewhat under-dosed to deliver a sizable energy boost. We would have liked to have seen around 250 mg per serve. At least, at this level you should not have to contend with any of caffeine's side effects.
Spark contains 200 mg of taurine per serve. While this amino acid is produced naturally by the human body, Advocate Spark contains a synthetic version of taurine. It has been shown in clinical studies to be able in increase energy levels by boosting the flow of oxygen to muscle cells, enhancing the strength of heart contractions and improving mental alertness (2).
There is debate amongst the scientific community as to whether it is necessary to supplement with taurine, with some researchers believing that the body manufactures enough of it naturally to provide all the energy we need. It is also speculated that supplementation with synthetic taurine may inhibit the body's natural production of this amino acid.
Tyrosine is an important amino acid which is important in the synthesis of protein in the body. It is also involved in the production of neurotransmitters the chemical messengers which are vital to our functioning. In this way it is a vital factor in maintaining mental alertness and clarity of thought. The levels of tyrosine in the body can be depleted by stress, so it is important to get a quality amount of it through the diet. The main dietary sources of tyrosine are dairy products, meat, eggs, fish and oats (3).
Due to its ability to diminish stress hormone activity, tyrosine supplementation is a popular treatment for stress, enhanced mood and performance. The recommended dosage for tyrosine supplementation is 500-2000 mg per day. Advocare Spark contains 500 mg per serving.
Choline is an essential nutrient that is used by the body to manufacture acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter. Neurotransmitters are tiny messengers that send information to the brain. They are vital for life, making choline a very important substance. Most people tend to get enough choline through their normal diet, with the main sources being meat, liver, eggs, nuts and spinach. Vegans have a higher need for supplementation than meat eaters (4).
There have been no studies to show that choline improves energy production. However, several studies have concluded that it can boost mental awareness and cognitive performance.
Advocare Spark contains 500 mg of choline.
The B Complex Vitamins are grouped together as a result of their common function, which is to convert carbohydrates into glucose. Within the B Vitamin grouping are the following:
• B1 – Thiamine
• B2 – Riboflavin
• B3 – Niacin
• B5 – Pantothenic Acid
• B6 – this grouping encompasses six chemicals that work the same way in the body
• B7 – Biotin
• B9 – Folic Acid
• B12 – another grouping which are collectively referred to as cobalamins
The B Complex Vitamins have a vital effect on the functioning of the body. We take B Complex Vitamins into our body through food but the body is also able to produce them within the intestinal flora. This means that a healthy digestive system is needed to maintain the proper levels of B Complex Vitamins in the body. The reason that they are referred to as a complex is that they work synergistically, each requiring the presence of other B Vitamins to do it’s job. If there is an imbalance in any of the B Vitamins, it will impact upon the absorption and metabolizing of all the other B Vitamins (5).
The B Complex make-up of Advocare Spark includes thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 and pantothenic acid.
GABA is an acronym for Gamma-aminobutyric acid. It is known in the medical community as an inhibitory neurotransmitter. It has a calming effect on the central nervous system when it is affected by stressful hormones such as cortisol. Advocare claim that this ingredient will improve nerve function, muscle control and memory. While there is some studies to support these effects during animal studies, there is limited evidence that it will do so in adult humans. It has been shown to help to overcome depression – however, Spark is not sold as a depression relieving supplement (6).
There are 50 mg of GABA in every serving of Advocare Spark.
The above ingredients are the key ones that have gone into this product. While Advocare Spark contains a lot of essential vitamins, nutrients and herbal compounds, those that are specifically geared toward the production of energy are limited to caffeine, the B-Vitamin Complex, taurine, tyrosine and choline. While there is some proof that these ingredients can produce and energy spark, they are generally under dosed in this product. The result is an energy increase, but not one as significant as it could be.
An advantage of the conservative dosing of Advocare spark is that you do not have to worry about the stimulant side effects that you would experience at higher dosages. As a result there have been no reported side effects for this product.
Advocare Spark is a powdered energy supplement that is provided in individual dosage packets, to be mixed with water. While it contains an impressive 21 active ingredients, only about a half dozen of them are involved in providing you with more energy. You only get 120 mg pf caffeine per serving, which is about half of what you would really want for a serious yet safe energy boost. Other ingredients, such as tyrosine and choline are also conservatively dosed.
While Advocare will help you to get your daily supply of essential vitamins, and minerals, and will deliver a mild energy boost, it will not do a lot in terms of aiding with weight loss or hyping you up for a workout. By all means give it a try for a safe, natural energy lift – just don't expect miracles.
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(1) Astrup A1, Toubro S, Cannon S, Hein P, Breum L, Madsen J.: Caffeine: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of its thermogenic, metabolic, and cardiovascular effects in healthy volunteers.
(2) Tallis J1, Higgins MF, Cox VM, Duncan MJ, James RS.: Does a physiological concentration of taurine increase acute muscle power output, time to fatigue, and recovery in isolated mouse soleus (slow) muscle with or without the presence of caffeine?
(3) Neri DF1, Wiegmann D, Stanny RR, Shappell SA, McCardie A, McKay DL.: The effects of tyrosine on cognitive performance during extended wakefulness.
(4) Poly C1, Massaro JM, Seshadri S, Wolf PA, Cho E, Krall E, Jacques PF, Au R.: The relation of dietary choline to cognitive performance and white-matter hyperintensity in the Framingham Offspring Cohort.
(5) Fredrik Jernerén, Amany K Elshorbagy, Abderrahim Oulhaj, Stephen M Smith, Helga Refsum, and A David Smith: Brain atrophy in cognitively impaired elderly: the importance of long-chain ω-3 fatty acids and B vitamin status in a randomized controlled trial
(6) F. Cavagnini, C. Invitti, M. Pinto, C. Maraschini, A. Di Landro, A. Dubini and A. Marelli: Effect of acute and repeated administration of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) on growth hormone and prolactin secretion in man
Steve Theunissen is a freelance writer living in Melbourne, Australia. He is a former gym owner and personal trainer and is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness and fat loss. Steve also writes history books with a focus on the history of warfare. He is married and has two daughters.