First, energizers are, simply put, energy enhancing supplements. Sounds simple but there's more to it than that!
The first thing many people may think of when they think of energizers are probably caffeine based stimulant products. While it's true these types of products make up a large part of the category, there are more products out there then just caffeine pills. As there are different types of energy, there are different types of energy products.
Stimulants - caffeine based products – naturally occurring caffeine as in green tea, guarana, kola nut, yerba mate. These are similar to the caffeine based thermogenics in terms of the energy effects but do not contain the additional fat burning ingredients. As is the case with thermogenics, many products are formula based meaning they contain an energy “complex” of several naturally occurring sources of caffeine and often additions like B vitamins and ginseng, to name just a few. Of course, you can just get basic herbal based natural caffeine products such as guarana but as always, the formula will give you a bigger bang for your buck because you have more ingredients working for you.
Ginseng – ginseng is considered more of a stamina or endurance enhancing product instead of a central nervous system stimulant. There are eleven versions of ginseng, in most cases given names that reflect where they grow: Korean ginseng, American ginseng, to name two examples. Ginseng is referred to as an “adaptogen”, which means it can help the body fight fatigue, stress and anxiety. Ginseng has become common in formula based energy products and currently in energy drinks. It can be also taken by itself and has been a popular stand alone supplement for decades.
The vitamin B complex – as a complex, it consists of eight nutrients and helps convert food into energy as well as combating stress. They are not only often included in typical caffeine based products but are a major part of stimulant free energy products. Stimulant free products are designed for those people that just can't take caffeine. As is the case with stimulant free thermogenics, the effects aren't nearly as intense but you can still get a degree of energy from these types of products. B-12, especially, is a very common single product for increased energy and is a common choice for those that have a problem with caffeine.
Creatine – part of the ATP energy system. As an energy supplement, this will increase energy at the cellular level, a different type of energy. When the average person thinks of energy, they most likely think of a caffeine buzz, or maybe just a clear, alert mind-set to get through the day. Cell level energy is not something you feel but more something that translates to an ability to do a greater amount of work, for most of us this refers to your training program and the ability to perform it. This may be a somewhat overlooked aspect of energy as many people don’t think in terms of cell energy. However, serious bodybuilders do as well as endurance based athletes.
Carb drinks/powders/bars – the body's primary energy fuel is carbohydrates, in the form of their broken down state, glycogen. The body stores enough glycogen to meet its energy requirements. This, by the way, is also tied into the basic energy systems of the body, such as the ATP system, with creatine (as creatine phosphate). There are several systems the body uses and they all are inter-related. Going back to carbohydrates, endurance athletes demand high amounts of carbs in order to handle the extreme energy needs of their particular sport. To meet this need, supplements are available in powder, pre-mixed drink or energy bar form, all containing high amounts of carbohydrates. This type of product can also be popular with weight training athletes as well, who use it either as part of a pre or intra workout drink.
Oxygen enhancing products – This is a newer category of products, the purpose of which is to allow increased oxygen at the cell level. This again ties into the basic energy systems of the body as several of them depend on a sufficient oxygen supply. This is a small, shall I say unproven area but one that deserves research.
Pre/intra workout - mostly based around caffeine but also containing “pump” enhancing ingredients intended to promote a more intense and focused training session with an emphasis on enhancing the pump.
- To provide goal-specific increased energy.
It’s important to understand that there’s more to energy than just a “buzz” and that improved performance will result from a well planned approach that takes advantage of the right choices for the task in terms of energy products. This will, in many cases, mean an approach which will include more than one product for increased energy. For example, most bodybuilders insure they have ingested enough carbs from both food and supplements to fill glycogen stores which in turn allow for a well performed workout in which you are able to hit your set and rep goals. As well, the bodybuilder will include a pre work out drink for that mental edge, allowing for a more intense, mentally focused workout. This product most likely will include the B vitamins and ginseng along with the caffeine sources. Creatine is a mainstay in most lifters supplement arsenals and further enhances energy at the cell level, resulting in the ability to do more work. Creatine also is almost always included in pre workout products.
As stated above, you must choose to your goals. Given that, there are many choices available in each category of energy product. As always, you have powders, softgels, tabs and capsules to choose from. Formula products, of which I am a big fan, will often be the easiest choice as they can cover several energy categories with just one product. Pre-workout powders, for example, will contain caffeine sources as well as ginseng, B vitamins and creatine and in some cases carbohydrates. Carb intake in preparation for a workout has to be properly timed and the use of a pre workout is one aid in this process. It’s been said that you begin to prepare for your next workout after you finish your last one and this couldn’t be more true because you immediately need to begin to replenish what you’ve just burned up and this begins with the post workout shake. This ties into your carb intake and again, carb supplements can help here. If you fail at this process your body will not have the fuel (energy) it requires for the next workout. Endurance athletes will depend heavily on carb sources – bars and powders – to help them provide the energy their sport or event requires. Bars should be tasty, able to be eaten on the run so to speak and always taken with water. Powders are simple and quick, your choice should be one with a taste you can tolerate and it needs to mix well – who wants a big, flavored clump at the bottom of their water bottle?
For more fundamental, get through the day type energy, you have stimulant based products available as tablets or capsules and as energy drinks. I advocate the tab or cap over the drinks because you don’t want the extra sugar that’s often a part of these products. The tablet/capsule naturally occurring caffeine approach can provide energy for hours, making your day a little easier. Can’t take the caffeine? Try a good B-12 or Ginseng based product – not as intense or as long lasting but good choices for those that avoid stimulants.
Once you’ve researched and chosen your selection of energy products, you should, as always, read each label completely before buying and using.