AdvoCare is a supplement company that markets a variety of products devoted to weight loss, wellness, and exercise performance. The supplements are said to be based on “the latest scientific knowledge” and contain “ingredients that are present in effective amounts and work synergistically for superior results.” In this review, I want to look specifically at the AdvoCare Spark Energy Drink Mix, which is said to “enhance mental energy and focus,” and provide “long lasting energy,” among other things. I’ll dissect the product by its ingredients and show you the relevant research on those ingredients and any research I can find on the Spark Energy Drink itself. Hopefully, this will help you evaluate whether this supplement is right for you or not.
What Is AdvoCare?
Advocare, also called AdvoCare LLC and AdvoCare International, is the company that markets the Spark Energy Drink. The AdvoCare company was started in 1993, according to the Better Business Bureau. According to the AdvoCare website, the company is located at 2801 Summit Avenue, Plano, TX 75074-7453.
Customer Service #: 800-542-4800
Another number is :972-665-5800
At the time this review was updated, the Better Business Bureau gave Advocare an A+ rating. See the BBB file for updates and more information. Sitejabber, another consumer site, gave Advocare 4.5 our of 5 stars, based on 2 reviews.
What Does Advocare Mean?
I contacted AdvoCare company about the meaning behind their name. They told me AdvoCare is a reference to the values of the company’s founder, Charlie Ragus, who wanted to be an “advocate who cared.” That's a pretty catchy name then.
Advocare Spark Energy Drink Research
I searched the AdvoCare website to see if there had been any published studies on the Spark Energy Drink itself showing that it increases energy or mental focus levels in humans. The website makes no reference to any such studies.
I then searched the National Library of Medicine for “AdvoCare” and found a study of Spark energy study where it was given to college football players. In this investigation, AdvoCare Spark Energy Drink was given to 20 college football players who then participated in sprint tests (they performed 6 sprints with 10 seconds rest between sprints). During one week, the football players received the Spark drink and did the sprint test, and the next week they received a placebo and did the sprint test.
Results: the Spark Energy Drink did not result in any significant changes in in these college football players.
Let’s now look at the ingredients in Spark Energy Drink. By doing this, we can shed light on the research and what the drink’s active ingredient/ingredients might be.
Spark Energy Drink Mix Ingredients
From a pdf file I found on the AdvoCare website, I discovered that the Spark Energy Drink (Mandarin Orange flavor) has the following ingredients and Nutrition Facts per serving (a serving 0.53 oz / 15g ):
|Amount per serving||% DV|
|Vitamin A (beta carotene)||1000 IU||20%|
|Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)||180 mg||300%|
|Vitamin E (d alpha tocopheryl acetate)||30 IU||100%|
|Niacin (niacinamide)||60 mg||300%|
|Vitamin B6||15 mg||750%|
|Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin)||45 mcg||750%|
|Pantothenic acid||50 mg||500%|
|Copper (copper glycinate)||200 mcg||10%|
|Chromium (chromium citrate)||24 mcg||20%|
|Citrus flavonoids||50 mg||N/A|
|L Carnitine||10 mg||N/A|
DV =Daily Value.
N/A= No % DV established.
mg = milligrams
mcg = micrograms
% DV is based on eating 2000 calories per day.
Since writing this review I discovered that the formula may have changed to one that is a bit lower in carbs.
Note. GABA is in the following flavors: Mandarin orange, grape and cherry. GABA is not present in Pink Lemonade or Mango Strawberry flavors.
Spark Other ingredients
Also listed include maltodextrin, citric acid, beet root extract (for color), natural flavor, sucralose and silicon dioxide.
This is a lot of ingredients; however, I don’t believe the vitamins and minerals provide any energy, help in focusing, or weight loss, in healthy people. I believe the AdvoCare company, for the most part, agrees with me because both the website and the pdf document for the product, they indicate that the “key ingredients” in the Spark Energy Drink are:
- B-vitamin complex (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 and pantothenic acid),
- GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid)
In other words, these 11 ingredients put the “spark” in Spark Energy Drink. Since they are said to be the most important, I will only look at the relevant research on these ingredients.
The B Complex Vitamins
Spark Energy Drink Mix contains various amounts of the B vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 and pantothenic acid. The B vitamins help us turn food into energy. They also help us store energy (in the form of carbs and fat). Many energy drinks contain B vitamins (especially B6 and B12) but there just isn’t any good proof that they improve energy levels in healthy people—such as the way caffeine would.
Likewise, I’m not aware of any good proof that B vitamins help people lose weight. Vitamin B12, in particular, has a big reputation in some circles that it helps weight loss. I’ve looked into this but can’t find any evidence it does.
Taurine is an amino acid we make naturally. While it might play several roles in the body, taurine is also something found in many energy drinks, possibly because of research showing it might help mental performance. For example, in a study of 36 people, researchers noted Red Bull significantly improved memory, reaction time, and concentration.
While studies like this are encouraging and appear to justify the use of taurine in supplements, it is interesting to note most of the studies showing that “taurine works” actually combine it with caffeine. In addition, there is also research noting it is the caffeine in the mixture that provides the benefits—not taurine.
For example, in a review of energy drink studies from 1997-2006 titled, it was concluded that caffeine was likely the “secret sauce” in energy drinks, rather than taurine or other exotic ingredients.
This result was substantiated by another review of energy drinks. These researchers conclude caffeine—and caffeine alone—is the main active ingredient in energy drinks responsible for effects such as improved focus and physical performance.
Researchers in the UK, looking at a type of “soft drink” which contained various herbal ingredients, caffeine and sugar, concluded that caffeine, along with sugar, improved mental performance and memory.
Some people take energy drinks to boost their workouts in the gym, in other words as a “pre-workout” supplement. However, according to this small study neither the energy drink nor caffeine improved strength in college men.
Researchers in the United Kingdom performing a test tube experiment of mice muscle cells noted that taruine—by itself—did not produce any increase in power, time to exhaustion, or muscle recovery. On the other hand, the taurine plus caffeine mixture did. While this was not a human study, this investigation further points to caffeine as the main active ingredient in energy drinks.
Tyrosine is also a type of amino acid that most of us make in the body. Tyrosine also helps us make thyroid hormone (thyroxine), so it might also be found in supplements marketed for hypothyroidism.
With that in mind I searched the National Library of Medicine for:
- Tyrosine thyroid
- Tyrosine thyroxin
to see if any studies were conducted to determine if tyrosine increased thyroid hormone production. Unfortunately, I saw no human studies on this issue.
As far as exercise is concerned, one small investigation has noted tyrosine supplementation does not help exercise performance in 7 men who cycled in hot temperatures.
The amount of tyrosine used in this study was 150 mg per kilogram. In people terms, a 180-pound person (82 kg) would have used 150 x 82 = 12,300 mg of tyrosine. This is a lot more than the 500 mg in a serving of Spark Energy Drink.
Ironically, in other study, these same researchers noted in tyrosine did help exercise in hot temperatures. Regardless of the different outcomes, the amount of tyrosine used was a lot: 150 mg per kg of body weight—far more than is in Spark Energy Drink.
See the Black Seed Oil Review – specially the section on the thyroid – for more insights.
I’ve seen choline in many memory supplements over the years. This may be because choline helps make acetylcholine, a neutrotransmitter that helps the central and peripheral nervous systems function properly. So, I searched the National Library of Medicine for:
- Choline memory
- Choline supplementation memory
While I did see some rat studies of choline helping memory, I did not locate any studies involving choline supplements and memory in humans.
Pretty much every energy drink I have ever seen has contained caffeine. The reasons for this are obvious and so I won’t recount the research here, as I’m sure everybody is already aware of the stimulating effects of caffeine. If you search this site for “caffeine” you will see various studies to which I have already linked.
The Advocare Spark Energy Drink Mix contains 120 mg of caffeine per serving. This is similar to that of an 8-ounce cup of coffee.
GABA stands for Gamma-aminobutyric acid (also called γ-aminobutyric acid). GABA is classified as an inhibitory neurotransmitter because it tends to calm things down. Because of this, it was even called “liquid zanax” on a segment of the Dr. Oz show.
While that statement resonates with a lot of people looking for a natural way to relax, I think it’s more complicated than this, given some evidence suggests GABA supplements might not be able to enter the brain. In other words, GABA supplements might not work. As such, comparing GABA to Zanax is an over-simplification.
Truth be told, GABA does many things. While both choline and GABA are essential for nerve function, muscle control and memory doesn't necessarily mean taking GABA or choline supplements improves these things in healthy adults?
Note: GABA is not present in all flavors of Spark. I only saw it listed in Grape, Mandarin orange and Cherry flavor. Pink Lemonade flavor did not contain GABA.
AdvoCare Advisory Board
On the science page of the AdvoCare website, there is a list of MDs and PhDs who serve on the advisory board of AdvoCare. While it’s nice that they have an advisory board, what this page does not list is any research on AdvoCare products published by any of these individuals.
Spark Energy Drink vs. 5-Hour Energy
It appears AdvoCare has less caffeine per serving than 5-Hour Energy. A serving of AdvoCare Spark Energy Drink has 120 mg, while, as I mentioned in my review of 5-hour energy, that product has 215 mg per serving. That doesn't mean 5 Hour Energy is any better or worse but I wanted to mention this for those who were curious. There are other differences also, so see my review of 5-Hour Energy for more information.
Spark Energy Drink and Kids
In a New York Times article on Advocare from 2005 titled, A Sports Drink for Children Is Jangling Some Nerves, there were references to Advocare marketing the Spark drink to kids and young athletes. I see no reference to kid marketing on the AdvoCare website as it appears today. I have however seen testimonials from athletes like Drew Brees and AdvoCare independent distributors—several of whom appear in physically active situations.
The subtle message to people is AdvoCare is good for a physically active lifestyle. While it’s tempting for kids to look for a competitive advantage during sports, I can tell you that there is no clinical proof -yet- Spark Energy Drink improves exercise ability—in kids or adults.
To be fair, I don't think kids should use any energy supplement either. Parents need to remember kids are not miniature versions of adults.
Spark Drink and ADHD
After I posted my review, I was alerted that I missed a study that compared Spark Energy Drink to Ritalin (methylphenidate). Online, this investigation is sometimes called the Texas Tech Spark Energy Study. The actual title is A Comparison of the Neuropsychological Effects of Methylphenidate (Ritalin) And Nutritional Beverage Versus Placebo on Children with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
This study took place at the Center for Family Medicine in Amario Texas and looked at how Spark Energy Drink compared to either Ritalin (methylphenidate) or placebo in 72 kids, age 6-17. The study lasted 4 months and took place in 1998.
Kids were broken up into 3 groups
- Placebo group which received caffeine
- Ritalin group
- Spark Energy Drink group
All treatments were given to the kids 2 hours prior to ADHD testing.
Researchers noted kids getting Spark Energy Drink scored as well as kids getting Ritalin in 3 out of the 4 ADHD tests that were administered.
While this is good, it's important to note this study did not say the Spark drink was better than Ritalin, but rather that kids scored as well as those getting Ritalin in 3 out of the 4 tests they used.
Looking at this from another angle, the results also mean Ritalin did as well as the Spark drink in 3 out of the 4 tests and that Ritalin was better than Spark in 1 out of the 4 tests also. Still, the results are interesting.
What's good about this study: It appears the researchers controlled for caffeine which may have had an effect. In the summary I saw, the researchers did not say the caffeine content of the placebo was the same as that in Spark drink, but I'll assume it was.
What's bad about this study: It does not appear to be published in a medical journal. In the summary of the study I have, it only says “Presented at Experimental Biology April 1999.” Studies presented at medical conferences don’t have to be peer reviewed. I searched medical databases for the study but could not find it. Why didn’t the researchers ever attempt to get this study published?
Another downside is the researchers were not able to determine which ingredient/ingredients in the Spark drink were responsible for its effects. For example, was it taruine? Was it GABA? We can't tell from this study.
Without more research I cant say if Advocare Spark helps people with ADHD or not.
Spark Drink Side Effects
In healthy people, I think Advocare Spark is probably safe in most people. I’m not aware of any bad side effects from the Spark Energy Drink and when I googled “AdvoCare spark energy drink side effects,” I didn’t see a lot of really negative side effects. That doesn’t necessarily mean there are none, and if you have had issues, I hope you will leave a comment so you can help others.
Based on the ingredients in the product, here are a few things that I think people should be aware of. This list is not complete:
- Not intended for pregnant women or those breastfeeding
- Stop taking at least 2 weeks before surgery
- Cholline might cause diarrhea and at higher doses an odd fishy body odor
- Speak to your pharmacist first if you take any medications
- Don't take close to bedtime due to the caffeine
- Some people report feeling jittery when they first take it
- Don't use if you are younger than 18 years of age
- Start with less at first to see how you respond to it
Currently, the upper tolerable limit ―beyond which side effects might be noticed―for choline is set at 3.5 grams per day. A serving of Spark Energy Drink has 500 mg of choline (1/2 gram). Good food sources of choline include milk and eggs. Theoretically, it’s possible that a few servings of the Spark Drink per day plus normal food intake might put people over this limit. I thought I’d mention this in case anyone noticed this odd body odor.
There is conflicting evidence that choline might—or might not—be linked to colon cancer. More research is needed. Those who take choline supplements should discuss this concern with an oncologist who likely has seen this research.
Some say caffeine can dehydrate people, due to its diuretic effects; however, newer research finds caffeine isnt dehydrating in those who are accustomed to it.
One report exists of a taurine energy drink causing a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, Interestingly, this report indicated the woman who experienced the allergic reaction only was sensitive to synthetic taurine and not natural taruine. I don’t believe supplements indicate whether whether taurine is natural or synthetic.
I would be remiss, if I did not mention Energy drinks have also been associated with death in apparently healthy people. In this instance, a 28-year-old man consumed three cans of an 8-oz energy drink (I don’t know which brand) 5 hours prior to a basketball game. There are no reports of death in those taking Advocare Spark.
Spark Energy Drink FAQ
Advocare supplements are not sold in stores like Walmart, CVS, Target, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Costco or Sams Club. You can only get them from the Advocare website or through an Advocare Associate. Supplements may also be found on Amazon
How Much Caffeine
Each serving has 120 mg of caffeine. This is roughly the same in a cup of coffee and less than other energy drinks
Is It A Preworkout Supplement?
Some may use Spark as a pre-workout. Whether it helps people exercise better is open to speculation. On the plus side, Spark does not contain questionable ingredients found on other pre-workouts (beta alanine, etc).
Does Spark Raise NAD Levels
NAD is an energy molecule called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide. Niacin helps us make NAD. Because Spark contains niacin, its possible it may raise NAD levels. But, what this means is not clear. Im not aware of any research of Advocare Spark and NAD levels.
I mention this because things which raise NAD are quite popular in the anti-aging world. For more on this, see these reviews
Can You Drink Spark During Pregnancy?
Advocare says to not drink Spark during pregnancy or while breast feeding your baby.
Why Do They Call It Spark?
The name, Spark may refer to spark-plugs which are needed to make the engine in your car go. Spark makes your engine go too. That's how I interpret it anyway.
How Do You Use Spark?
Its pretty easy. Blend, shake or stir contents of one stick pack or scoop into 16 fluid ounces of water. Drink.
Is Spark Energy Safe?
Spark Energy has been around a long time. I have not seen any clinical proof it was not safe. To make sure its safe in you, its wise to start with less than is recommended. This is to help you gauge how you respond to it.
Is Spark Energy Good For you?
Good is a relative term. It does have some vitamins which we need to stay healthy. While that's nice, I'd always point people to eating better to get those. See my smoothie recipe for example. Some people report they feel better when they take Spark so that may be good. Overall, this is a hard question to answer for everybody.
How Does Spark Compare To Other Energy Drinks?
I have not seen studies which compare Spark to things like 5 Hour Energy, Monster Energy, Bang or other energy drinks. The caffeine in Spark is less than in other energy drinks but other than this, its hard to say how it stacks up against other similar products.
Advocare vs. Crystal Light
Spark has caffeine while Crystal Light does not. On the flip side, Crystal Light contains phenylalanine which should not be consumed by people with the PKU genetic disorder. There is no phenylalanine in Advocare Spark.
Does Advocare Spark Energy Drink Work?
I think the active ingredient in AdvoCare Spark Energy Drink is the same as for most energy drinks―caffeine. As such, I would not be surprised if people felt more energized after using it. The same can be said for any caffeine containing beverage too.