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Potions, Powders, Pills, and... Chips?

Not all energy boosters come in tall aluminum cans. Here are four alternative ways to amp up your mind and body.

Living Essentials 5-Hour Energy (Berry)
Taste: 8
Energy: 8

You've probably seen these little bottles at the corner store by the register and wondered if they were any good. Wonder no more--they're not bad. They taste less medicinal than I had expected, and they go down in one or two gulps. The liquid concoction hit me with eye-opening speed, lifting the morning fog with gale-force winds. This clean-burning fuel has also only 4 calories, one-fiftieth of the load of a typical 16-ounce energy-drink can. But it should be called 3.5-Hour Energy--that's when the Sandman shuffled softly back my way.

TwinLab Choline Cocktail
Taste: 4
Energy: 10

Holy smokes: This stuff tastes terrible! Sickly sweet and thick to boot--four tablespoons of this powder could make a spoon stand up in water, and the potion never loses its unpleasant, vitamin-laced flavor. A giant of a bygone era, Choline Cocktail was at the forefront of so-called smart drinks in the '90s, and inveterate supplement-takers are accustomed to chugging ill-flavored drinks--back then, it tasted relatively good. But Choline Cocktail's assaultive flavors aside, a laundry list of vitamins, plus choline, DMAE, ginkgo, and guarana, grab you by the ears and shake you into razor-sharp alertness. And it does taste better than most laundry.

Now Brain Elevate
Taste: N/A
Energy: N/A

The one stand-alone tablet I tested for this story is devoted solely to mental enhancement, so I added it of a small cup of coffee. Brain Elevate recommends a regimen of a single pill one to two times daily. The vegetarian, mostly herbal formula contains choline, ginkgo, rosemary leaf extract, and gotu kola. It doesn't stimulate the central nervous system, but I did notice a sense of increased clarity and vigilance. And though it's pricey at $22 per 60-capsule container, one bottle can last for 30 to 60 days of regular use--and longer if you skip it on the weekends.

Engobi Energy Go Bites
Taste: 5
Energy: 7

Got a problem with drinking? Then stop spilling coffee in your lap and get your caffeine fix in a solid, crunchy form. Engobi Bites come in two flavors: Lemon Lift and Cinnamon Surge. Regrettably, both flavors offer the savor and texture of deep-fried cereal, with a Splenda aftertaste. Promotional material on the bag--obviously meant to replicate the trust-me enthusiasm of an unsolicited endorsement--says, "Prepare to get wired. I mean really wired," and it's not far off the mark. [Editor's note: He's not kidding. These things taste like pure, fried sucralose, and they gave me a lasting case of the jitters in my fact-checking tests.] Scarfing down a package left me a bit twitchy and uncomfortable (but by no means tired). Occasional grazing through an afternoon might be a good way to keep your caffeine level up, especially if the company proceeds with its plans to produce a savory version of the chips. Now that would be crunchtastic!

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