Is Coffee Better Than an Energy Drink?

The Differences between Coffee and Energy Drinks

Not the Same

The debate of sleepy people all over the world isn’t whether one should consume caffeine or not. Look around you and you’ll find folks complaining about being tired, feeling fatigued, being emotionally or physically exhausted, having it “up to here” with stress and struggling with insomnia. No, the debate is whether which source of caffeine is better for you or can serve as a healthier option – coffee or energy drinks. Both can deliver high doses of caffeine, but the two are not the same.

It’s All About the Caffeine

In its more innocent state, caffeine is a natural chemical drug that can be found in places such as the kola nut, coffee plants and tea bushes. It is a stimulant where the more caffeine one consumes, the more one’s body reacts to said caffeine. Caffeine is good for raising one’s metabolic rate, increasing stamina, giving the ‘ol brain a boost, making one feel more alert and can even help deliver and make medications work faster.

Coffee Provides Some Health Benefits

It seems that every few years or so, warnings are given about the consumption of coffee followed by years of studies touting the health benefits of coffee. Currently, we are in the swinging the pendulum in the direction of benefits. For one, coffee is a natural source of vitamins and minerals like potassium, niacin, magnesium and vitamin E. Drinking coffee (and not just consuming caffeine) has been shown as a way to decrease the chances of getting type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, liver disease, some cancers and even Alzheimer’s. Coffee has also been shown that it can help reduce the risk of the reoccurrence of liver or heart-related health issues.

Coffee is Naturally Low Calorie

Most doctors agree that the best caffeine consumption comes from black coffee. It is better for sustained energy. Coffee is natural, it contains little to no calories and contains no preservatives. Even if you add a little sugar and cream to your cup, it will likely be a lot less than the calories found in some energy drinks. An 8 oz. can of Red Bull contains about 26 grams of sugar, more than twice the daily recommended amount for typical 2,000 calorie diet. Sure, one can choose a “sugar free” energy drink, but most contain artificial sweeteners such as aspartame or sucralose.

Energy Drinks are a Mystery

Humans have been drinking coffee for hundreds of years and the beverage has been researches well during those years as well. On the other hand, there hasn’t been nearly as many studies done on the effects of energy drinks and the ones that have been done haven’t been shown to be very positive. Some countries have actually banned the sale of such beverages to minors and other countries such as France, Denmark, Norway, and Uruguay have outlawed beverages such as Red Bull because it contains taurine. Taurine is considered to be safe when taken in recommended amounts, but it has been reported that some athletes have died after drinking energy drinks that contained taurine and caffeine. There may not be connection, but the truth of the matter is, no one really knows for sure.

Other Additions to Energy Drinks

Perhaps a bigger problem with energy drinks is how many other things they contain than just caffeine. Most are chockful of sugar, artificial colors and flavors. They may contain things like glucose, sodium citrate or other things one cannot pronounce. Many companies try to sell their drinks boasting about their added vitamins and whatnot, but the body won’t absorb these vitamins as well as they ones found in whole foods. “Some of them are thrown in because they sound pretty good, even when there’s no clear scientific evidence proving their effectiveness,” says Michael Shewmake from Atlas Coffee Club. “Part of being healthy is controlling what you put in your body, and you know what’s in your coffee. Just coffee.” (Atlas Coffee Club)

Savoring Verses Gulping

Although not always, coffee tends to have more caffeine that energy drinks. However, it is how that caffeine is consumed that can make the difference. While iced coffee drinks have become more popular in recent years, coffee is mostly consumed as a hot beverage. Because of this, it is usually sipped and savored slowly. Energy drinks on the other hand are chilled and are easier to drink quickly.

“They provide a quick hit; the high doses; you can guzzle energy drinks anywhere and nobody will ask you to sit down and talk with them,” says Matthew J. Edlund M.D.

It is easy to consume more caffeine than one was intending on, especially if they are consumed after a grueling workout or when one is very thirsty. Not only that, but drinking energy drinks too quickly will cause a surge of caffeine in one’s body giving the recipient a high stimulation effect. This can cause an extra-fast or irregular heartbeat.

Another issue with energy drinks is the growing popularity of mixing them the alcohol which can lead to severe dehydration if one is not careful. While not exactly an energy drink, the caffeinated malt beverage known as Four Loko caused a huge stir when it was introduced in the United States in 2010. The stimulants in the alcoholic beverage delayed the feelings of drunkenness.

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that people who drink alcohol mixed with caffeine are three time more likely to binge-drink.

Another Reason to Switch to Coffee

While it doesn’t really matter in the area of one’s health, switching from energy drinks to coffee is good for one’s financial health. Depending on the brands one purchases, coffee is fairly inexpensive and easy to prepare. $20 dollars will buy a lot of coffee beans, but it will only get you about six or seven cans of Red Bull. Then again, if you are one who must start their day with a stop at Starbucks, all bets are off.

How Much Caffeine is Too Much?

Regardless of where you get your caffeine from, it only make sense to keep track of how much you consume. Doctors recommend that we try to curb our caffeine intake to about 300mg per day. Over that and you’ll begin to suffer from things like “the jitters” and insomnia. Consume over 1000mg a day and you’re just asking for medical trouble. It is possible to overdose on caffeine from energy drinks but it is rare to find anyone overdosing from regular coffee. If you find that you’re starting to have an unhealthy relationship with caffeine, it may to time to figure out why.

One of the biggest reasons why people reach for caffeine is in hopes of making up their lack of sleep. In the short term, this is okay. We all know that we should be getting about eight hours of sleep at night, but many people fall well below that. Doctors warn that people who regularly get less than six hours of sleep at night begin to put their health at risk. These people will often find that they begin to…
-Gain weight
– Tend to become prediabetic
– Get more coronary artery disease
– Receive more infections and colds
– Find that they are depressed more often
– Become more irritable
– Find that concentrating to be difficult


Psychology Today –

New Health Advisor –

Spoon University –

Caffeine Informer –

Atlas Coffee Club –

Kegworks –