Whether you are feeling groggy in the morning, or you need that boost of energy to get you through the day, what better way is there to wake up than to slam back an energy drink or make a cup of coffee?
As convenient as it may be to drink your way towards a more wakeful state of mind, the big question always seems to linger every time we take a sip. Are energy drinks worse than coffee? or is it the other way around?
There is no surprise that this question crosses our mind time and time again. With all the debates and controversy around the topic of caffeine and sugar, it is normal to be concerned about our health when drinking coffee or energy drinks.
So to finally settle this debate, we will be comparing energy drinks to coffee to better help you determine which is better, and worse for your health.
Lets Look At The Determining Factors...
Before we start comparing energy drinks to coffee, we have to look at each factor that will determine how healthy these beverages are.
Added sugar is one of the worse ingredients you an add to your diet. Not only does it damage your metabolism, but can significantly increase the risk of diseases, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
According to the American Heart Association, men should be consuming a maximum of 37.5 grams of sugar per day (150 calories), whereas women should consume a limit of 25 grams (100 calories). It is recommended that you take no more than 10% of sugar from your total daily calorie intake.
1 gram of sugar equals to 4 calories. So, if you consume 1800 calories per day, then your sugar intake should come from 180 calories (or 45 grams of sugar), which equals to 10%.
Sugar will be the biggest factor that we will be looking at when comparing coffee and energy drinks later on, as it leads to the most risks when abused or consumed in large quantities.
Amount Of Caffeine
According to the FDA (U.S Food and Drug Administration), adults should consume no more than 400mg of caffeine per day, which is approximately 4 to 5 cups of coffee. However, everyone is different in the way their body metabolizes caffeine.
Consuming too much caffeine can cause unwanted side effects. These can include; jitters, insomnia, headache, migraines, nausea, and upset stomach. The FDA also mentioned that overconsumption of caffeine surpassing 1200mg in a single day can cause toxic effects such as seizures and in rare cases, death.
Because caffeine is used in energy drinks as the main ingredient, it is critical that you do not surpass the daily recommended limit of 400mg (daily) if you are an adult. Doing so will also help you avoid dependency as well as addiction to caffeine, which is common among people who consume caffeine regularly.
Coffee only has one ingredient; coffee beans. Of course, if you start adding sugar, milk, soy, and other ingredients, then you can end up with a different drink altogether, such as a latte, or mocha.
On the other hand, energy drinks typically have a much longer list of ingredients, containing glucose, sodium citrate and vitamins including B12 as well as other compounds which are used to give you more immediate effects.
Some of the vitamins and ingredients can be dangerous when added in large quantities. For example; carnitine which is claimed to boost endurance and promote fat loss can lead to seizures.
Healthier options will often contain more natural ingredients such as green tea extract and taurine. These are common in most modern energy drinks today and are safe, if taken in responsible quantities.
Always look at the ingredients when choosing energy drinks, and never consume anything that you cannot pronounce or aren’t familiar with.
More sugar will always mean more calories. Luckily, coffee doesn’t contain any, unless you add or mix in other ingredients which contain sugar.
Energy drinks, however, can be categorized as sodas, which are notorious for containing high amounts of sugar. This adds more calories, and can make it difficult to manage or losing weight.
Some energy drinks will also have a zero-calorie count. As great as this may sound, it is important to look out for any artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, or sucralose that may be added as an alternative to sugar. Some of these artificial ingredients may have a negative impact on your metabolism and even reduce beneficial bacteria in your gut.
The Pros And Cons Of Coffee Vs Energy Drinks
Now that we know some of the most important factors to look out for, we will look at the pros and cons of coffee and energy drinks to help bring us to our grand conclusion.
Coffee can help you lose weight
Because coffee contains potassium and magnesium, it can help regulate blood sugar levels, therefore helping to control your appetite. Coffee also doesn’t contain any calories if consumed without additional ingredients such as sugar or milk, making it ideal for managing or losing weight.
Coffee can reduce several disease
Coffee can help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Hormones that regulate insulin levels such as adiponectin are more evident in people who drink coffee. 2-3 cups of coffee per day can also help normalize blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
Coffee can help fight depression
Studies have shown that coffee may lower the risk of severe depression. because it helps to stimulate your central nervous system while increasing the production of several neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters help to elevate mood levels and promote positive feelings when you are anxious or sad.
Coffee may increase blood pressure
Bad quality coffee may be toxic
Coffee that is low grade and contains impurities can cause headaches or can make you sick. Spending a little more for good quality coffee will help you avoid any problems in the long run.
Coffee can cause restlessness
Consuming more caffeine than your body can handle can make you dependent. This can lead to insomnia and restlessness, which can both disrupt your mind to achieve a deep sleep, which is vital for memory and brain development.
To prevent restlessness, it is important that you know your limitations and that you don’t consume more caffeine than your body can handle.
Coffee can be dangerous if you are pregnant
Everything you consume reaches the fetus, including coffee. Drinking too much caffeine while pregnant can increase caffeine sensitivity in the baby.
If you are a regular coffee drinker and are pregnant, it is recommended that you lower your coffee intake to a maximum of 1-2 cups a day.
They give you energy and boost focus
Ingredients in energy drinks such as taurine and caffeine can help wake you up fast. They help elevate your heart rate when you are tired or groggy, without having to wait too long for the effects to kick in.
They are packed with B vitamins
Many energy drinks are loaded with B vitamins, including B6 and B12. These B complex vitamins help improve your mood, battle fatigue, and can help your body fight life threatening diseases.
To learn about how much B vitamins you should be taking, you can use this chart we found on healthline.com.
They are high in electrolytes
Electrolytes are important while exercising, and not having enough of them can lead to dehydration. Energy drinks typically contain sufficient amounts of sodium which help to retain your bodies water levels.
They are convenient
Unlike coffee, energy drinks come in cans and bottles. This can make it convenient to carry and transport without being obligated to drink it right away. They also don’t require any preparation and can be stored in your fridge until you are ready to crack it open.
They contain niacin
Niacin helps to lower LDL Cholesterol (bad cholesterol) while increasing HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) in your blood. It also helps to lower triglycerides and blood lipid in your body, therefore reducing the risk of heart disease.
High in sugar
Had you ever experienced a sugar crash after drinking a soda or energy drink? Many energy drinks that are high in sugar can also cause you to crash within an hour after drinking them, which defeats the purpose of getting more energy.
A lot of energy drinks rely on sugar for their energy-boosting effects. As we explored earlier, sugar is a killer when it comes to health, and can lead to several complications including heart disease and diabetes.
Can cause insomia nad sleep deprivation
Because energy drinks mix sugar, caffeine and many other energy enhancing ingredients, they can lead to sleep disorders. Insomnia and restlessness at night is common in people who consume energy drinks often, especially if they lack a healthy diet, or they don’t exercise.
May cause serious side effects
Energy drinks can cause many unwanted side effects, including jitters, sweating, migraines, headaches, stomach aches and irritation. This is primarily due to insulin spiking, which causes stress on the heart and your cardiovascular system.
May cause weight gain
Since many energy drinks are high in sugar and contain several energy enhancing ingredients, they may cause you to gain weight. Too much sugar can cause insulin imbalances and lower your metabolism, which is also linked to obesity. Sugar can also make it difficult to lose excess fat in stubborn areas like your love handles and belly.
Can be addictive
Energy drinks can build up tolerance fairly quickly if consumed regularly. Indication of withdrawal symptoms can include:
So...Are Energy Drinks Worse Than Coffee?
Looking at the pros and cons of energy drinks and coffee, it is undoubtedly evident that energy drinks promote a greater health risk. This is mostly due to the fact that they contain many ingredients such as sugar, which are grouped together in order to provide more energy stimulating effects. Many of these ingredients in commonly known energy drinks are offered in large quantities.
For example; Redbull and Monster both contain 40mg of Niacin, where the recommended daily amount is 14 to 16mg. Too much niacin can cause liver problems, kidney disease, and may cause high blood pressure. (source)
As for coffee, it is the only active ingredient. There are no risks involving the overuse of vitamins, sugar, chemicals, and other compounds unless you add them. Additionally, coffee has many more positive health benefits, such as reducing the risk of diabetes, curing diseases, and even helping with depression.
Unfortunately, the opposite is true for energy drinks.
But Wait...There's More!
Despite all the talk about how energy drinks aren’t that great for you, maybe coffee just isn’t your thing, and you simply love energy drinks!
However, you don’t want all the risks, or to feel guilty every time you crack open a can. If this sounds like you, then you are in luck!
Since all the commotion started about how dangerous energy drinks are over the past several years, there have been several companies who stepped up to the plate and relieved the idea of non-healthy energy drinks by introducing more healthier alternatives.
So, if you are content on not drinking coffee, then I would recommend looking at our reviewed list of organic energy drinks. These healthier alternatives do not use high quantities of sugar or dangerous chemicals. Instead, they provide you with sufficient energy using pure and natural ingredients, without putting you at risk.
Unlike regular energy drinks, these healthier options won’t give you any negative side effects, such as crashing or jitters after consuming them. In addition, they also don’t contain preservatives or artificial flavors that can have a negative impact on your health.
The Bottom Line
Drinking coffee or energy drinks for the purpose of waking up can be dangerous if overused and abused. However, coffee has been proven as a much healthier option out of the two if consumed in moderation, as it offers many health benefits such as curing anxiety and lowering the risk of diabetes.
If you are the type of person who truly dislikes coffee and cannot make the switch, then I would highly recommend looking at organic energy drinks as an alternative, while avoiding all the loudly marketed beverages out there that everyone is raving about, such as Redbull, Monster, Rockstar…etc.
They key take away when it comes to energy drinks versus coffee, is that both can be fatal if overused and abused. The big brand, multi-billion dollar energy drink industry seems to keep setting off red flags regardless, hence why we recommend healthier alternatives if energy drinks are your thing.
Daniel has a dedicated history and passion for health and wellness. His journey began when he served in the Canadian Forces while pursuing bodybuilding for a hobby. Through several years he learned about what it takes to achieve a healthy lifestyle holistically and now desires to help others get on track.