Caffeine Pills – How do they compare to Energy Drinks?

Vivarin caffeine pills vs energy drinks comparison article.

Caffeine pills offer a cheaper and hassle-free alternative to coffee and energy drinks, but how do they stack up?

In this article I will compare caffeine pills to energy drinks and coffee, as well as answering the main questions that people have about caffeine pills. 

What are caffeine pills?

Caffeine pills, as the name suggests, are pills that contain (almost) pure caffeine.

Caffeine pills are available in small boxes of 16 tablets that can be swallowed with some water, just like any other pill that you might take.

The pills that I road tested in researching this article, Vivarin, contain 200mg of caffeine and 65mg of calcium per pill.

There are also other “inactive ingredients” listed on the packaging, but the exact amount of those other ingredients are not specified:

Camauba wax

• Colloidal silicon dioxide

• Corn starch

• Croscarmellose sodium

D&C yellow #10 aluminium lake

• Dicalcium phosphate dihydrate

FD&C yellow #6 aluminium lake 

• Hypromellose

• Magnesium stearate

Microcrystalline cellulose

• Polyethylene glycol

Polysorbate 80

Titanium dioxide

Phew… what a mouthful!

If some of those ingredients don’t sound natural or healthy, that’s because they’re not.

Some of them have been linked to some really nasty health problems, including at least 3 of them that have been linked to cancer

A box of Vivarin contains 16 pills.
Some Vivarin caffeine pills.

How much caffeine is in a caffeine pill?

Each Vivarin pill contains 200mg of caffeine.

That’s around twice as much as you would get in a regular cup of Joe, or 2.5 times as much as you would get in a 8.4 ounce Red Bull. 

Are caffeine pills bad?

The short answer is no, caffeine pills are not bad for you. 

But there are a few caveats to that.

Firstly, as with anything containing caffeine, if you have a pre-existing heart condition or if are sensitive to caffeine for other reasons, then you should avoid caffeine from any source, as usual. 

Secondly, caffeine pills do contain a lot of caffeine, so you want to exercise some caution in how many you take in any given time frame.

Numerous studies and health agencies recommend no more than 400mg of caffeine per day for a healthy adult. Just two Vivarin pills will get you to that limit, and it’s highly advisable not to have them too close together. 

Now is probably a good time to remind you to always be sensible with your caffeine consumption to avoid any side effects from too much of a good thing.

Next, you should probably do your own research on the other ingredients that are included alongside caffeine. Part of the problem with that is that the brands that make caffeine pills aren’t very transparent about how much of some of the other ingredients are included.

For sure, some of the inactive ingredients in Vivarin should raise some eyebrows and lead us to at least pause and ask a few questions. But, we just don’t know how much of these ingredients are actually included in the recipe. 

Lastly, caffeine can cause mild dehydration, which is something else you need to be aware of if you plan to take caffeine pills. More on that later…

Caffeine pills vs energy drinks

The pros of caffeine pills versus energy drinks are:

• price

• ease of consumption

• convenience of packaging

The cons of caffeine pills when compared to energy drinks are:

• the effects

• the added “inactive ingredients”

• how enjoyable they are to consume

• taste

Energy drinks typically contain anywhere between 50mg to 300mg of caffeine per serve.

Here’s list from highest to lowest caffeine content for easy comparison.

Caffeine pills contain 200mg of caffeine per pill

Each Vivarin caffeine pill has 200mg of caffeine inside.
Each Vivarin pill contains 200mg of caffeine.

The good vs energy drinks

Caffeine pills work out to be somewhere around $0.60 per pill by the time you factor in shipping. That’s considerably cheaper than most energy drinks, which average anywhere in the $2-$3 range with a few cheaper and a few more expensive options. 

Caffeine pills win on price, but what good is that if they don’t give you anywhere near the same boost as you would get from an energy drink?

However, caffeine pills aren’t much cheaper than REIZE Energy Drink which comes to around $1 per drink with shipping. 

It’s certainly faster to simply swallow a pill than it is to chug a can, so that’s another win for caffeine pills. It’s also easier and more convenient to carry a bunch of them around in your pocket. Energy drink cans are quite big and bulky. 

But hey, that’s just another great thing about powder energy drinks, including REIZE. Instead of carrying a can, you only need to carry a small sachet around the size of a credit card and you can make your energy drink fresh whenever you want. 

The bad vs energy drinks

If you’re wondering about the effects and whether or not caffeine pills actually work, then feel free to skip ahead to further down the page. 

Spoiler alert – the energy boost from caffeine pills was a disappointment compared to energy drinks.

The list of “inactive ingredients” in Vivarin caffeine pills is pretty scary once you start doing a little digging into what each of the ingredients actually do. Several of them have been linked to cancer, something that I’m not terribly keen to acquire.

Lastly, there’s no denying that an energy drink is just a more enjoyable experience and clearly tastes much better than simply downing a pill with a few ounces of water. 

If you haven’t found an energy drink that you think tastes good yet, then you need to keep looking because they are definitely out there. 

Caffeine pills vs coffee

All of the same pros and cons apply when comparing caffeine pills to coffee, so I won’t rehash them here. 

Despite containing about twice as much caffeine as you can expect to get in a regular Joe, caffeine pills don’t deliver anywhere near the energy boost that you would get from a coffee (in my experience). 

One great thing about coffee is that the consumer has a lot of control over what they add to their blend. Creamers and sugar can make the proposition considerably less healthy. Of course, if you go without those things it will also taste worse too. 

Personally, if given the choice between having a coffee, energy drink or caffeine pill the pill would be the last thing that I would choose.

Despite the lower price tag, the negatives mean that the other options are far better in my opinion.

A cup of coffee contains around 100mg of caffeine.
Coffee provides a much better energy boost compared to caffeine pills in my opinion.

Popular brands of caffeine pills

There are quite a few brands competing for a slice of the caffeine pill pie, including:


• ProLab

• Nutricost

• Focused Energy

• Smartervitamins 

• Fused Focus

• Zhou Supplements

• Genius

• Natrol High

• Best Naturals

• NoDoz

• Elite

• Vali

What are the side effects of caffeine pills?

Like anything containing caffeine, too much of a good thing can cause problems. 

Too much caffeine can cause:

• increased thirst

• dizziness

• insomnia

• diarrhea

• headache

• fever

• irritability

Do caffeine pills help you lose weight?

No, consuming caffeine pills alone will not help you to lose weight.

However, there have been many studies show that consuming caffeine in combination with exercise can help you to burn more calories than doing exercise without consuming caffeine. 

Caffeine pills alone won't help you lose weight.
Consuming caffeine pills alone without doing exercise won’t help you to lose weight.

Do caffeine pills dehydrate you?

Yes, consuming caffeine pills increases the risk of dehydration. 

In my opinion, the risk of dehydration is the most dangerous thing about consuming a moderate amount of caffeine. That’s just one of the many reasons that I prefer to drink my caffeine instead of swallowing it in a pill. 

At least if you drink it you are guaranteeing that you are getting some fluids at the same time as the caffeine which will help guard against dehydration.

Do caffeine pills actually work?

In my experience?

Not really. 

I was really disappointed in my test drive of caffeine pills, especially in light of the fact that each pill contains 200mg of caffeine. 

Honestly, I felt a slight buzz for about 15 minutes and that was it. 2 hours later I was yawning and 3 hours later I had a nap because I couldn’t pull myself through the afternoon slump. 

More on this below…

How long does a caffeine pill last?

In theory, caffeine should kick in after about 20 minutes of consumption and last for 3-6 hours, varying a bit from person to person. 

But for me, I felt a small increase in energy and alertness for about 15 minutes and then I wasn’t sure if I felt any different to before I took the pill. 

How many caffeine pills can I take a day?

The US FDA has cited 400mg of caffeine as a safe limit for healthy adults, but they note that there is a fair amount in variation in this. 

As each pill contains 200mg of caffeine, that means that 2 pills in a day would get you to that 400mg threshold. 

The Vivarin packaging itself says to wait at least 3-4 hours before consuming another pill. 

How much caffeine does it take to kill you?

While there have been deaths attributed to caffeine consumption, they are quite rare. 

It’s generally thought that the lethal dose of caffeine is 200mg per kilogram of bodyweight. 

That means that a 180-pound man would need to consume around 16,363mg of caffeine. 

That’s a lot!

To put that in perspective, that’s the amount of caffeine that you would get in 204 cans of Red Bull or around 160 cups of regular coffee. 

You are more likely to die from your partner killing you for spending so much money on caffeinated drinks than you are to actually overdose yourself. 

However, as usually, people who have pre-existing health conditions or who are sensitive to caffeine for other reasons should exercise care and talk to their health professional. 

Caffeine pills cost

I bought a pack of 32 Vivarin caffeine pills on Amazon for $15 including shipping which works out to be $0.60 per pill.

That’s cheaper than a can of energy drink, which range anywhere from around $1 up to about $4, depending on the brand and where you buy it.

Caffeine pills on Amazon

You can find Vivarin on Amazon, or you can simply search Amazon for “caffeine pills” to see other brands as well.

Caffeine pills for studying

Consuming caffeine before or during study can be beneficial. Whether that caffeine comes from an energy drink or from a caffeine pill, the effects are likely to be fairly similar. 

Caffeine has been shown to have a bunch of positive cognitive effects, which is the main reason that students love it so much around exam time. But, be careful not to overdo it. 

Remember that caffeine is caffeine, regardless of the source. So, if the caffeine you consume comes from a natural ingredient, it will still affect you in the same way as caffeine that is synthetically produced.

Caffeine can help you to stay alert for longer and get through an all-nighter, but usually it’s best to plan to get a good nights’ sleep instead of pulling an all-nighter if you can help it. 

Remember that caffeine is not a substitute for sleep and eventually you will need a good sleep to rest and rejuvenate. 

Best caffeine pills

I have only tried Vivarin pills and I wasn’t overly impressed with the effects. 

All of the brands that I mentioned above are available on Amazon. I’ve scanned through all of them to find out which brand had the best reviews overall. 

The winner is

Smarter Vitamins with a customer rating of 4.6 out of 5.

NoDoz and Vivarin were hot on their heels. 

I don’t agree with that rating for Vivarin, but clearly, other people had a positive experience.

The Vivarin caffeine pills packaging.
The back of a box of Vivarin caffeine pills.

Natural caffeine pills

Some caffeine pills might market themselves as natural, but they all contain synthetic ingredients.

The reference to “natural” ingredients mostly refers to the source of the caffeine.

But again, remember that caffeine is caffeine, regardless of the source. Natural or synthetic, it affects the body in the same way. One is not healthier than the other.

The additional ingredients used in caffeine pills have been linked to a wide range of serious health problems, as already mentioned.

Vivarin caffeine pills review

To give you a little context about my caffeine sensitivity, I drink caffeine every day. Sometimes only a little, sometimes 2-3 caffeinated drinks in a day. 

Whether it’s energy drinks, coffee, tea or some combination of them, I’ve made caffeine part of my daily routine and I absolutely love it.

So, I was excited to try caffeine pills to see how they compare to energy drinks or coffee.

I was a little bit concerned that 200mg of caffeine in the single pill might be a little bit too much, and after taking my pill together with my girlfriend who also took a full pill at 12:30pm I was bracing myself for what I thought might of been a overpowering and overwhelming kick.

Instead of feeling wired from too much caffeine and experiencing any of the negative effects like hot flushes or an inability to concentrate, I would say that the energy boost that I got from taking a caffeine pill was very underwhelming, and frankly, quite disappointing.

About 30 minutes after taking the pill I started to feel some good effects and I was excited.

In my mind I was telling myself “here we go, this is going to be good”, and that excitement lasted for about 15 minutes.

A disappointment 

Unfortunately though, things never really kicked in and an hour after taking the pill I wasn’t even sure if I felt any different than before I took it. 2 hours after taking the pill I was yawning and felt like I could take a nap and 3 hours after taking the pill I couldn’t resist the comfort of my bed and it was time for a power-siesta.

That never happens to me when I drink an energy drink or coffee, so it was quite a surprise.

Also worth mentioning is that the day before having the caffeine pill I drank a can of Celsius energy drink, which also contains 200mg of caffeine. I found Celsius to be an overpowering and uncomfortable energy boost that I didn’t really enjoy.

The same amount of caffeine, but very different effects.

I think this shows that it isn’t only the caffeine in energy drinks that contributes to your energy boost, but the combination of ingredients all work together.

In the few hours after we each had a pill, I asked my girlfriend if she could feel anything at various points, and she said that she didn’t feel a thing. Nothing at all. She’s 5’8″, 110 pounds and doesn’t drink caffeine all that often. 

Not what I was expecting

I have to admit, before I tried a caffeine pill I was a little worried that it might be fantastic.

I thought that if it delivered a similar energy boost to an energy drink that it might be a real threat to energy drinks because of the much lower price of a pill compared to a can. But I am happy (or disappointed?) to report that caffeine pills just don’t measure up to energy drinks in terms of the effects that I feel from consuming each of them. 

So there’s no need to worry that everyone will drop their energy drinks and switch to caffeine pills anytime soon, despite the cheaper price tag.

The funny thing is, even though I felt almost nothing and my girlfriend didn’t notice any changes in the way she felt either, we couldn’t just go ahead and have a 2nd pill soon after taking the first. That would be getting us to a dangerous amount of caffeine since each pill contains 200mg of caffeine. 

The bottom line?

Stick with energy drinks if you want a good energy boost that tastes great and is also enjoyable to consume.

Re-reading the list of “inactive ingredients” (mentioned above) and the associated health risks of some of the ingredients also makes me want to avoid these pills. 

Caffeine pills contain inactive ingredients that have been linked to cancer.
Caffeine pills contain a lot of questionable “inactive ingredients”.

Alternatives to caffeine pills

Caffeine pills are a cheap option to get some quick caffeine, but in my opinion they don’t deliver on their promise of an effective energy boost. I prefer energy drinks or a black coffee. 

If you’re looking for some great energy drinks to try instead of caffeine pills, here’s a list of some flavors and brands that you should take a closer look at. 

Ready-to-drink cans:

• Red Bull

• Rockstar

Bang energy drinks

Rip It energy drink

Guru energy drink

Celsius drinks

XS drinks


Monster Import energy drink

Bing energy

Energy drink powders:


Advocare Spark

G Fuel

• REIZE (10 out of 10)

These are some of the best energy drinks on the market, but there are plenty of others out there too if you do some research.

Of course, there are other caffeinated alternatives available too. Make it Mio by Kraft is just one of them to take a look at. 

There are many great energy drinks that work better than caffeine pills.
There are plenty of great alternatives to caffeine pills.

Better than caffeine pills

If you’re looking for an affordable energy boost that doesn’t disappoint, you might want to take a closer look at REIZE Energy Drink. 

REIZE is a powder that you mix with water to make a delicious energy drink anytime you need a boost and it ships right to your door for around $1 per drink.

Give REIZE a try today and you might just find that you prefer it to caffeine pills.

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Marty Spargo

I started my own energy drink brand in 2014 and am passionate about educating people about energy drinks so that they can properly understand the ingredients, benefits and risks without being influenced by the marketing messages put out by some brands. You can read my full bio here.

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