Energy Drinks vs Coffee (differences and benefits)

While coffee is more strongly associated with the mornings and energy drinks with exercise and staying up late at night, you may be wondering which drink is ultimately the better choice.

Perhaps you’re a strong supporter of either team energy drink or team coffee, but either way, you can’t deny that they’re both great, having benefits of their own.

Then comes the question: will coffee or energy drinks give you more benefits?

If you’re wondering which one of these drinks would serve you better, I would tell you now that both are equal and it’s more of a matter of personal preference when putting one over the other.

Interested to find out how I’ve reached this conclusion? Read on, as we dissect the differences and similarities between energy drinks and coffee.

Let’s get started…

Energy Drinks

Energy drinks gathered together on a pavement
Energy drinks are great and offer tons of benefits.

Energy drinks, much like coffee, contain caffeine. However, unlike coffee, they also contain so many more ingredients such as guarana, sugar, vitamins, sodium, and potassium.

Due to that, energy drinks give you more of a well-rounded boost in energy depending on the brand that you pick, helping to increase your cognitive abilities, reduce fatigue, and more.

While you don’t have control over the individual mix of ingredients of each can of energy drink, you do have control over which energy drinks to pick, and with that, the amount of caffeine and sugar you consume as well.

Though the most notable ingredient of energy drinks is caffeine, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to contain an absurd amount of it (I’ll go into detail regarding the recommended amount of caffeine below).

Coffee

person holding a mug of coffee
Coffee is a good morning pick me up.

Coffee comparatively is made of a more simple mix of ingredients, though it can differ slightly depending on the brand.

With that said, due to how a variety of coffee beans are available, the amount of caffeine in your cup could differ depending on the type of roast and coffee you choose, as there are even decaffeinated versions of coffee.

As a result, it’s quite difficult to know exactly how much caffeine you’re getting from any single coffee, unlike energy drinks, which are standardized.

Thankfully, you don’t have to be a coffee expert to be able to pick your ideal coffee as your local barista or the back of the coffee can probably help you with that.

Though the most simple form of coffee is Americano (aka “long black”), the beauty of coffee is in its flexibility, where you can customize it to your liking by adding some sugar, milk, syrup, or creamer to suit your taste.

This is great because it allows you more control over what you drink.

Where can you get them?

You can get both energy drinks and coffee almost anywhere. The most convenient way is of course to either just buy them off the shelf in your local store.

However, if you’d like a better price or prefer shipping to your doorstep then I would suggest buying them through online shopping platforms.

In the case of coffee, if you’re a coffee connoisseur, you may even consider brewing your very own cup of coffee from scratch at home, which might be time-consuming but worth it if you’re a true coffee lover.

Besides the usual can, both energy drinks and coffee come in powdered form as well, which you can make yourself, allowing for more room for customization than the canned versions which are pre-made for you.

However, unlike energy drinks that have a set composition unique to the brand, powdered coffee can be fully black or pre-mixed with sugar and creamer, which allows for more options.

This isn’t to say that you can’t further customize your powdered energy drink by adding more sugar, but I personally don’t see the point as energy drinks are generally already made with enough flavor.

Energy Drinks vs Coffee Ingredients

Caffeine

Cofffee beans
Caffeine is found in both energy drinks and coffee and is a vital component of both.

Recent studies on caffeine suggest that it has benefits for our cognitive ability and alertness as well as helpful in protecting against diseases such as Parkinson’s and Type 2 diabetes.

Between coffee and energy drinks, they’re pretty much the same in terms of the amount of caffeine in one serving. In fact, it’s shown that energy drinks can contain less caffeine than coffee.

However, the caffeine content in energy drinks may vary largely depending on the brand.

For example, one of my favorite energy drinks, REIZE, only contains 50mg of caffeine per sachet, while on the other end of the spectrum, Bang Energy Drink contains 300mg of caffeine.

Comparatively, the average caffeine content in coffee is noted to be at “about” 95mg, ranging from 70 to 140mg of caffeine for brewed coffee, which is moderately high.

Do take note, however, that the maximum amount of caffeine that should be consumed by any healthy adult per day is 400mg according to the FDA’s guidelines.

Excessive consumption of caffeine has been found to lead to detrimental side effects, such as:

  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Frequent urination or inability to control urination
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Muscle tremors

Even if you were to keep within the FDA’s guidelines, you also have to take your own caffeine tolerance into account when choosing a caffeinated drink, otherwise, you may still experience some side effects.

This unfortunately, is the same for both energy drinks or coffee.

Sugar

sugar in a glass jar
Too much sugar is never great.

Sugar-wise, with a cup of coffee, you can easily control the amount in your drink, whereas with energy drinks, they can range from having no sugar at all to having as high as 54g of sugar per serving as evidenced by Monster.

Though if you’re looking at canned coffee, that’ll be an entirely different story altogether where taking Nescafe’s canned coffee as an example, it contains 11.1g of sugar per 8.11 fl.oz which cannot be modified.

In terms of having lower sugar content, this makes coffee the winner if you were to exclude sugar-free energy drinks, but if you include them, I’d say that sugar-free energy drinks are definitely better.

But again, do note that regardless of how much energy drinks or coffee you choose to drink, make sure you don’t exceed AHA‘s suggested maximum sugar intake:

GenderMaximum daily intake
Men150kcal / 37.5g / 9 tsp
Women100kcal / 25g / 6 tsp
Maximum recommended daily sugar allowance according to the AHA.

Otherwise, you may experience some nasty side effects which may affect your health, such as:

  • Weight gain
  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Acne
  • Increased risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Increased risk of cancer

Safety

Regarding the question of whether there is an age or demographic that makes it unsafe to drink energy drinks or coffee, it really depends.

As both drinks contain caffeine, there is some likelihood of caffeine toxicity occurring amongst adolescents if the consumption is not regulated.

Besides the age factor, if you are pregnant, I would strongly advise you against the consumption of highly caffeinated energy drinks or coffee, as research has suggested a link with premature infant birth weight.

Therefore, neither are completely safe for adolescents or pregnant women to be drinking and as such, as far as safety goes, I’d say both energy drinks and coffee are equal in that sense.

That said, if you’re pregnant and still insist on having an energy drink, you can refer to an article on the best energy drinks for pregnancy that I’ve written on the topic.

Effects of Coffee and Energy Drinks

There are many effects of both coffee and energy drinks, some are good, while others, not so much. I’ll start with the positives.

Drinking coffee comes with a whole plethora of positives. Some of the more notable ones include offering protection against:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Liver disease, including liver cancer
  • Heart attack and stroke

Comparatively some of the benefits of drinking energy drinks are:

  • Boost in energy levels
  • Improved concentration and memory
  • Faster post-workout recovery
  • Improved mood

On the flip side, there are also some pretty bad side effects if you drink too much coffee or too many energy drinks. However, if you know your limit and control yourself, you should be safe from these effects.

For coffee some nasty side effects may include:

  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Increase in blood sugar levels
  • Acid reflux
  • Heartburn

These side effects range from small illnesses to pretty deadly ones and from what I can tell, they’re pretty risky.

For energy drinks, some side effects that may be bad for your health include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia

So which one gives you more benefits?

As coffee is good for a wake me up, and energy drinks are good for when you need that extra boost in energy for working out or for staying up during the night. I would say they are both good in their own way.

So as far as it goes, neither one exactly stands above the other, and it all boils down to personal preference and the occasion for which you need a drink.

But regardless of which one you choose to drink, remember that drinking too much of either is not recommended as it could lead to you experiencing some awful side effects.

So make sure you don’t overdo it with either and cause yourself to suffer from some of the more negative effects.

Final thoughts

Personally, I prefer energy drinks because while coffee is great, it doesn’t give you the type of all-around energy that energy drinks do.

Just a personal preference but I prefer a drink which has a set composition, as it means I can have more confidence in knowing what I’m drinking.

Not to mention, I can control my caffeine amount by simply choosing an energy drink with my ideal caffeine amount.

But that’s just my opinion and you might be different.

Ultimately, I think the decision to drink an energy drink or a coffee often comes down to a question of taste preferences.

List of some good Energy Drinks

If you’re considering switching over to energy drinks from coffee, here are some of my personal recommendations of energy drinks for each category:

Powders:

Ready-to-drink cans:

REIZE Energy Drink (10 out of 10)

REIZE energy drink
REIZE is the best energy drink in my book.

Of all the energy drinks mentioned above, REIZE is the clear winner in my opinion.

With a sensible 50mg of caffeine per serve and with no sugar, REIZE gives you a perfect energy boost without the crash.

Not to mention that REIZE also contains other great ingredients such as ginseng, taurine and B group vitamins. These smart ingredients work together with the caffeine to give you the ideal energy boost, without overdoing it.

And to add to that, not only does it taste great, but it’s also friendly on your wallet as it ships right to your door for only about $1 per drink.

I don’t know about you, but it sounds like a great deal to me!

Try REIZE today, and who knows, it might even replace your morning coffee.

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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