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Are Energy Drinks Really Less Healthy Than Coffee? The Surprising Facts

cropped man holding aluminum can of energyy drink

With so much coffee consumption going around, it’s no wonder people want to know whether energy drinks are better or worse for you than coffee. It’s our duty to tell you that coffee is healthier than energy drinks for several reasons.

In the article below, we will talk about what makes energy drinks the least healthy of the two, how they compare, and whether there are any healthy energy drinks available. Keep reading below for all the info you need on both.

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What Are Energy Drinks?

Most people have heard of energy drinks, right? Popular ones such as Red Bull, Monster, and Rockstar have been on the market for a few decades making their mark on the industry. Not many people know what separates an energy drink from other caffeinated beverages, though.

So, what is an energy drink?

On a general level, an energy drink is typically a carbonated flavored beverage that contains a lot of sugar, additives, and caffeine. They also usually have other artificial and natural stimulants such as:

  • Guarana
  • Taurine
  • L-carnitine

The stimulants have the same effect as coffee. They can improve athletic performance, increase alertness and attention, and generally give you a boost of energy.

On the downside, they have the same side effects as coffee like jitteriness and anxiety. They can also have more troubling effects like high blood pressure, increased breathing, and speeding heart rate.

When you combine caffeine with other stimulants, energy drinks end up having far more caffeine than your average cup of coffee. As an example, a cup of drip coffee has approximately 95 mg of caffeine whereas a Rockstar has over 200 mg of caffeine.

Keep in mind, that energy drinks come in larger quantities than a normal cup of coffee. They typically come in a can that is at least 16 oz. So, you are consuming the caffeine slower than if it was more concentrated in a smaller portion.

That is the problem with energy shots, but that is a story for another day.

cropped man holding a can of red bull energy energy drink
Image Credit: Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash

How Do Energy Drinks Compare to Coffee?

We already talked about the difference in caffeine concentration and quantity size in energy drinks versus coffee. Those are not the only differences, though.

Coffee, as you know, is prepared black. You then have the option to add additional ingredients such as milk, cream, sweeteners, syrups, etc.

Energy drinks come with extra ingredients already added so you are not given the choice of what you want. Also, energy drinks are typically carbonated, always served cold, and are mostly fruity, sweet flavors.

Coffee on its own is a natural product. Again, this is also where energy drinks differ. They can have a lot of artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners amongst many other ingredients that are not always above par.

Are Energy Drinks Worse Than Coffee?

You have probably already guessed; energy drinks are generally thought to be worse for you than coffee. We have already gone over many reasons, but there are still some more that we have not talked about yet.

  • Coffee has no calories whereas caffeine typically has a lot of sugar which translates into calories.
  • They have roughly the same amount of caffeine. You consume caffeine in a large energy drink vs a smaller cup of coffee.
  • You have a lot more options with coffee than you do with energy drinks. Although you may think there are a lot of options out there, when you think of the number of coffee beans, blends, and specialty drinks, they far outweigh energy drinks.
  • Energy drinks are easier to consume. You can drink more of them in a shorter period increasing your risk of nasty side effects.
energy drink health
Image credit: Gabriel Matula, Unsplash

Can You Drink Both at The Same Time?

Caffeine poisoning is quite real. Consuming too much of it in a short period can be fatal. Drinking both beverages at the same time is highly discouraged. Even if the worst should not happen, you’re likely to end up with all kinds of nasty side effects from doing so. Here are some of the most common.

  • Jitteriness
  • Headache
  • Dehydration
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Disorientation
  • Insomnia
  • Irritation
  • Seizures

While not all of these are likely to happen, the more caffeine you drink, the higher your chances are of coming down with one or more of these ailments. Play it on the safe side, and drink one or the other.

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The 3 Healthiest Energy Drinks

Like coffee, not all energy drinks are made equal with some being healthier than others. For starters, those with lower caffeine, sugar, calories, and sodium are going to be better for you in the long run.

Here are a few healthier energy drink options we think you will enjoy.

1. ZOA Zero Sugar

ZOA Zero Sugar

This zero-sugar option is a great alternative to the Monsters and Red Bulls of the world. With several different flavors available, it supports immune health, has plenty of vitamins, and still gives you the boost of energy you’re looking for without the crash.

2. A Shoc

A Shoc

A Shoc is considered the “smart” energy drink. It has no sugar, artificial flavors, colors, and no chemical preservatives. It comes in a wide range of tasty flavors you can try. They also add in a host of vitamins, nutrients, and amino acids to give you the right boost of energy to tackle your day.

3. Goat Fuel

Goat Fuel

Goat Fuel is another zero-sugar option that is designed to be a pre-work-out help aid that will get you energized for the tough training session in front of you. It contains cordyceps mushrooms, BCAA’s, and electrolytes to keep your energy up without dehydrating you in the process.

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Final Thoughts

For those who love their energy drinks, we regret to tell you that they are not good for you. When you compare them to coffee, they fall before the finish line in nutrition, performance, taste, and even choice.

Although we can’t argue that having one from time to time is not a big deal, you are far better off making coffee or tea your go-to caffeinated beverage in the future. We hope this article has answered all your questions on the subject!

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Featured Image Credit: izikMD, Shutterstock


Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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