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Coffee vs energy drinks: which is better?

Coffee vs energy drinks: which is better?

To power through a mid-day slump or give yourself a jolt of energy in the morning, many of us turn to either coffee or energy drinks. Both beverages provide a quick pick-me-up when it counts, but one source of caffeine provides more health benefits than the other.

For the health-conscious consumer, coffee is the smarter choice. On the other hand, energy drinks offer some advantages that coffee can’t. In this guide, we’ll break down when to choose a coffee, and when it might be a good idea to reach for an energy drink instead.

The battle of the caffeinated beverages

Coffee and energy drinks have one stark similarity that set them apart from other grab-and-go beverages: they both contain caffeine. Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant and is consumed all around the world, usually in the morning in the form of a drink such as tea, coffee, or soda.

Caffeine blocks a neurochemical called adenosine. When adenosine can’t bind to its receptor in the brain, the body doesn’t get a chance to feel drowsy. Therefore, caffeine prevents the body and mind from feeling tired and fatigued for a short while.

In recent years, energy drinks have hit store shelves and taken the caffeinated beverage market by storm. The popularity of drink brands such as Red Bull, Monster Energy, 5-Hour Energy, and Rockstar attest to the public’s enthusiasm for sweet, cold caffeinated drinks.

Today, coffee companies and energy drink manufacturers compete to be your go-to choice for a liquid source of energy. Below, we outline some of the advantages of choosing coffee, as well as the several benefits of opting for energy drinks.

Why you should choose coffee

There are many reasons why coffee has a leg up on energy drinks if you want a clean and affordable source of energy during the day. Here are a handful of our favorite reasons why coffee is (in most cases) the superior refreshment.

No calories, no guilt

If you don’t add dairy or sugar to your coffee, it’s calorie-free. While calories aren’t necessarily a bad thing, for those on a diet having a calorie-free energy option can be a lifesaver. When consumed black, coffee won’t make you crash either. Since sugar is short-lived in the body, it causes energy levels to plummet after roughly half an hour.

By contrast, energy drinks are loaded with sugar. Even “sugar-free” energy drink varieties have heaps of artificial sweeteners in them, which can have negative health consequences. For a cleaner, guilt-free drink option, coffee is the better call.

The cheaper choice

Those on a budget will appreciate coffee’s low price tag. Unlike energy drinks, which boast massive price markups, coffee costs very little when purchased in bulk and prepared at home. For instance, the price of a case of energy drinks is roughly equal to the cost of coffee for a month or more.

Superior caffeine content

A standard Red Bull can contain 80mg of caffeine per serving. Coffee, by comparison, boasts up to 200mg in a strong cup. It’s clear to see which option gives you more bang for your buck.

If loads of caffeine aren’t your thing, consider pouring a small cup of coffee (i.e., six to eight ounces) to cut back on caffeine. Alternatively, you could brew a dark roast blend which contains less caffeine than light or blonde roast.

No junk ingredients

Coffee doesn’t contain any bogus ingredients. A cup of black coffee only has one ingredient: coffee beans. The chemicals and flavonoids in coffee, such as quinic acid, trigonelline, and 2-ethylphenol, are all naturally-occurring and are harmless to ingest.

Energy drinks, by comparison, are loaded with ingredients that your body doesn’t need. Here are a few of the most popular energy drink additives:

  • Guarana (Brazilian cocoa)
  • Ginseng
  • Taurine
  • Green Tea Extract
  • L-Carnitine
  • Pyridoxine Hydrochloride
  • Glucuronolactone

Some of the ingredients listed above are harmless and even quite good for you, while others might have negative consequences for your health. Especially in higher doses, sugar and sugar substitutes have been linked to diabetes, insulin spikes, and obesity.

Suits your tastes

Energy drinks are sweet due to their high concentration of sugar and artificial sweeteners. Fortunately, coffee lets you decide for yourself how you want it to taste. For instance, a black cup of coffee will taste acidic and bitter will a double-double with be creamy and sweet. Therefore, coffee can be personalized to one’s tastes more so than energy drinks.

Why you should choose energy drinks

In strict moderation, energy drinks can be enjoyed safely. Caffeine lovers with a sweet tooth might find that energy drinks satisfy their cravings more than coffee, or they might find that the additional ingredients like taurine and ginseng give them an extra boost. Here are a few of our top reasons why someone might prefer energy drinks.

Sweet tooth satisfaction

If you’re a sucker for a sweet snack, then energy drinks might be your thing. However, you should make sure you don’t overdo it on sugar or artificial sweeteners so you prevent unwanted “crashes” in the middle of the day.

Experiencing an energy crash will leave you right back where you were in the first place—grouchy and sluggish.

Ginseng boost

The ginseng root has been cultivated for hundreds of years to boost energy levels and curb stress. In search of its revitalizing power, some consumers prefer energy drinks with ginseng.

However, there is little scientific evidence available confirming ginseng’s medicinal properties. That’s why ginseng is often considered a marketing ploy, added only to convince consumers that the beverage is healthier than it actually is.

B vitamin supplementation

Unlike coffee (except for Noocaf), energy drinks are full of useful B vitamins that can enhance performance and provide energy to the body and mind. You should note that some of the B vitamins found in energy drinks are consumed naturally in one’s diet, so it’s generally considered “overkill” to supplement them with energy drinks.

Taurine: is it worth switching to energy drinks for?

The amino acid taurine is one of the primary ingredients in energy drinks. This chemical is a mood and energy-enhancing substance. It's one of the biggest drivers of the focused concentration you feel when you have an energy drink and is also one of the reasons we included it in our Focus blend.

Supplementing with taurine is banned in some countries under performance-enhancing drug laws. Check in with your local laws and regulations to make sure taurine consumption isn’t a prohibitable offense.

Our verdict

Coffee is almost always the superior choice over energy drinks. As an all-natural, delicious source of energy and antioxidants, you can’t go wrong with a cup of joe to wake you up in the morning or give you an afternoon recharge.

Compared to energy drinks, coffee provides a calorie-free, crash-free supply of vitality throughout the day. There are definitely a lot of positives that come with energy drinks, however one of our goals with creating Noocaf was to take the best parts of energy drinks (the non-sugary beneficial ingredients) and add them to coffee without ruining what makes coffee so great.

Don’t fall for elaborate marketing schemes and gimmicks. There’s a reason coffee is the preferred choice for millions of people around the world—when put to the test, energy drinks don’t measure up. Next time you need a little energy spike, skip the sugary stuff and keep it natural by choosing a cup of coffee or Noocaf instead.

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