Maybe you need an energy boost to get through final exams, stay awake during a long trip, or so you don’t nod off during a boring ceremony.
You’ve heard that energy drinks like the popular Red Bull can give you a boost, and you want to know just how much caffeine you can get.
Is downing a Red Bull the best way to mentally fly?
Before you pop open a can of your favorite energy drink, let’s take a look at how much of a kick you can get from the beverage and how it compares to a similar serving of coffee.
Red Bull Caffeine Content Summary
How does an energy drink like Red Bull get its wings?
Red Bull is made of water, beet sugar (in the case of the regular, or sweetened, version), and synthetically produced caffeine, taurine, and vitamins. Red Bull Sugarfree has artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and acesulfame K.
How much caffeine is in a Red Bull?
A can of Regular, Red Bull Zero, and Red Bull Sugarfree has about 150 mg of caffeine per 16-ounce serving of the energy drink. That’s significantly more caffeine than in other fizzy drinks like a can of coke for example but still less than Celsius energy.
The normal 8.4-ounce serving has almost 80 mg of caffeine. Other energy drinks such as Monster have a similar amount of caffeine.
How do those caffeine levels compare to a cup of coffee?
Related Read: Caffeine In Food
Red Bull Caffeine VS Coffee
Calculating the amount of caffeine in coffee isn’t as cut and dry as calculating an energy drink.
When coffee is brewed, a lot of variables come into play. Also, where the beans are from and how they were processed make a difference. Let’s take a quick look at those details.
The caffeine in coffee can vary a lot depending on the species or the type of plant. The two basic choices are Robusta vs Arabica, with Robusta giving you more caffeine.
How the beans were roasted can change the amount of caffeine, with darker roasted beans weighing in with less caffeine. And when you brew coffee, the amount of grinds you use and the brew time can influence the amount in the drink.
But let’s generalize and say that regular drip coffee (16-ounce serving) has about 180 mg of caffeine. Drinking an espresso, which is a one-ounce serving, gives you about 64 mg. If you make a pour-over, a 16-ounce serving has around 160 mg.
So when you look at the difference between the same serving size of Red Bull and coffee, Red Bull loses out on the caffeine content. Regular coffee has more caffeine than energy drinks like Red Bull.
But it’s not the only place where energy drinks come up short. Let’s look at the side effects and how your body reacts to drinking a serving of a Red Bull energy drink.
Related Read: Coffee VS Red Bull
Red Bull Side Effects
You’ve no doubt heard about the negative side effects of some energy drinks.
Keep in mind that one of the problems is that some teenagers or young adults around the world don’t stick to the healthy limits of the drink. When they down several cans in a short space of time, they go way beyond a daily healthy caffeine intake – and they feel the consequences.
Most doctors will confirm that drinking 400 mg of caffeine is fine for most adults. That’s a lot of cups of joe to drink in one day. Those rules change for pregnant women, where the safe levels are cut in half.
What side effects do people feel when drinking Red Bull – and especially when they drink them frequently or drink too much?
Can Increase Heart Rate
One of the most worrisome side effects of Red Bull or other energy drinks is that they may cause high blood pressure and increased heart rate.
While one episode of high blood pressure isn’t something to worry about, regularly raising or maintaining high blood pressure and heart rate can lead to complications.
That’s why you often hear stories of people who drank a few Red Bulls or other energy drinks and had problems.
Can Cause Insomnia
Any increase in caffeine can cause insomnia.
With Red Bulls, it can be easy to down a few and find yourself way past the daily healthy limit. In turn, that can affect your sleep quality at night.
Keep in mind that many foods, including beverages such as tea and hot chocolate, also contain caffeine and affect the body. That means that if you’re drinking those beverages along with a Red Bull, your caffeine content for the day will be flying high.
If you find it difficult to sleep at night and you’re consuming high amounts of caffeine, consider cutting back on drinking caffeinated beverages or limiting them to morning hours.
May Increase Diabetes Risk
Let’s talk about beverages with added sugar.
A regular Red Bull (or other energy drink) falls into that category, since it’s made with added sugars. One 8.4-ounce can of Red Bull contains a whopping 27 grams of sugar, which according to the CDC is more sugar than some people should consume in a whole day.
And those calories are empty and bring no other benefits. So while orange juice or other fruit juices also have sugar, they also have vitamins and minerals that benefit your health.
In the case of Red Bulls, there are no natural vitamins, minerals, or fiber that come along with the calories.
When considering the sugar content in a Red Bull, also consider how a Red Bull fits into the rest of your diet. If you eat a normal diet, you may include fruit and maybe the occasional dessert.
Adding a calorie-packed energy drink like a Red Bull to your diet can put you way over the healthy amount of sweets for the day.
And if you’re drinking a Red Bull on a regular basis, that can put you on the fast track to potential health risks such as diabetes and other health problems caused by excessive sweets.
Obviously, the same amount of a sugar-free version of Red Bull doesn’t have any sweetener, so this risk only applies to the regular Red Bull.
Coffee Or Red Bull?
So which should you be drinking, coffee or Red Bull? Let’s take a closer look at both and compare the two in regard to taste, sugar, and caffeine.
Taste is obviously a matter of judgment. But while coffee tastings are highly appreciated by coffee lovers around the world, there’s not much of a demand for Red Bull tastings.
The reason is simply that the taste of Red Bull isn’t full of those surprises and delights that you’ll find in good quality coffee.
Taste is rarely the main reason most people reach for a Red Bull energy drink. They just want the caffeine rush to give them increased mental focus or physical strength.
What about coffee lovers?
People who love coffee often wax poetic over the tastes in their cup. Yes, perhaps they appreciate the energy rush. And there are some people who only choose coffee for that rush.
But many people love to linger over a sweet, complex, and fascinating pour-over. Or they thrill at tasting a cappuccino with nutty notes and luxurious foam.
Or they marvel at the crema on top of their espresso. The tasting experience is a huge part of drinking coffee. And a Red Bull can’t provide that experience.
We already discussed the sugar content in a Red Bull. Just one can has well over the sugar limits that most adults should have.
So if you’re watching your weight, taking care of your health, or want to avoid extra sweeteners, energy drinks won’t fit in with your lifestyle.
But what about coffee?
One of the awesome things about coffee is that the sugar content is very low. A serving has just a bit of calories, and those few calories mean a lot less sugar in your overall diet. For example, a cold brew won’t create a dent in your dietary goals and won’t lead to weight gain.
Of course, that holds true only as long as you don’t add ingredients to your coffee like whole milk, whipped cream, or sugary syrups.
Obviously, if you add other sweet ingredients to your coffee, the sugar count goes up and you could be at risk for weight gain. How can you add tasty ingredients to your coffee without increasing the calories and fat?
Use skim or non-fat milk, which foams up quite well in beverages like cappuccinos. You can also look into non-sweetened plant substitutes and coffee syrups that have no sweeteners.
As we mentioned, there is a bit more caffeine in coffee than in a serving of Red Bull.
The caffeine content in either of the two beverages will give you a boost of energy and may give you health benefits, such as helping you concentrate better and perform better when exercising.
Keep in mind that these benefits come with moderate consumption. Overdosing on caffeinated beverages will negatively affect your health, so avoid downing many cups of coffee or several cans of Red Bull.
Coffee also gives you other health benefits besides the energy boost.
Coffee also boasts antioxidants that can improve your overall health. Research suggests that coffee may also help some people avoid certain diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and Alzheimer’s.
And some people find their migraine headaches improve when drinking moderate amounts of caffeine. If you still suffer from migraines while drinking caffeine, you may need to avoid it entirely, whether it comes from coffee or Red Bull.
When you need a caffeine fix, should you reach for a Red Bull energy drink or for a cup of coffee?
That depends on a lot of factors such as your preferences and lifestyle. No one can tell you which of those two you should choose.
But you’re probably interested in safe caffeinated beverages that will boost your energy while boosting your health.
That’s a hard combination to get in artificial beverages like a Red Bull. No matter how much caffeine in Red Bull, there are still side effects when downing an energy drink.
And the 80 mg of caffeine in a Red Bull is actually less than in a cup of coffee, so it’s not the energy-giving beverage that some people assume it is.
On the other hand, coffee may just provide the energy and health benefits you want. And if you want a regular consumption of caffeinated drinks in your diet, you might want to stick with a cup of coffee to avoid added sweeteners and artificial ingredients.