It's not uncommon to grab a cup of coffee or an energy drink to pull an all-nighter before a final. Even though both provide you with a good dose of caffeine, black coffee is probably better for you because it's free of refined sugars and lacks the preservatives common in energy drinks. However, if you're still on the fence between coffee vs energy drinks, consider the following facts to figure out which is the best drink for you. 

Caffeine Content

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Shelby Cohron

The caffeine content of coffee vs energy drinks depends on a lot of things like the brand, size, how strong the drink is, etc. But for most cases, coffee contains more caffeine than energy drinks. For example, a Starbucks grande Caffe Americano (16 oz) has 225 mg of caffeine and a Red Bull can (8 oz) has 80 mg. However, there are certain brands, like Rockstar 2x Energy, that contain more caffeine than coffee. To put things into perspective, a healthy adult can consume up to 400mg of caffeine a day without adverse side effects, so it's up to you whether or not you want to ingest that much caffeine.

Even though coffee tends to have more caffeine, additives in energy drinks, like taurine, work as enhancers that might help avoid energy crashes and boost athletic performance. So if you need a caffeine boost before you hit the gym, an energy drink may help you have a better session at the gym.

Ingredient List

Coffee has one ingredient: coffee beans. If you order a Mocha Frapuccino at Starbucks, obviously this ingredients list expands to include a lot of sugar and flavorings. With this in mind, it's always best to drink coffee black or with a splash of milk to avoid nasty ingredients and additives. 

Conversely, energy drinks have a long list of ingredients like glucose, sodium citrate, and artificial colors and flavors. They also usually contain added vitamins like B12 and calcium that might help you get energy. Nevertheless, your body doesn't absorb added vitamins as well as vitamins that naturally occur in whole foods so you shouldn't rely on these added vitamins when choosing between coffee vs energy drinks.

Sugar Content

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Even if you add a couple teaspoons of sugar and a splash of milk to your coffee, energy drinks typycally contain much more sugar. One Red Bull (8 oz) contains a whopping 26 grams of added sugar, which is more than half of the daily recommended amount in a typical 2,000 calorie diet. Even the sugar-free versions of energy drinks are not very good for you, because they contain artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose. So if you're worried about your sugar intake, only add a teaspoon of sugar or a natural sweetener to your coffee.


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Beatriz Gras

A high amount of calories doesn't necessarily mean a food or drink is unhealthy (your body needs calories to function properly, after all). However, it's important to keep in mind where you're getting your calories from and seek out filling, wholesome sources. To make a comparison, a cup of black coffee has 0 calories and a can of a typical energy drink like Monster has 110 calories, which comes mainly from all the added sugar.

If you don't have another option, there's nothing wrong with drinking energy drinks every once in a while – it's almost like drinking soda. But if you have to make the decision of drinking coffee vs energy drinks, choose coffee because it's a natural source of caffeine. If you drink coffee black, you don't have to worry about calories, sugar, or additives.

#SpoonTip: When in doubt, chat with your doctor about which source of caffeine (if any) is right for you.