Coffee vs. Energy Drinks: Which One Is Worse for Your Heart?

In the old coffee vs. energy drinks debate, which is worse for your heart?

There's good news if you're looking for an answer. That's because the science is definitive in this debate. But, like with all things, everything depends on a whole bunch of factors.

Ask yourself this:

Have you ever drank an entire tall boy can of some energy drink? Afterward, did you feel dizzy? Maybe you even felt nauseous. At the least, you could feel your heart pounding in your chest.

Now think about the last time you drank a tall cup of coffee. We're not talking about a super-jazzed-up espresso. Just a normal cup of joe. Did you have a cup this morning?

If so, did you feel like your heart was about to explode? Probably not.

Both the energy drink and the coffee will keep you awake. But only one isn't going to kill you quickly.


Cup filled with coffee

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Have you wondered why caffeine keeps you awake? After all, in the coffee vs. energy drinks debate, it all comes down to caffeine. And caffeine works in a weird, wonderful way.

But first, remember when we said there was science involved? Well, here it is.

Get this:

The brain creates a chemical called adenosine. And this chemical binds to adenosine receptors, which slows down cell activity all through your body. As a result, we feel drowsy and want to sleep.

But then along comes caffeine.

You see, caffeine also binds itself to the adenosine receptors, blocking that nice drowsy chemical from binding. Because your nerve cells aren't being told to slow down, they do the opposite. That is, they speed up.

Here's where it gets really weird. Your body now thinks there's an emergency, so it starts pumping out adrenaline. You know, that stuff that fills you with energy so you can outrun a bear?

Voila! Now you're wide awake!

But when you slurp back an energy drink, you get between 6 and 20 times the amount of caffeine in a regular cup of coffee.

Let's take a look.


RedBull Energy drink

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We all know what coffee consists of. Basically, water and coffee. But what about energy drinks? When you compare coffee vs. energy drinks, you're comparing two completely different beasts.

For starters, the average eight-ounce cup of coffee contains 95 milligrams of caffeine. We'll use that as our benchmark.

Then, when we look at energy drinks, we hit a wall of variety. Decaf energy drinks have the lowest caffeine levels, between 5 and 10 milligrams. So long for "decaf."

Meanwhile, those 10-Hour Energy shots have the most. They scored an off-the-chart 422 milligrams of caffeine per 2 ounces!

But there's more.

In addition to caffeine, energy drinks contain guarana, which is another South American plant filled with caffeine.

Then there's all the sugar, ranging from between 20 to 34 grams per 8 ounces. Then they'll throw in some ginseng, a bunch of additives, and enough taurine to fulfill your meat diet for a year. That's all in one drink.


So which drink is worse for your heart, coffee vs. energy drinks?

It's probably no surprise that energy drinks are not only worse for your heart, but they're also absolutely horrible for your heart and your body.

In fact, researchers discovered that 32 ounces of an energy drink cause harmful changes to blood pressure, heart rate, and brain function. That's after drinking only one can of an energy drink!

Also, they found blood pressure spiked by five points. That's what causes that pounding feeling in your chest, as your heart works overtime to pump all that blood through as quickly as possible.


In addition to the horrible effects energy drinks have your heart and blood pressure, there's the issue of obesity.

Researchers conducted a study, and they gave one group of people caffeine-only drinks, and the second group energy drinks. The group who had only caffeine-drinks did not gain any weight.

But the group who drank energy drinks gained up to 12 percent body weight! They concluded that the sugars and additives found in energy drinks cause obesity.


Tiger Energy drink

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Coffee vs. energy drinks. A cup of joe vs. a tall boy of a drink that gives you wings. A nice morning wake-up vs. a chemical-induced heart attack. Which should you choose?

Now that you know how terrible energy drinks are, you need to ask yourself if you really need them in your life. Sure, they might have some good qualities. They definitely help wake you up!

There are definitely some pros for energy drinks, to go along with all those cons.


I get it. You see, I used to work as a security manager at a massive airport in Toronto. Pearson International has three terminals and processes millions of passengers per year.

I worked long, stressful shifts. And my commute home took an hour. So I relied on energy drinks to drive home safely late at night.

Coffee probably wouldn't have done the same job.

  • Taste great
  • Instant alertness
  • Keep you awake for a long period of time
  • Cold and refreshing


In the coffee vs. energy drinks battle, you already know all the bad things energy drinks have in store for you.

  • Spike blood pressure
  • Dangerous for heart
  • Cause obesity
  • Lots of chemicals and other additives
  • Pricey

After all that, why even bother with them?

There are better ways to stay alert.


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By now you're probably wondering if there are any other options besides the old coffee vs. energy drinks dichotomy.

Good news!

There are some great ways to stay alert without exploding your heart. Consequently, when you're facing a long drive after a hard day of work, or you need to cram all night before an exam, there are things you can do to help.

Let's dive right in.


Did you know that a good workout wakes you right up? It's true! When you work out, your body releases a lot of endorphins, and those feel great. Have you heard of runner's high? That's caused by all those endorphins.

Endorphins improve focus, boost alertness, and put you in a great mood. So grab some hand weights, like these SPRI vinyl-coated dumbbells, and pump yourself awake.


Next up is a great way to give yourself a shot of energy. Forget worrying about coffee vs. energy drinks. Instead, grab a quick power nap and wake up feeling like you slept all night.

To do it right, you need to sleep for 20 minutes. But you need to put yourself into a deep sleep in that time. You may need a sleep mask like this awesome Unimi 3D contoured sleep mask. Additionally, put some white noise on your phone and pop your earphones in.

Take your nap an hour after lunch, or right before you need to drive, or start a long night shift. Set an alarm. Also, don't dawdle, and get right to sleep. Finally, when your alarm goes off, wake up right away. You'll feel great!


Imagine gobbling a bag of popcorn or a ham sandwich on whole wheat bread to stay awake. In truth, thanks to complex carbohydrates, you can!

Because complex carbs consist of a lot of sugars, you get a burst of long-lasting energy. You see, your body burns carbs as energy. When it doesn't have any carbs to burn, it starts to burn its own reserves of fat and muscle. And then you get sleepy.

So eat some complex, starchy foods for a quick energy boost. However, candies and refined sugars are useless, as they come with a sugar crash after a short time. You need rice, barley, corn, potatoes, and whole grains. So basically a nice Irish stew.


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Another great way to get alert is to take a cold shower. Of course, this is more like a slap in the face than a tasty meal or a nap, but it works.

That's because cold water improves your circulation. It gets the heart pumping and the blood flowing. When you're feeling tired, your metabolism slows down. You get drowsy. A cold shower kick starts your entire body.

Of course, your nerves don't like it one bit. Perhaps that's why it works? But if you're not a "blast me in the face with freezing water" kind of person, try a contrast shower.

Start with warm water (not hot). Then gradually make the water cooler. Once it's cold, rinse one leg, then the other. Work your way up to your torso and do the rest of your body. Save your head for last.

By that time, your body will have acclimatized a bit. Then, make the water warm again and start over with the cold. Do that a few times. Good morning!


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So what does all this mean?

Basically, don't drink energy drinks. When you're choosing between coffee vs. energy drinks, remember that energy drinks are harmful. They're worse for your heart than almost anything else you can buy in a convenience store. They contribute to obesity. And they don't do anything that so many alternatives can do.

But what if you can't have a nap, eat a sandwich, or pump iron?

Do you remember when I said I drank energy drinks every night to get home from work? Well, one night I discovered a small mom-and-pop diner just off the main highway from the airport. They made the best cup of coffee I've ever had. Soon, I was a nightly customer. I would pop in around midnight, drink a single cup of coffee, and enjoy 10 minutes of peace and quiet after work. Then I'd hit the road home.

So when all else fails, enjoy a cup of joe. At least your heart won't explode.

Do you have any tips to stay awake without energy drinks? Let us know in the comments!

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