Coffee Vs. Red Bull: Which One Should You Choose?

Whether you have a long day ahead of you, need to study for an exam, or want to stay alert during a meeting or class, a caffeine kick can help you stay sharp and productive. Caffeine is a natural stimulant that can help increase your energy levels, improve your focus and concentration, and reduce feelings of tiredness or fatigue. 

Red Bull and coffee are both popular beverages that contain caffeine, but they have some key differences. Red Bull is an energy drink designed to increase your physical performance and mental alertness (via Healthline). While it does contain caffeine, it also contains other ingredients that can affect your body in different ways. On the other hand, coffee is made from roasted coffee beans and is a natural source of caffeine, says Healthline. It's a popular beverage that many people enjoy for its rich flavor and energizing effects. However, the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee can vary depending on the type of coffee and the brewing method used. 

Given a choice between Red Bull and coffee, you may wonder which one is better for your needs — and it turns out there are pros and cons to each. Let's dig in further.

How does their nutritional info compare?

When comparing the nutritional information of coffee and Red Bull, there are some key differences to consider. Coffee is a natural source of caffeine that is virtually calorie-free when consumed black. According to Healthline, a typical 240-ml cup of brewed coffee contains about 2 calories and 96 mg of caffeine. In addition to its stimulating effects, coffee can provide a range of health benefits due to its nutrient content — it is a natural source of magnesium, potassium, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), and various phenolic compounds that act as antioxidants, according to Medical News Today. These nutrients are important in supporting a healthy body by contributing to energy, nerve function, and immune system health. Furthermore, the antioxidants found in coffee may help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, per a 2014 paper published in the journal Molecules.

On the other hand, Red Bull is an energy drink that contains calories, sugar, and other ingredients. In addition to caffeine, a regular 8.4-ounce can of Red Bull contains around 11 calories and 27 grams of sugar. Red Bull also contains the amino acid called taurine as well as vitamins B6 and B12, magnesium, thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin, explains Healthline. Some energy drinks, including some varieties of Red Bull, may have sugar-free options available. Overall, when comparing the nutritional information of coffee and Red Bull, coffee tends to be the lower-calorie and lower-sugar option.

Which has more caffeine: coffee or Red Bull?

Typically, a cup of coffee contains more caffeine than a can of Red Bull. According to Healthline, a 240-ml cup of brewed coffee contains approximately 96 milligrams of caffeine, while an 8.4-ounce can of Red Bull contains approximately 75-80 milligrams of caffeine. Coffee can provide a longer-lasting boost of energy compared to Red Bull. However, remember that caffeine content can vary depending on the coffee brand or type, the brewing method, and the cup size.

In general, 400 milligrams of caffeine per day is the upper limit, says the Mayo Clinic. This will work out to approximately four cups of coffee, give or take. It's also worth noting that certain individuals may be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine and may need to consume less than 400 milligrams per day. Pregnant women, for example, are generally advised to limit caffeine intake to no more than 200 milligrams per day to reduce the risk of complications.

How coffee could impact your health

There are some potential pros and cons to be aware of when drinking coffee. On the positive side, when consumed in the right amount, coffee can help improve mental performance. According to a 2021 study published in the journal Scientific Reports, coffee may help improve cognitive function. Beyond mental performance, coffee has also been linked to a reduced risk of several chronic diseases. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, consuming coffee in moderation can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, liver disease, and certain cancers, and can also help improve gut health. It is believed that the beneficial compounds in coffee, such as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, may contribute to these potential health benefits.

That being said, moderation is important, as excessive caffeine consumption can have negative health effects. If you drink too much coffee, you might experience the jitters, along with an increased heart rate, insomnia, and anxiety, warns the Mayo Clinic. In some cases, drinking large amounts of caffeine can even lead to more serious health issues such as high blood pressure or heart problems.

How Red Bull could impact your health

On the plus side, Red Bull can be a convenient option if you need a quick pick-me-up on occasion. Red Bull has been shown to improve physical performance, making it a popular choice among athletes and fitness enthusiasts. For instance, a 2015 randomized controlled trial published in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance (IJSPP) found that moderate consumption of Red Bull increased cycling performance.

The drawback of consuming Red Bull is mainly due to the drink's high sugar content, which can contribute to weight gain and other health issues like diabetes if consumed frequently, per a 2015 study published in the International Journal of Health Sciences. MedicineNet also notes that drinking Red Bull could contribute to tooth decay and might negatively affect your kidneys. Additionally, the high caffeine content of Red Bull can lead to overconsumption, which can cause side effects such as anxiety, jitters, and insomnia.