The Big Difference Between Caffeine And Taurine

You likely have had a cup of coffee or an energy drink to get a quick boost. But while coffee's main ingredient is well-known, the actual ingredients in energy drinks are more of a mystery. Taurine is believed to be the ingredient in your energy drink that pumps you up. And while the effects may be similar to caffeine, taurine and caffeine actually have some big differences.

Taurine is an amino acid that is produced by the body to be used in metabolic processes, as well as maintaining the immune system (via Drink Hydrant). Other than being used in energy drinks, taurine can be found in dairy, fish, and meat products. A few health perks have been attributed to taurine, including a reduced risk of heart disease, boosting exercise performance by reducing fatigue, and improving blood sugar levels (via Healthline).

However, when it comes to energy drinks, researchers say taurine may not actually be the ingredient that boosts your energy level. One study called it more of a "relaxing" amino acid, and said it could contribute to the crash you experience later on, according to Drink Hydrant.

Should you combine taurine and caffeine?

Caffeine differs from taurine from the get-go, as it is a stimulant that directly blocks the part of the brain that makes you feel sleepy (via Drink Hydrant). It also can increase adrenaline levels and spark other neurotransmitters in the brain that help with alertness. Some perks of caffeine are added energy, along with increased exercise performance and heart health properties, as with taurine. But you have to be careful about your caffeine consumption, as overdoing it can cause dehydration, feelings of anxiety, or sleeplessness. 

Some studies show taurine mixed with caffeine can improve your cognitive performance (via Mayo Clinic). But researchers say more data is needed to determine the benefits of this combination on your brain function. Other studies show there are health risks to combining taurine and caffeine (via Drink Hydrant).

So should you stick with coffee or go for the energy drinks with taurine? Depending on the effect you're looking for, it may be best to choose either taurine or caffeine and avoid the drinks that combine the two. Along with having both caffeine and taurine, many of the energy drinks available on shelves have lots of sugar, herbal stimulants, and other hidden ingredients that can cause unwanted health impacts (via Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health).