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Red Bull vs Coffee – The Battle Of Caffeine!

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When you think of caffeine, you think of coffee. Whereas caffeine is not exclusive to dark beverage, chocolate has some, for instance, coffee is drunk throughout the world for its taste and for its caffeine content. 

A boost of one’s attention and productivity, coffee has been associated with caffeine since its first brewing times, hundred of years ago. The sense of energy that a cup of coffee can give you is used every day by millions of people to better go through their daily tasks.

But caffeine and its beneficial effects on one’s brain are not found only in coffee. Chocolate has it too, as mentioned, as tea. Recently energy drinks have become a popular way to ingest caffeine with a taste that is not necessarily the same as coffee, nor even similar. 

These energy drinks differ from a cola or a lemonade, for example, as they have been infused with other substances that are beneficial to the brain and body. It is not rare to have them with added vitamins or minerals. Caffeine as well, giving the “energy drink” its reason of being.

One of the most known energy drinks of them all, and the most popular one, is Red Bull. It has been marketed as an alternative to coffee for those wanting a boost of focus thanks to caffeine but didn’t want to sit down to drink a cup of coffee (or don’t like the taste of it). But what are the differences between a can of Red Bull and coffee? Which of the two contains more caffeine? Let’s see how they compare, health-wise and taste-wise.

Red Bull

Most definitely you have heard of the slogan “Red Bull gives you wings”. The Red Bull marketing team has come up with a motto that has become part of our everyday language.

The popularity of Red Bull is evident. With over 6 billions of cans sold yearly, Red Bull has the highest market share of any energy drink worldwide. The drink itself was introduced over 30 years ago, in 1987, and is of Austrian origin, sold by Red Bull GmbH, headquartered in a small town near Salzburg.

The success of Red Bull was thanks to its convenience and the caffeine factor: at the time it was released on the market there was no product that could give you a boost of energy simply by getting it in a supermarket and taking it with you on the road. 

Coffee was the closest alternative, but you had to go to a coffee house and wait for the baristas to make it on the spot. Not as quick and handy as a Red Bull.

Coffee

Coffee is the most direct “competitor” of Red Bull. Coffee has been known throughout the world for centuries and is ingrained in many cultures and traditions since generations. It is by far more consumed than Red Bull, with no signs of losing market share to energy drinks. Just considering the US market, 75% of the caffeine consumption comes from coffee.

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The major differences between a cup of coffee and Red Bull are twofold: taste and convenience. Clearly coffee tastes very unlike Red Bull. It is a brewed beverage, and made on the spot, with a natural bitterness and acidity that a Red Bull doesn’t have. 

It completely lacks sugar, and it is only sweet insofar as the type of beans that are used for the brewing have some natural sweetness. Most people either hate or love the taste of black coffee though, and hundreds of coffee drinks have been devised to alter or improve the taste of coffee.

Convenience is another important factor to calculate. Coffee has to be brewed before being available for consumption. Even instant coffee needs hot water and some mixing prior to drinking. Until recently, there were no ready to drink coffee that could be bought in supermarkets, like a Red Bull. 

Therefore, coffee involves more time and skills to enjoy. Some baristas can create truly wonderful coffee while others aren’t on par with what a coffee lover would consider a tasty cup. The taste greatly varies depending on where you buy and how it is brewed. A Red Bull can is consistent in flavors across the world.

Thus, the two beverages have similar effects but wholly differ in taste and ways of drinking.

Caffeine Levels

As we said, one of the main reasons why people drink coffee is its caffeine content. Same for Red Bull, its caffeine amount can give you a comparable energy boost to a cup of good coffee. But how do they compare exactly? Which one has more caffeine, coffee or a Red Bull?

The answer is not that simple. A Red Bull has a fixed and invariable amount of caffeine: 80mg per can. Anywhere you can buy it, the caffeine content is the same.

Not so with coffee. Depending on how it is brewed, how much coffee grounds to water are used and the type of beans, the caffeine in a cup of coffee can greatly vary. It can be as few as 20mg per cup to up to 200mg for the largest and strongest brews. Usually an espresso, which is the base of many coffee drinks, has between 40 and 100mg of caffeine, making it comparable to a can of Red Bull.

Other brews are more variable, as the ratio of coffee to water can be subject to personal choices and specific recipes. It is fair to say that most coffee you can drink has a similar amount of caffeine as a can of Red Bull but there are plenty of exceptions.

Additives

Unlike coffee, a Red Bull has plenty of other additives that enhance both the taste and its effects on health. Without going into detail about each one, we will talk about the two main ones: taurine and sugar.

Taurine

Taurine is often present in energy drinks and Red Bull makes no exception. It is a natural compound that is usually found in animal meats, fish included. Coffee does not contain taurine. Its effects are not like caffeine but are nonetheless positive: it has been shown that taurine can reduce the occurrence of heart risk factors such as atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease. Moreover, taurine helps normal skeletal muscle functioning. In poorer words, it is necessary for our muscles to do their normal functions.

Therefore taurine is a welcomed addition to the ingredients of a Red Bull. That’s definitely an advantage of the energy drink over plain coffee. And if you are worried that an excessive quantity of taurine may be dangerous to your health, rest assured: various studies have found no danger for our bodies by ingesting up to a few thousands of mg per day of taurine.

Sugar

It is common to add sweeteners to coffee, as milk, sugar, cream or milk alternatives. If you do, then coffee has sugar in it. Otherwise, black coffee is devoid of any sugar in it, naturally. People dieting or suffering from diabetes shouldn’t worry drinking coffee can mess up with their health or objectives.

Diversely, Red Bull has added sugar in it by default. Not a small quantity either, about 27 grams per can, equivalent to 6 teaspoons of sugar. That is above the daily recommendation. So if you are checking your weight or have diabetes, a can of Red Bull can be something to totally avoid or to have only occasionally.

Health Benefits

Both coffee and Red Bull have health benefits. We have seen what taurine can do for your health already. A Red Bull, as with coffee, contains also antioxidants. Yet coffee has a lot more and the studies showing that coffee consumption can help reduce the risks of various illnesses like diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heart diseases and more.

Contrarily, studies that show how a light to moderate ingestion of Red Bull are beneficial for your health are few, if any existing at all. So proceed with caution and limit your consumption to a moderate amount, just as a precaution.

Both coffee and Red Bull are rich in minerals: calcium, magnesium, sodium primarily for Red Bull, calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus for coffee. Depending on the quantity of the beverage you are drinking, both coffee and Red Bull can be an excellent source of many minerals, satisfying a good percentage of the daily recommended intake.

What is caffeine good for?

Caffeine has been long studied as a substance. Its properties helping focus and attention have been known for centuries. More specifically, caffeine is a stimulant of the nervous system that reduces fatigue, drowsiness, improves reaction time, concentration, motor coordination, and helps the body feel less tiredness. Those working long shifts or having to do heavy physical tasks will swear by the use of caffeine.

As we have seen, caffeine in Red Bull is on average higher than in a cup of coffee. Therefore, a can of this drink can quickly help you in continuing your work or studies with renewed vigour.

How much is too much?

As in anything, excessive consumption is not advisable. Be it coffee or Red Bull, too much of either can have negative consequences for your health, especially in the long run.

Caffeine is the first culprit. While the positive effects outweigh the dangers, more than 400mg of caffeine daily is enough to become counterproductive and have more possible negative consequences than benefits. 

That means a few large cups of coffee per day and up to 3-4 Red Bull. This is a top limit and people suffering from hypertension or heart diseases should consult with their doctor before ingesting such high amounts of caffeine every day. Most people should be fine with half that amount.

Sugar is not an issue for coffee, as long as you drink it black. Large cups of frappe, latte and similar can contain more sugar than a can of Red Bull. It is very easy to skew the recommended dietary intake of sugar with an energy drink like Red Bull. Moderation is advised here as well.