Caffeine Pills Vs Coffee (Which Is Better For Your Health?)

Most of us need a caffeine fix to get through the day, but there's actually lots of different ways to consume caffeine. 

Caffeine pills and coffee are both convenient ways to increase your caffeine intake quickly. But which is the healthier option?

In this guide we'll give you the full breakdown of caffeine pills vs coffee so you decide which is best for you. 

The main difference between caffeine pills and coffee is that coffee is a beverage, and the other is a caffeine tablet. However, there are a few more differences, and each one is described below:  

1. Effects On Stomach (Acidity)

Your caffeine intake will impact your whole body. Having too much caffeine can raise the acidity in your stomach and cause heartburn and indigestion. Not everyone is affected by this, but if you have a sensitive stomach, you could be. 

Caffeine pills and coffee can both have that effect, but caffeine tablets are able to offset these negative side effects because they contain an ingredient called L-theanine. 

This makes the synthetic caffeine tablets better than caffeinated beverages for those with a sensitive stomach. 

2. Taste

There’s no denying that drinking coffee is a far more enjoyable way to consume caffeine. Coffee is delicious thanks to the coffee oils from the beans, while caffeine pills typically have no flavor.

That being said, watch out for coffee beverages that are high in fat and sugar; if you want the biggest boost in health from your coffee, it’s best to drink it black. 

3. Speed Of Absorption

When it comes to the speed of absorption between coffee and caffeine pills, caffeine pills win hands down. 

It takes a lot longer to drink a full cup of coffee than it does to swallow a caffeine supplement with 100-200mg of caffeine. This allows the caffeine to enter your system more quickly and perk up you up faster. 

If you want to feel the caffeine fast then having it in pill form is best.

4. Portability

Both coffee and caffeine pills are portable, but caffeine pills work better for those looking to boost their energy levels on the go.

Caffeine pills are small and discreet, so you can bring them with you anywhere. Fresh coffee can also be taken with you, but the hot beverage is a lot less convenient.

coffee beans in mug

What Is Caffeine? (How It Works Explained) 

Before getting into the details of coffee vs. caffeine pills, it's essential to know what caffeine actually is and how it affects the body. 

Caffeine is a natural stimulant that is commonly found in green tea, coffee, and processed beverages like soda. It’s even found in some foods, like dark chocolate. A common assumption is that caffeine is only present in coffee drinks, but as you can see, this isn’t the case.  

Caffeine interacts with the body by stimulating the brain and central nervous system to prevent tiredness and promote focus. This is why it’s often called an “energy booster" and why so many people turn to caffeine for a pick-me-up. More specifically, caffeine is structurally similar to the naturally occurring adenosine neurotransmitter contained within all human cells.  

Adenosine works to suppress the central nervous system, slowing things down when it’s time to unwind for the day.[1] When caffeine is consumed, it has the power to bind with adenosine neurotransmitters and inhibit their ability to induce drowsiness. 

By blocking adenosine, caffeine is actually able to increase cell function, which in turn can boost concentration and focus.  

A cup of coffee has natural caffeine, but caffeine pills can be made with a natural or synthetic caffeine. Both types of caffeine do the exactly the same thing, and with high quality caffeine supplements it's impossible to tell the difference.

coffee on wood log

Caffeine Pills (Overview & Health Effects) 

Caffeine pills or caffeine supplements are exactly as they sound; they’re small pills/capsules containing an exact dose of pure caffeine. Because they’re convenient and discreet, caffeine pills are a very popular method for boosting energy and improving focus and concentration.  

So how much caffeine do caffeine pills actually contain? Well, it depends on the pills you’ve chosen, but generally, they contain high doses of between 100 and 200 milligrams of caffeine per pill to give you an energy boost.

This is more than an average cup of coffee, but not quite as much as some energy drinks, like Monster or Red Bull 

Caffeine Pills

Health Effects 

There is a lot of debate on whether or not caffeine is healthy and considered safe. Unfortunately, the answer isn't straightforward; although caffeine has some specific health benefits, it’s all about moderation, and consuming too much can have some negative side effects.  

In terms of health benefits, caffeine pills can help increase focus and memory, improve athletic performance, relieve headaches and migraines, and even reduce symptoms of Parkinson's Disease.[2] For general use, they’re great for boosting energy and focus for healthy adults.  

Many sources say that they’re safe to use, but exceeding the recommended daily dosage can have some adverse side effects. These include increased anxiety and nervousness, dizziness, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, and shakiness.

Over time, having too much caffeine can can also change your caffeine tolerance. This means you'll no longer get the same boost to your energy levels, and you'll become more reliant on the effects of the caffeine to function.

Eventually, this can give you severe adverse effects or even cause a caffeine overdose - which is very serious. You may also experience withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking the caffeine pills.

To avoid these symptoms, just be sure to stick to the recommended dosage, and also take into account if you’re consuming additional forms of caffeine (like coffee).  


Pros & Cons Of Caffeine Pills 

While caffeine pills can have a lot of benefits to health, they also come with some disadvantages:  

Advantages 
  • Exact dose in each caffeine pill 
  • No risk of teeth staining or discoloration 
  • Very affordable option for consuming caffeine 
  • Many pills include additional ingredients to offset any adverse side effects 
Disadvantages 
  • There are many low-quality pills on the market 
  • Not as satisfying as drinking coffee 
  • Doses vary, so some pills may be too weak/strong for certain individuals  

Coffee As A Caffeine Source (Overview + Health Effects) 

Using coffee as a caffeine source is extremely common, and a 2020 report found that “7 in 10 Americans drink coffee every week; 62% drink coffee every day.”[3]

The widespread popularity of coffee isn't just a coincidence; consuming a cup of coffee is enjoyable - not to mention delicious! - way to get caffeine into your system.   

The amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee varies depending on the type of bean and the brewing method used. In a brewed 12-ounce cup of coffee, there’s usually between 80 to 100 milligrams of caffeine. Of course, this doesn’t apply to decaf coffee, only to standard coffee beans.   

hot brewed coffee

Health Effects 

Similar to caffeine pills, the caffeine contained within coffee comes with some health advantages. As long as you stick to the right amount, drinking fresh coffee is beneficial for several reasons, like the fact that

“drinking one to two cups of coffee a day may help ward off heart failure when a weakened heart has difficulty pumping enough blood to the body.”[4]

In addition to strengthening the heart, a regular cup of coffee promotes a longer life, it can lower the risk of stroke, it can reduce the chances of developing Parkinson's, and it helps the liver to function more effectively.  

Drinking coffee is also far healthier than consuming energy drinks because it contains all natural ingredients.


Pros & Cons Of Coffee Caffeine Hits 

Just as there are both pros and cons to taking caffeine pills, the same goes for drinking coffee:  

Advantages 
  • Drinking coffee can be a social activity, and it’s fun to try out different coffee shops with friends/family 
  • The taste of coffee is enjoyable to coffee drinkers 
  • Coffee contains lots of antioxidants 
  • There are many variations of coffee beans/coffee drinks to choose from 
Disadvantages 
  • Coffee has the potential to stain teeth 
  • Many coffee beverages come with high levels of sugar 
  • Since caffeine content is different depending on the roast/brewing style, it can be difficult to know how much caffeine is being consumed

Common Questions About Caffeine Pills & Coffee

Does caffeine affect your sleep cycles? 

When it comes to caffeine and sleep, Sleep Education says that

“caffeine can have a disruptive effect on your sleep. The most obvious effect of the stimulant is that it can make it hard for you to fall asleep...Caffeine also can reduce the amount of deep sleep that you enjoy.”[5]

To avoid negative effects on your sleep cycle, it’s best to consume caffeine earlier in the day and try not to go overboard with your caffeine pill or coffee consumption.  

How long will a 200 mg caffeine pill last? 

It depends. Every person reacts to caffeine differently, so while the effects might only last for 2 hours in one individual, they could stick around for as long as 6 hours in another.  

Do caffeine pills make you lose weight?  

Yes, caffeine pills have the potential to promote weight loss. However, Mayo Clinic says that

“caffeine alone won't help you slim down. It may slightly boost weight-loss efforts or help prevent weight gain, but there's no solid evidence that caffeine consumption leads to noticeable weight loss.”[6]

Can you mix caffeine with alcohol? 

There are some risks of mixing alcohol and caffeine, and the CDC says that

“when alcohol is mixed with caffeine, the caffeine can mask the depressant effects of alcohol, making drinkers feel more alert than they would otherwise. As a result, they may drink more alcohol and become more impaired than they realize, increasing the risk of alcohol-attributable harms.”[7]


Conclusion

Caffeine pills and coffee both contain caffeine, but they're very different. 

Caffeine tablets or pill and portable and convenient, but have no real taste. They're only there to boost your energy levels. Coffee is an enjoyable drink which tastes great, but is less portable and gives a smaller energy boost.

When it comes to coffee vs caffeine pills it all comes down to personal preference. Just make sure to stick to the recommended dosage, which according to the FDA, is less than 400 milligrams per day.[8 

References:

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519049

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3414662/

3. https://www.ncausa.org/Newsroom/NCA-releases-Atlas-of-American-Coffee

4. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/9-reasons-why-the-right-amount-of-coffee-is-good-for-you

5. https://sleepeducation.org/sleep-caffeine/

6. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/expert-answers/caffeine/faq-20058459

7. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/caffeine-and-alcohol.htm

8. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/spilling-beans-how-much-caffeine-too-much