Red Bull Vs Coffee (Caffeine & Nutrients Compared)

Coffee and Red Bull are both generally drinks you have when you need a quick energy boost and they're two of the most consumed beverages in the world. 

So which one gives you a bigger caffeine fix, and which one is better for you? 

In this guide, I'll give the full breakdown for Red Bull vs coffee so you can decide which is best for your nutrient needs. 

  • Red Bull and coffee both contain caffeine, but their differences show a clear winner.
  • Both Red Bull and coffee have health benefits beyond helping us stay alert.  
  • Both coffee and Red Bull have potential adverse side effects. 
  • While every can of Red Bull will be the same in terms of caffeine content and sugar content, not all coffee is created the same.  

Red Bull Vs Coffee - Which Is Better For Energy? 

There’s been a debate for years about whether drinking Red Bull or drinking coffee is better for giving you energy. 

There are some similarities and some differences with the drinks, and I've given you a breakdown of all the key factors here:  

1. Caffeine Content  

Red Bull has, on average, 80mg of caffeine per can. It’s designed to give you a quick boost, and you'll feel the effects very quickly.  

Coffee generally has 95mg of caffeine per 8 ounces, which is noticeably more than Red Bull.[1] Some coffees may taste stronger than others, but they will typically still contain about 80-100mg. 

It's important to keep in mind that most American coffee shops serve coffees in 12 ounce cups or larger, so calculate caffeine accordingly.

If you’re looking for extra energy to quickly perk you up, then Red Bull is probably best. If you want a slower release of energy, then you should choose coffee. 

2. Sugar Content 

Red Bull has a high sugar content of 11 grams per 100ml

This is a lot and helps explain the sudden rush of energy you get when you drink it. There are diet versions of Red Bull available which can reduce the sugar intake, but you’re best off avoiding it if you’re on a diet.  

Coffee in its most basic form actually has no sugar in it at all.[2]

black coffee and sugar

3. Calorie Content 

A standard can of Red Bull contains 117 calories, which is the equivalent of eating an apple (without the vitamins and minerals).[3]

The calories in coffee massively depend on what type you order. A standard black coffee contains basically 0 calories, but milk and sugar will cause that to rise quickly. An Americano with skimmed milk is around 12 calories, but milky coffees are a lot more. 

A cappuccino has about 100 calories (not including any chocolate dusting), and a latte has 150 calories (without any sugar syrup added).  

If you're counting your calories closely, then you should drink coffee, but be careful what you order because some coffees can be deceptively calorific. 

4. Taurine Content  

Red Bull contains a lot of taurine, and there's 80mg in 100ml of the drink. This, combined with the caffeine, is how the energy drink gives you that boost and stimulates your mind.[4]

Coffee, on the other hand, contains no taurine. This makes it the safer option but means you won’t get that same amount of an energy kick.  

5. Antioxidants 

Antioxidants are really good for you. They basically help your body overcome free radicals in your system, which, if left unchecked, can turn into cancer or other illnesses. 

Red Bull only contains trace amounts of antioxidants and shouldn’t be used as a primary source. 

Coffee, on the other hand, contains a lot of different antioxidants, particularly hydrocinnamic acids and polyphenols.

If you’re looking to boost your overall health, then coffee is the better choice. It’s definitely worth keeping your antioxidant levels up to keep your body fighting fit.  

6. Energy Boosting 

Red Bull is known for giving you a big energy boost, and it's one of the main reasons people drink it. Within 15-30 mins of having a Red Bull, you should feel more awake, more alert, and more focused. This will typically last 2-3 hours before your body starts to crash.  

Coffee, on the other hand, is a bit more of a slow burn. You should feel the effects in about 30 mins, but it won’t be as much of a shock to the system. Coffee will continue to provide energy for about 4-6 hours before it starts to wear off.  

If you’re looking to quickly spike your energy before a workout or other activity, then Red Bull is the one for you. If you want to have energy released over several hours while working, then coffee is the better choice.  

7. Health Effects  

Red Bull also has several health benefits. It contains vitamin B, B6, which helps support your immune and nervous system, and B12, which helps support your digestive system.

It also contains pantothenic acid, which can help with allergies or stress, and riboflavin can help reduce muscle cramps.  

Coffee also has some health benefits, with B vitamins in it, along with manganese, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. All of these help to support your body and are particularly effective in helping your immune system.  

Neither Red Bull or coffee are made as beverages that support your health, but both Red Bull and coffee have ingredients your body will benefit from. Red Bull contains more vitamins and minerals than coffee, but your body may not be able to digest them all in one go.  

8. Price Comparison  

A can of Red Bull will cost about $2 across the US.

A coffee shop coffee will cost you between $2 and $5 depending on your exact order, or you can make your own coffee at home for under $1.

This makes coffee a lot cheaper if you make it at home.  
Red Bull Vs Coffee

Red Bull Benefits & Downsides

Benefits

  • Red Bull provides a really fast energy boost that can take less than 30 mins to kick in.
  • The unique flavor of Red Bull makes it a tasty drink even without the caffeine.
  • Red Bull has been proven to improve your alertness and can help you focus for longer.
  • Red Bull can improve your reaction time, perfect just before playing sports.

Downsides

  • Red Bull can impact your sleeping pattern.
  • Red Bull can cause nausea if you drink too much of it because there's more caffeine than most other drinks.
  • High levels of sugar.

Coffee Benefits & Downsides

Benefits

  • Makes you more alert and heightens your senses.
  • Coffee helps wake you up in the morning and keep you going throughout the day.
  • Coffee comes in all shapes and sizes, so you can pick one which suits you.
  • All-natural and sugar free, with no synthetic ingredients within it.
  • Coffee has been shown to boost your metabolism and help your digestion. Perfect if you’re trying to lose weight.
  • Contains antioxidants that are good for your overall health.

Downsides

  • Coffee can stain your teeth if you drink enough of it.
  • The high levels of caffeine in coffee can result in a bit of a crash once it’s out of your system.
  • The natural acidity of coffee can give you heartburn if you’re not used to it.

Caffeine Content In 10 Different Coffee Drinks

While my research here has mostly focused on a "standard cup of coffee" featuring 95mg of caffeine and no sugar or dairy, I know that not all coffee is the same.

Here I've noted the various types of coffee available at places like Starbucks, so you can compare your typical coffee choice with a Red Bull. 

Type of Coffee

Caffeine Content

Sugar Content

Regular Coffee (8 oz)

95 mg

0 g

Iced Coffee (8 oz)

85 mg

0 g

Cold Brew Coffee (12 oz)

155 mg

0 g

Americano (12 oz)

150 mg

0 g

Blonde Roast Coffee (12 oz)

270 mg

0 g

Cappuccino (12 oz)

75 mg 

9 g

Flat White (12 oz)

130 mg 

13 g

Caffe Latte (12 oz) 

75 mg

14 g

Espresso Macchiato (1.6 oz)

150 mg 

1 g

Caffe Mocha (12 oz) 

95 mg

27 g


Red Bull Vs Coffee: Adverse Health Effects 

It’s important to understand the health implications of anything you put in your body. There are some side effects to Red Bull and coffee intake which you should be aware of:  

Red Bull 

  • Diabetes risk 
    High levels of sugar can increase your risk of type 2 diabetesStudies have shown that sugary drinks are really bad for you and are a key factor in causing diabetes.[5] A single can of Red Bull can contain over 30 grams of sugar which can have an impact on your health. 
  • Heart risk 
    When considering heart health, you have to think about your heart rate and your blood pressure. Red Bull can considerably increase your heart rate and your blood pressure for 24 hours after consumption. This can lead to hypertension and heart disease. 
  • Kidney risk  
    A single can of Red Bull occasionally won’t impact your kidneys but having several a day for an extended period increases your risk of kidney damage 
  • Caffeine overdose risk 
    Caffeine is like any other drug, and you can overdose on it. If you have more than 400mg a day, then you can overdose, which could ultimately lead to death. Having more than 5 cans of Red Bull a day can be very dangerous and should be avoided.  

Coffee

  • Headaches  
    Coffee can lead to intense dehydration and cause severe headaches. This is particularly common if you drink too much of it, and these headaches can come on suddenly. Remember, just because coffee is a liquid, it doesn’t replace your water consumption, and you should remember to stay hydrated.  
  • Heartburn   
    Coffee is quite acidic, and this can lead to heartburn if you consume too much. If you notice this becoming an issue, you may need to limit your intake. 
  • Anxiety   
    Coffee can make you jittery and anxious. This can make it hard to focus and can even make you paranoid. If you suffer from anxiety anyway, then it’s best to avoid coffee or at least monitor how much caffeine you're consuming. 
  • Teeth damage 
    The acidic qualities of coffee can damage the enamel of your teeth. This can lead to staining, and you'll need specialized products to remove it. If you're a coffee lover, then you may need to brush your teeth more often. 

Common Red Bull & Coffee Questions Answered

Can you drink 2 Red Bulls a day? 

2 cans of Red Bull will be fine for most people, but if you’re under 19, then 2 cans could cause a caffeine overdose. Try to avoid drinking more than 1 Red Bull a day if you’re under 19.  

Can you become addicted to Red Bull? 

Yes. Energy drink addiction is becoming more common as young people start to drink them more often. The sugar and caffeine in Red Bull can lead to dopamine being released in your brain, which can turn into an addiction.  

What are the long-term effects of drinking energy drinks? 

Drinking a lot of Red Bull regularly can impact your metabolism, heart, and immune system negatively. If you have Red Bull in moderation, then you should avoid any severe side effects.  

Which is worse, alcohol or Red Bull? 

Alcohol doesn’t really contain anything that you want in your body. Red Bull does contain some vitamins and substances your body can use, so alcohol is worse.

Alcohol and Red Bull are often mixed together, which causes issues for your body because you're combining a stimulant with a sedative. Make sure not to drink too much Red Bull on a night out, or you could have a caffeine overdose.

How many cups of coffee is equivalent to 1 can of Red Bull? 

There’s actually more caffeine in a cup of coffee than in a can of Red Bull; it's just that Red Bull releases the energy more quickly. Your body can only handle so much caffeine, so you should try to limit yourself to 2 cans of Red Bull a day and no more than 3 coffees.  


The Final Verdict - Which Is Better? 

My research has led me to believe that coffee is better than Red Bull. 

While Red Bull does provide a fast perk up, coffee provides a long lasting energy from a completely natural product. I just need to pay attention to the type of coffee I'm drinking so I can be aware of my caffeine intake. 

And while coffee is my daily go-to for caffeine, there is certainly a time and place for Red Bull as well!

References:

1. https://www.math.utah.edu/~yplee/fun/caffeine.html

2. https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/data-statistics/sugar-sweetened-beverages-intake.html

3.https://www.calories.info/food/soda-soft-drinks

4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/taurine/faq-20058177

5. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/13-ways-sugary-soda-is-bad-for-you

Kayla Stavridis

Head of Marketing

Kayla Stavridis
Kayla Stavridis is a coffee enthusiast and Head of Marketing for Barista HQ. She blends her professional insights and experience with a deep passion for all things coffee. Kayla offers a unique, hands-on perspective on coffee culture and trends. You can find her sipping a cold brew with just a touch of milk on the beach in the afternoon and a Corona with lime in the evening.

My favorite drink? I'd go with... Cold Brew

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