We get it. Sometimes you just need a little help getting through the day. And brewing a safe and delicious mug of coffee or tea isn’t always a realistic option when you’re on the go.
So you find yourself on the precipice of deciding between energy pills or energy drinks.
But which option is better?
Which is healthier?
And are there other potential other options for getting your energy fix?
What’s the safest way to keep your energy up and consistent throughout the day?
What’s the Difference?
In determining which of these options is best, let’s make some general distinctions between energy pills vs. energy drinks before we start to examine specific types of each.
- Energy Pills – Although it may seem insignificant, the delivery method of energy pills vs. energy drinks is very different. It’s far easier to pop several pills at once, but it’s much harder to drink several energy drinks in a row.
A typical caffeine pill, for instance, is 200 mg. Even the most potent energy drink, Redbull, contains 111 mg of caffeine per 12 fluid oz, meaning you’d have to chug 4 Redbulls in a row to get approximately the same amount of caffeine as popping 2 caffeine pills. This makes energy pills easier to take too much of.
However, users of energy pills and supplements often describe a more consistent energy buzz, as opposed to a dramatic spike and subsequent crash sometimes associated with energy drink use.
Energy pills are also much cheaper if bought in bulk than energy drinks.
But be wary. The bar of review for dietary supplements and energy pills is not as stringent as medications that need to get FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration) approval before being released to the public.
And there’s no short supply of supplement and energy pill producers, all purporting amazing results.
- Energy Drinks – In addition to being a liquid, energy drinks are in no short supply of additives that generally don’t appear in energy pills.
They also lack the antioxidants that drinking a black cup of coffee offer.
While their main active ingredient is caffeine, they also contain a host of other vitamins, amino acids, and often in extremely high doses. These additives can also interfere with other medications you may be taking.
Popular Pills and Energy Supplements
Caffeine Pills – 400mg of caffeine is considered generally safe by the FDA for most adults to consume on a daily basis. A normal cup of coffee will contain anywhere between 80-100 mg of caffeine and a typical caffeine pill is 200 mg. While users do report a more consistent and manageable waking state, it’s very easy to take too many pills and induce anxiety or the jitters.
B Vitamins – Found primarily in animal-based foods, such as meat, dairy, and eggs, vegans in particular run the risk of being deficient unless they eat fortified vegetarian foods or supplements. Symptoms of a B vitamin deficiency are fatigue and drowsiness. For the meat eaters, B vitamins play a crucial role in energy production, but we should be getting all we need through our diet.
Energy Booster – Energy booster is a completely natural mixture of vitamins, amino acids and natural herbs. And, luckily, it contains none of the sugar, bad taste, nasty jitters, or crashes that are associated with energy drinks or shots.
Green Tea Extract – While the research is again somewhat limited, energy benefits are believed to be minimal. But green tea extract does offer some antioxidant benefits, and drinking the actual tea is hydrating and soothing.
Popular Energy Drinks
Carbonated Drinks – Redbull, Rockstar and Monster are some of the top ranking energy drinks on the market.
It’s hard to tell exactly how all of the ingredients of energy drinks are affecting our bodies, but recent studies and articles have shed light on the potentially life-threatening irregularities in heartbeat and spikes in blood-pressure immediately following energy drink consumption.
Some of the various additional vitamins and amino acids in energy drinks can also come in far greater amounts than the recommended daily doses. A recent Forbes article warns us “among all of these components, I’m most concerned about phenylalanine, an amino acid that cannot be adequately broken down by people with a genetic disorder called phenylketonuria.”
While they can often be a convenient option, try to limit consumption and definitely don’t make a habit of it.
5 Hour Energy – Along with the carbonated drinks above, the main ingredient in 5 Hour Energy is caffeine. It’s difficult to assess exactly how 5 Hour Energy is affecting our bodies. But age, weight, and pre-existing conditions such as heart disease are all factors.
The need for more research exists, but one thing can be said with certainty: using 5 Hour Energy or other energy drinks with alcohol is never a safe idea. Caffeine can decrease the effects of alcohol which could potentially lead to overconsumption.
The Best Alternatives: Eat, Sleep & Exercise
Energy pills or energy drinks are by no means a sleep, meal, or workout replacement.
In the sleep department, caffeine pills provide a false sense of wakefulness, so if it’s consumed long enough, it can trick the body so much that it eventually gives out.
In terms of exercise or the purpose of weight loss, here’s what the United States Government Accountability Office has to say about energy pills and supplements:
“little is known about whether weight loss supplements are effective, but some supplements have been associated with the potential for physical harm…and some of these products’ ingredients can interact or interfere with certain medications. So it is important to consider what is known—and not known—about each ingredient in any dietary supplement before using it.”
Not really a glowing endorsement, but a good reminder that consulting with your physician is always the best plan of attack.
There’s also no real magic bullet when it comes to weight loss. A healthy, low-calorie diet and regular exercise, even if that’s going on a daily walk, is always the best way to safely lose weight.
Where to Start?
So you still have an energy problem. As far as we can tell, energy supplements are the safer bet.
However, they still possess the potential for abuse due to their easy delivery method.
The first step in figuring out how to augment your diet and routines is always going to be consulting with your physician. That advice holds true for anyone trying to boost their energy, lose weight, study late, or keep the party going.
If you have a nutritionist, see them.
Start slow, and be mindful of how any changes are making you feel.