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Coffee Or Red Bull: What Helps You Stay Awake?

Do you feel exhausted halfway through the day and need some extra dose of energy to feel awake? Then caffeine can be your savior. 

Caffeine is a natural stimulant that plays with our brain chemistry and puts us into alert mode. Drinks like coffee and Red Bull rank high on the list of popular caffeinated drinks. 

While an espresso shot has 63-65 mg of caffeine, a 250ml can of Red Bull has around 75mg. 

But that doesn’t prove Red Bull’s supremacy over coffee. There are a lot of additional factors (ingredients, health benefits, etc.) that help determine which is the better option to keep you awake. Keep on reading as I unravel which side you should pick to win the battle of sleep. 

How Caffeine Helps In Keeping You Awake? 

As soon as you chug down a caffeinated drink, caffeine gets absorbed in your blood. Once it is in your blood, it reaches your brain and does two things. 

First, it gets attached to your adenosine receptors, blocking any room for adenosine to work. If adenosine can not reach its receptors, it can not react with your body and make you feel sleepy. Genius! 

Secondly, caffeine is great at neural excitation. Because of this, when we get caffeine in our body, our body gets the signal to release hormones like adrenaline, dopamine, cortisol, and adrenocorticotropin (ACTH).

All of these hormones, one way or another, get us out of the sloth mode and put us in the active mode. Although for a few unfortunate souls, this sudden hormonal rush can become overwhelming, resulting in jitters and other side effects like nervousness, irritability, etc. 

But on that note, some people are completely immune to caffeine. Meaning no matter how much caffeine they drink, they don’t feel the kick at all. If you are one of them, I have talked in detail about why it happens and how you can solve that. 

What Gives A Bigger Caffeine Kick-  Coffee Or Red Bull?

Now that we know how caffeine helps in keeping us awake, it is pretty simple to understand that the more caffeine you take, the more energized you will feel. 

So to give a bigger caffeine punch, the drink needs to have higher amounts of caffeine. 

The Caffeine Content in a Cup Of Joe

A single shot of espresso (1 fl oz) contains 64-65 mg of caffeine. But there’s a twist! 

For some, coffee is the hot and cozy brew that wakes them up in the morning, and for some, it’s a cold beverage that they like sipping to push through the sloppy afternoons. 

Depending on how you like to have your coffee, the ingredients change, and so does the caffeine content. Different coffee drinks have different caffeine content, which can range anywhere between 40 to 200 gm of caffeine per serving. 

I have a list of both the most caffeinated and the least caffeinated coffee, so if you want to know more about them, go check them out. 

Besides, you get the option of using super caffeinated coffee beans that have more caffeine than regular ones. 

On that note, if you are a hard-core espresso person, then you are only consuming coffee and hot water. But if you like something lighter on the taste buds, like a latte or cappuccino, then there will be additional ingredients like sugar/ sweetener, milk, creamer, flavoring syrup, etc. 

Now in terms of giving energy, these ingredients might not be as strong as caffeine, but they do count in. Sugar is a carbohydrate and a source of energy. Dairy milk is full of Vitamin B12, which helps in converting food to energy. 

In short, for coffee, you have a lot of room to play with and decide how much caffeine you want to put in your system. 

The Caffeine Content In a Can of Red Bull

In the case of Red Bull, the math is pretty simple. All of the Red Bull drinks (regular, sugar-free, and zero) have the same caffeine content, that is, 80 mg of caffeine per 250 ml can. 

If you want more caffeine, go for a 355 ml can that has 114 mg of caffeine. 

A regular Red Bull can contain ingredients like sucrose, glucose, sodium citrates, carbon dioxide, caffeine, preservatives, etc. 

Sadly, unlike coffee, the only way in which you can control how much caffeine you intake is by reducing or increasing the overall consumption of the drinks. In simple words, if you want more caffeine, drink more Red Bull, and vice versa. 

The Winner Of The Caffeine Showdown Is…

Clearly, coffee is the winner when it comes to caffeine content. You get a comparatively more amount of caffeine if you pick the right drink. Plus, if you look at a caffeine meter, Red Bull is labeled as a moderately caffeinated drink. 

Also, if you try your hands on super caffeinated coffee beans, then Red Bull stands nowhere near it.

Why You Should And Should Not Pick Coffee 

Why You Should

If you are having coffee that is made with freshly ground beans, you get a lot of additional benefits apart from just the caffeine. 

Coffee beans are full of antioxidants and other active substances that lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart diseases, liver, and endometrial cancers, Parkinson’s disease, and the list goes on

Plus, as I mentioned earlier, you can control how much caffeine you want in your body. 

Why You Should Not 

It’s all healthy and beneficial only if you stick to freshly ground coffee beans. But the moment you switch to instant coffee, a lot of negative factors come into the picture. 

Firstly, most instant coffees are loaded with preservatives. And it can be a big no-no if you are someone who likes living a chemical-free organic lifestyle. Besides, the caffeine percentage of instant coffee is also quite low. 

So, if caffeine kick is the aim, it’s not worth it. 

But, on the other hand, the journey from beans to cups can be quite a task. If you lead a busy lifestyle, you might find it very time-consuming. Also, if you are not a big coffee enthusiast, investing in equipment like grinders and coffee makers might not make sense.

Why You Should And Should Not Pick Red Bull 

Why You Should

The biggest plus point of Red Bull is its convenience. It is easy to get, has no hassle of making, and the taste is enjoyed by many. 

In case you want to cut down on sugar, you also get a variety of sugar-free or diet versions to choose from.  

The drink is even tested by researchers, so you can be assured that it does what it claims. It is proven to counter sleepiness and improve focus while on long drives. 

It is not highly caffeinated, so give this a try if you get jitters from coffee. 

Why You Should Not 

Again, if you want to push through sleepiness, you need caffeine! And with Red Bull, you may not get enough of it. 

A regular can will have 75mg of caffeine, but if you need more, you must open another can. With that, you will not just be intaking caffeine but other ingredients as well. 

The ingredient list of Red Bull

Look at the ingredient list above; you will see the very first elements are sugar (Sucrose and Glucose) and carbon dioxide. 

They have not mentioned the percentage in which they are present in the drink, but product ingredients are usually listed from highest to lowest amount. So in order to get more caffeine, you will be ingesting comparatively more sugar and carbon dioxide. 

Drinking too many sweetened carbonated drinks can erode tooth enamel and cause bone calcium decay. 

Additional Aspects To Consider When Choosing Between Red Bull and Coffee 


You can get a cup of coffee for $5. However, the price might increase or decrease depending on where you are getting it from. If you are making it at home, it might not even be five dollars, but buying a fancy drink from Starbucks or Dunkin will cost you more. 

The price of a Red Bull can start around $2.37 and change as you switch to different sizes and flavors. You can save some more bucks if you buy the family packs. 


You can find coffee literally everywhere, even if it is instant coffee. Besides, now that we have the convenience of e-commerce, if you don’t like sipping instant coffee, you can easily order a variety of coffee online. 

In case you are looking for an elite taste, then there is no replacement for freshly roasted coffee beans, and not everyone can access that. 

Due to its raging popularity, you can find Red Bull at almost every supermarket or convenience store. You can also order them online in multipacks. Hence, finding Red Bull should not be a big problem. 

Personal Preference: The Ultimate Deciding Factor

In the case of coffee, the opportunity to play with flavors is limitless. You can make it sweeter, creamier, or completely sugar and fat-free, whatever you like. 

There are even options for adding a variety of flavorings, starting from as simple as vanilla and hazelnut to fancy options like apple fritter and jelly doughnut. Besides, finding people who are not enchanted by the aroma of coffee is quite difficult. 

Red Bull does not give you that many options. You can only choose between more sugary and less sugary options, but other than that, the overall flavor remains constant. Plus, many people don’t actually enjoy the strong sweet taste of the drink and say it tastes like cough syrup! 

But it does not matter what others say or think, you should try them for yourself and decide which one you like better. 

Putting An End To The Coffee vs. Red Bull Debate 

In my opinion, coffee should be the winner of this battle due to multiple reasons. Firstly, you can control how much caffeine you want to have. If you are immune to caffeine to a level, then Red Bull may fail to work on you. 

Secondly, the variety is huge. You can try a different coffee drink every day of the month and still have more options left to try. 

But lastly, I would also like to point out that whether you choose coffee or Red Bull to keep you awake, you should avoid doing that on a regular basis. The more regular you become with caffeine, the more resistant your body becomes against it. Plus, caffeine is an addictive substance. 

So, once you start relying on it, there’s no going back. Therefore, try having caffeine detox once in a while to break the cycle, and never go overboard with caffeine.

Armine has the pleasure of publishing the majority of our articles as well as looking after our social media presence. She's also an avid coffee fan. If you have any feedback, please use the 'Contact Us' page, or ping us a message to our Facebook page, Tweet us or find your local Social Media site to say hi!