As you sip on your morning latte, consider that the consumption of caffeine is rooted in antiquity, dating back to ancient times, shrouded in centuries of myth and legend. When chronicling the history of caffeine, it’s difficult to separate the apocryphal from fact.
Coffee in its modern incarnation most likely has its origins in Arabia during the Middle Ages, while tea has been enjoyed in China since before the Common Era. Similarly, cacao played an important role in the daily lives of pre-Columbian civilization in Central and South America.
The popularity of these drinks soon spread, and demand increased in the rest of the world. By the 17th century, coffee, tea and chocolate had become firmly entrenched in the social and practical customs of much of the West.
What are the natural sources of caffeine? Natural caffeine is extracted from the plant to be used in different foods and beverages. Found in more than 60 species of plants across the globe, caffeine comes from the seeds of coffee beans, cacao beans and Kola nuts; the leaves and buds of tea; the leaves of Yerba mate; and in the bark of Yoco. Other natural sources of caffeine include guarana berries, guayusa and the yaupon holly.
What about synthetic caffeine? Where does it come from? Aside from the natural variants, synthetic caffeine is also widely used in familiar foods and beverages and even extends as far as water, gum and personal hygiene products!
The FDA regulates added caffeine in five categories of products: foods, beverages, energy drinks, dietary supplements and over-the-counter drugs. However, misinformation abounds when it comes to the differences between synthetic caffeine or caffeine that’s derived from plant sources.
The 2018 Food and Health Survey revealed that over 70 percent of participants either thought caffeine could have a different effect on the body depending on the source (synthetic vs. natural) or were unsure.
In reality, synthetic and natural caffeine are nearly indistinguishable; both are chemically identical. The major difference is that synthetic caffeine is produced from urea and chloroacetic acid rather than extracted from plant products like natural caffeine. The final product and caffeine’s effect on the body are surprisingly similar. Scientific research on synthetic caffeine, published as early as 1947 by Scott et al in Science, indicates the same stimulating effects on the body.
The health benefits of caffeine are extensive and affect numerous facets of our health. A 2017 meta-analysis found caffeine to significantly improve cognition by boosting alertness and enhancing performance in motor tasks. The same study also noted a positive link between caffeine intake and decreased incidence of neurological decline associated with aging. Furthermore, caffeine consumption in the form of coffee can reduce inflammation and may even lower the risk of several chronic diseases including diabetes and hypertension.
Daily intake of caffeine up to 400mg per day is generally considered safe in healthy adults. However, pregnant or nursing mothers and those with pre-existing heart conditions should err on the side of caution, with recommended daily intakes ranging from 200 to 300mg.
Whether derived from nature or added, caffeine from all sources has the same effect. Get to know the sources and amounts in your diet.
This blog post was written by David Hu, RD
- Good Caffeine Vs. Bad Caffeine: The Dos and Don’ts of Your Favorite Beverages
- 7 Exciting Caffeine-Free Sodas
- 10 Ways to Get Your Caffeine Fix Without Coffee
- 1. Perk Energy Bracelet; $36
- 2. Viter Energy Mints; $20
- 3. DirtyBird Energy Caffeinated Soap; $30
- 4. PURELYFT Energy Stir Sticks; $13
- 5. TruePure Natural Caffeine Shampoo; $23
- 6. Power Toothpaste; $14
- 7. HeroEC Energy Water; $22
- 8. Jolt Energy Gum; $19
- 9. First Aid Beauty Matcha Wake Up Wipes; $10
- 10. Caffeine Pills; $15
- Sources of caffeine
- Possible Caffeine Benefits
- Surprising Foods That Have Caffeine and Make You Gain Weight Fast
- Protein Bars
- Decaf Coffee
- Non-Cola Sodas
- Ice Cream & Yogurt
- Candy Bars
- Hot Chocolate
- Fancy Water
- Sugar Free Energy Drinks List
- Thirsty? Try One of These 9 Refreshing Alternatives to Soda
- 6 foods and drinks that have almost as much caffeine as coffee
- Coffee vs. Soda: A Comparison
Good Caffeine Vs. Bad Caffeine: The Dos and Don’ts of Your Favorite Beverages
Are you turning to caffeinated beverages to keep you going throughout your day? Us too! Running between work, other errands and then squeezing in a workout can seem daunting without that steaming cup of coffee by your side. With all of the new health and wellness fads popping up on our Facebook and Instagram accounts it is hard not to wonder how much caffeine is too much caffeine and which sources are the best for our bodies? Have no fear, we’re here with the dos and don’ts of caffeine to help clear up these rumors so that you can sip away confidently!
Do: Drink Natural Caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant which occurs naturally from over 60 plant sources. Some of the most common plant sources are: coffee beans, tea leaves, cacao seeds and cola nuts. These natural sources can aid your body and mind in a variety of ways other than just giving you that pre-workout energy boost. Caffeine ingestion can reduce post-workout muscle pains, increase stamina during workouts, improve reaction time, help those with asthma and even prevent weight gain.
Don’t: Choose Synthetic
Unfortunately many energy drinks and other manufactured bottled beverages like sodas contain synthetic caffeine. Synthetic caffeine is not a naturally occurring source, it is manufactured in laboratories and factories which leads to the synthetic being exposed to harsh chemicals. Synthetic caffeine is also more potent than what is naturally found in plants, which can easily lead to consumers drinking more than the recommended daily allotment of caffeine. One easy way to find out if a product contains natural or synthetic caffeine is to check the ingredient list. If the list spells out the word caffeine it is likely synthetic. If the caffeine occurs naturally you will see the name of the plant which it was derived from, for example: guarana, green tea, tea leaves or cacao.
Do: Use Caffeine Purposefully
Consuming caffeine before a workout can be beneficial if it is not done excessively and if it is done so through natural origins. A cup of coffee or tea can be a safe way to boost your metabolism, build your endurance, and decrease the feeling of pain during your workout. However, it is important to supplement caffeine consumption with the consumption of water to stay hydrated during your workout.
Don’t: Over Do It!
The recommended amount of caffeine that an adult should not surpass in consumption in one day is 400 mg. This is roughly equivalent to four cups of coffee. Exceeding 400 mg could result in adverse effects like insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, stomach upset, fastened heart rate and muscle tremors. If you are not someone who ingests caffeine regularly you may experience these adverse effects more quickly. Many people turn to energy drinks for a pre-workout boost, however these drinks are often loaded with sweeteners, artificial flavors and sugar as well as synthetic caffeine. Just two of these drinks exceed the recommended amount of daily caffeine.
Another frequent energy supplement that people reach for before workouts are pre-workout powders. These drinks should be carefully selected and researched before use. Find a pre-workout beverage that contains natural caffeine and that has been tested from a trusted source so that you know that you are putting safe ingredients into your body before giving yourself the favor of a tough workout! Look for ingredients that mimic your body’s natural processes so that you can maximize your workout the right way.
Choose natural whenever you can! The ingredient lists on these products hold all of the information you need! Short lists with few ingredients are likely to contain mostly natural ingredients. Don’t let words you don’t know fool you – choose plants over chemicals. Most importantly, do your research and ask around the vast workout, health and wellness communities so that you can find the best answers for your body.
7 Exciting Caffeine-Free Sodas
Unlike dark colas like Coke and Pepsi, clear sodas are typically colorless — or light enough in color that you can see through them.
They do not contain phosphoric acid, which gives dark soft drinks their deep brown hue (1).
There are several varieties of clear soda, most of which are caffeine-free.
2. Lemon-lime soda
Lemon-lime sodas are citrus-flavored and usually caffeine-free. Well-known lemon-lime sodas include Sprite, Sierra Mist, 7 Up, and their diet versions.
However, the lemon-lime sodas Mountain Dew, Diet Mountain Dew, and Surge are caffeinated.
3. Ginger ale
Ginger ale is a ginger-flavored soda often used in mixed drinks or as a home remedy for nausea. It’s naturally caffeine-free (2).
While most ginger ales are artificially flavored, the Canada Dry brand uses real ginger extract to flavor its drink. Smaller companies may also use natural flavors, or even whole ginger root, so check the ingredient list if you’re unsure.
Another well-known ginger-ale manufacturer is Schweppes. Both Canada Dry and Schweppes provide a diet option, both of which are caffeine-free.
4. Carbonated water
Carbonated water, which is always free of caffeine, includes seltzer water, tonic water, club soda, and sparkling water. Some are consumed on their own, while others are used to make mixed drinks.
Seltzer water is plain water that has been carbonated, while tonic water is carbonated and infused with minerals and added sugar.
Meanwhile, club soda is carbonated and contains minerals and added quinine, a compound isolated from cinchona tree bark that gives it a slightly bitter taste (3).
Sparkling water is naturally carbonated spring water, although it often receives additional carbonation before delivery (4).
Any of these drinks may also be sold flavored and sweetened, usually with a zero-calorie sweetener. These varieties are also caffeine-free.
Popular brands of carbonated water include Schweppes, Seagram’s, Perrier, San Pellegrino, LaCroix, Sparkling Ice, and Polar.
Almost all lemon-lime sodas, ginger ales, and carbonated waters are caffeine-free. However, Mountain Dew, Diet Mountain Dew, and Surge harbor caffeine.
10 Ways to Get Your Caffeine Fix Without Coffee
Looking to get an extra buzz without drinking another cup of coffee? Luckily, sleepy people everywhere have created a huge market for all things caffeine-related. Here are some more unusual products that will give you a buzz.
1. Perk Energy Bracelet; $36
These bracelets administer caffeine right through your skin. They’re lined with energy patches that provide the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee, according to Perk, but over the course of four hours to prevent jitters or crashing. Because the caffeine isn’t going through your digestive system, the effects are also stronger and hit faster. Each bracelet comes with 30 caffeine patches to get you started.
Buy it: Amazon
2. Viter Energy Mints; $20
Worried about getting coffee breath? Viter Energy mints will make your mouth minty fresh while putting a pep in your step. Each mint has 40 milligrams of caffeine, so eating two mints is about the same as an 8-ounce cup of coffee. (The caffeine content of coffee varies from brand to brand, but according to the Mayo Clinic, an 8-ounce brewed coffee might contain anywhere from 95 to 165 milligrams of caffeine, while an espresso will around 47 to 64 milligrams. A tall dark-roast brewed coffee at Starbucks contains 193 milligrams.) These mints have a “strong and intense wintergreen flavor and menthol kick” as the makers describe it, but they also come in spearmint, cinnamon, chocolate mint, and peppermint flavors.
Buy it: Amazon
3. DirtyBird Energy Caffeinated Soap; $30
Showers are about to get a lot more energizing—no freezing cold water needed. This four-pack of soap mixes peppermint essential oil and caffeine to help wake you up, and the bar’s sesame oil beads exfoliate the skin. Made from sustainably sourced ingredients, like palm and coconut oil, you can feel good about these all-natural bars that will help you start the day off on an energized foot. And each one comes with a water-tight reusable case, so you can throw it in your carry-on or gym bag without having to worry about any possible leaks.
Buy it: Amazon
4. PURELYFT Energy Stir Sticks; $13
Now you can add caffeine to any beverage you like with a stick that you can swirl into your drink. The sticks are filled with crystals that dissolve after just 10 seconds of stirring. Each packs 125 milligrams of caffeine. You can opt for the plain version or try flavors like orange, mixed berry, and lemon-lime.
Buy it: Amazon
5. TruePure Natural Caffeine Shampoo; $23
While this caffeinated shampoo won’t wake you up, according to the company, caffeine can naturally stimulate hair growth and the added organic aloe vera oil can help soothe a dry scalp.
Buy it: Amazon
6. Power Toothpaste; $14
Say goodbye to groggily brushing your teeth. Power Toothpaste is infused with caffeine that quickly kicks in as soon as you’re done with your oral hygiene routine. Each tube has enough mint-flavored paste for 90 brushes with roughly 80 milligrams of caffeine per serving.
Buy it: Amazon
7. HeroEC Energy Water; $22
Swap out your coffee for something a little more refreshing. This hydrating water from Hero Water comes with electrolytes and 60 milligrams of caffeine, without the bitter aftertaste of coffee.
Buy it: Amazon
8. Jolt Energy Gum; $19
Based on the popular soda, Jolt Energy Gum comes packed with guarana, ginseng, and caffeine. Alongside the icy mint flavor, the spearmint also delivers a minty kick that’s sure to keep you up for a while.
Buy it: Amazon
9. First Aid Beauty Matcha Wake Up Wipes; $10
First Aid Beauty/Amazon
Start the morning right with a clean and refreshed face. These caffeine matcha wipes remove dirt, soothe with aloe, and wake you up. The caffeine reduces puffiness and redness, too. Each pack comes with 25 wipes designed for all skin types.
Buy it: Amazon
10. Caffeine Pills; $15
The Genius Brand/Amazon
We’ve all downed a cup of coffee and immediately felt energized, only to crash again moments later. These pills, on the other hand, work by releasing 100 mg of caffeine over an extended period of time, so your energy levels will stay up for longer, without the dramatic spikes or crashes.
Buy it: Amazon
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Sources of caffeine
Caffeine is an alkaloid occurring naturally in some 60 plant species, of which cocoa beans, kola nuts, tea leaves and coffee beans are the most well-known. Other natural sources of caffeine include yerba maté, guarana berries, guayusa, and the yaupon holly1. Caffeine is added to many popular soft drinks, and is also a component of a number of pharmacological preparations and over-the-counter medicines including analgesics, diet-aids, and cold/flu remedies.
Typical amounts in food and beverages
The amount of caffeine consumed in beverages varies enormously and is dependent, for example, on the strength of the drink, and the amount consumed with cup size playing a key role. Coffea canephora (robusta) is known to contain more caffeine than Coffea Arabica (arabica)1-3. However, as a basic guideline an average sized cup of soluble coffee contains approximately 65mg caffeine, whilst a cup of roast and ground coffee contains around 85mg. A 30ml espresso cup contains around 50-60mg caffeine. Finally, a can of cola or a cup of tea contains 25-45mg caffeine. Tea actually contains more caffeine than coffee on a dry weight basis, but a smaller weight of tea is generally used to prepare a brew. Decaffeinated coffee generally provides less than 3mg caffeine per cup. Cocoa and chocolate contain much smaller amounts of caffeine.
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Possible Caffeine Benefits
If you asked people what the biggest benefit to caffeine is, most would probably list the lift in energy and mood. But there may be other health benefits to caffeine, as well as to other components in coffee and tea. (All you veteran java junkies should note that some of caffeine’s effects may lessen with long-term consumption.)
Here’s what research has found out about some of the possible benefits of coffee, tea, and caffeine:
- Some researchers suggest that the caffeine in coffee may increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin. (This is a good thing; insulin is a hormone made by the body to control blood sugar.) In fact, a recent review of nine studies on coffee consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes supports the idea that habitual coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of the disease. Other research has found that some compounds in tea may increase insulin activity in fat cells by as much as 15 times. Still, other research has reported that caffeine impairs the metabolism of glucose (a type of sugar found in carbohydrate foods) in people with type 2 diabetes.
- Chlorogenic acid, a compound in coffee that has antioxidant activity, may improve the body’s metabolism of glucose.
- Drinking four or more cups of coffee a day has been linked to a reduced risk of colon cancer (compared with drinking no coffee at all). Studies in animals have indicated that an antioxidant in coffee may protect against colon cancer.
- Studies looking at coffee and heart disease risk are all over the map. One study found that drinking two or fewer cups of coffee a day reduced the chance of a first heart attack or chest pain, while drinking more coffee appeared to have the opposite effect. Other study results differed. Future research should pay attention to the type of coffee used and the different brewing methods because this affects which compounds show up in your cup. For example, filtered coffee removes two compounds that are known to raise both total and LDL “bad” cholesterol levels (the filters trap these compounds).
- Tea contains powerful antioxidants (polyphenols, which are in the flavonoid phytochemical family) that may help protect against cancer, heart disease, and stroke. A Dutch study found that men who ate and drank the most flavonoids (black tea was the major source) had a much lower risk of heart disease.
- Preliminary research suggests that the flavonoids in green tea may help reduce cancer risk.
- More research is needed on this, but it has been suggested that green tea may help boost metabolism and lower body fat.
- According to one study, older women (aged 65-76) who drank tea had higher bone mineral density measurements than women who did not drink tea. The authors propose that the compounds in tea may improve bone mineral density and that drinking tea may protect against osteoporosis. By comparison, another study noted that consuming more than 300 mg of caffeine per day sped up bone loss in the spines of postmenopausal women aged 65-77.
- While fruits and vegetables are thought to be the richest sources of health-promoting antioxidants, a recent study found that coffee is the main source from which most Americans get their antioxidants.
Surprising Foods That Have Caffeine and Make You Gain Weight Fast
It all started in the highlands of Ethiopia, where, according to one popular legend, a goatherd named Kaldi watched his flock frolic around with unusual spunk after nibbling on some berries. It was coffee that the get-up-and-go goats had discovered. And ever since, caffeine has been the world’s go-to, pick-me-up drug. But it’s not only coffee that contains the energy booster—there are many ubiquitous foods with caffeine sitting in your pantry right now.
As vices go, caffeine’s not terrible for your health. In fact, most studies suggest the average adult can safely ingest up to 300 to 400 milligrams of the stimulant per day (about three cups of strong coffee) and experience many of the health benefits of coffee — everything from improved concentration to increased longevity. But too much caffeine can have the opposite effect on overall health, with side effects that include anxiety, increased belly fat, insomnia — even death. And children are particularly susceptible, warn health experts.
If you’re wary of your intake — and your kids’ — cutting back on the obvious sources like coffee, tea, and energy drinks is a solid first step. But detecting caffeine culprits isn’t always easy, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t require manufacturers to list the content on nutrition labels. Here are seven hidden and surprising sources of caffeine that serve up an unexpected jolt.
Snack bars typically rely on calorie- and carbohydrate-dense ingredients like nuts and dried fruits to keep you energized, but there are exceptions. A Clif Energy bar serves up 50 mg of caffeine, which is more than a can of Coke. And Zone Perfect’s Caramel Pecan Bar contains 14.5 mg — about what you’ll find in a small Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee Coolatta.
Don’t let the name fool you: decaf does not mean caffeine-free. While FDA regulations require 97 percent of caffeine to be removed from the beans for coffee to be marketed as “decaffeinated,” beans vary wildly in their caffeine content, and that remaining 3 percent can pack a jittery punch, according to research. A 2007 analysis by Consumer Reports of 37 decaf coffees from popular chains found that although most cups had fewer than 5 milligrams of caffeine, some had quite a bit more. In fact, one cup from Dunkin’ Donuts contained 32 milligrams while another from Seattle’s Best packed 29 milligrams. If you’re looking for a reliable low-caf cup, head to the Golden Arches; it was decaf cups from McDonald’s that consistently had the fewest milligrams of caffeine. 3
Coke is right up there with coffee as a well-known caffeinated culprit. But while a can of cola will cost you 29 mg of the jumpy stuff, other non-cola sodas contain just as much caffeine — if not more. A Sunkist Orange Soda lags not too far behind notoriously stimulating Mountain Dew with 41 mg. And for all you 90s kids enjoying the recent resurgence of the acid-green citrus pop (now available on Amazon), it wasn’t just the sugar in this famously axed soda that sent you bouncing off the walls. A 16-ounce can of Surge contains a heart-racing 69 mg of caffeine.
Ice Cream & Yogurt
If there’s coffee in your ice cream or yogurt, expect a small caffeine boost. According to a report by The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a one-cup “tennis ball-sized scoop” of most popular brands contains 60 mg of caffeine, which is about as much as two cans of Coke. Though some brands fall a bit lower — a half-cup serving of Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Heath Bar Crunch delivers 40 mg of caffeine — that’s still more caffeine than you were probably banking on taking in while you watched Jimmy Kimmel. The same goes for morning picks like Dannon All-Natural Coffee Yogurt, which packs 30 mg of caffeine into each 6-ounce serving. If you’re serious about clocking your caffeine intake, keep your eyes peeled for less obvious coffee flavor terms like “java” and “mocha.” 5
Any candy bar containing chocolate will deliver a bit of a jolt. That’s because caffeine occurs naturally in cocoa beans, as does the compound theobromine, which also acts as a stimulant. While most candy bars have less than 10 mg of caffeine (a 1.55-ounce HERSHEY’S milk chocolate bar contains about 9 mg), the darker the chocolate, the more generous the jolt, which is why we named this sweet treat one of our foods with caffeine. A half-cup of semisweet chocolate chips has about 30 mg of caffeine, according to a Caffeine and Activation Theory report.
Chances are it’s the sugar content in hot cocoa, not the caffeine, that may leave your kids (or you, no judgment) bouncing off the walls, but any amount of cocoa powder or chocolate syrup will add to your daily intake. A Tall hot chocolate from Starbucks, for example, serves up a not-insignificant 20 mg of caffeine, and the same size mocha — a coffee drink with chocolate syrup — serves up 95 milligrams. If you’re looking for a kid-friendly chocolate syrup pick, choose Nesquik over Hershey’s. Two tablespoons of the later will add 5 mg of the energy booster while the manufacturer of Nesquik claims their chocolate powders are “99% caffeine free.”
A bottle of water that can give you the jitters? Some trendy energy-boosting waters include caffeine and other potent stimulants like guarana—an extract from a Brazilian plant with double the caffeine content of coffee seeds. Vitamin Water Energy has 50 mg per 20 fl oz bottle. Fail to read the label before throwing back a bottle of 100% natural Avitae, and you’ll have consumed 125 mg of caffeine—the equivalent of about two shots of espresso.
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Sugar Free Energy Drinks List
Our Sugar-Free Energy Drink Chart outlines many popular sugar-free energy drinks and their caffeine amounts.
We also identify which artificial sweetener is used, so you know what to look for when you are peering into the cooler for a sugar free energy drink.
This chart does not include energy shots as they are almost always sugar-free anyway.
Also, several natural sugar-free energy drinks are beginning to appear in the marketplace. These generally use stevia or sugar alcohols and some are included in the list below.
Popular Diet Energy Drinks
|Drink Name||Caffeine (mg/can)||Sweetener type|
|Rockstar Sugar-Free||160||Ace-K, Sucralose|
|Adrenaline Shoc||300||Sucralose, Ace-K|
|Monster Zero Ultra||135||Sucralose, Ace-K|
|Rockstar Zero-Carb||240||Ace-K, Sucralose|
|Monster Lo-Carb||160||Sucralose, Ace-K|
|Bang Energy Drink||300||Sucralose, Ace-K|
|No Fear Sugar-Free||154||Sucralose, Ace-K|
|Red Bull Sugar-Free||80||Ace-K, Aspartame|
|Sobe Adrenaline Rush Sugar-Free||152||Sucralose, Ace-K|
|Venom Low-Carb||160||Sucralose, Ace-K|
|XS Energy (all flavors)||83||Ace-K, Sucralose|
|Full Throttle||144||Sucralose, Ace-K, Saccharin|
|C4 On The Go||200||Sucralose, Ace-K|
|Amp sugar-free||160||Sucralose, Ace-K|
|Guru Lite||125||Cane Juice, Stevia, Luo Han Guo juice|
|Xyience Xenergy (full line)||200||Sucralose, Ace-K|
|Redline RTD & Princess||250||Sucralose|
|BAWLS Exxtra||150||Sucralose, Ace-K|
|Hype Enlite||80||Sugar, Sucralose, Ace-K|
|Monster Absolutely Zero||135||Sucralose, Ace k, and Erythritol|
|Reign Total Body Fuel||300||Sucralose|
|Celsius Energy Drink||200||Sucralose|
|Liquid Ice Sugar-Free||80||Sucralose|
|Raze Energy Drink||300||Sucralose, Ace-K|
|Red Bull Total Zero||80||Aspartame, Sucralose, Ace-K|
|NOS Sugar-Free||260||Sucralose, Ace-K|
|Cintron Tropical Azul||170||Sucralose, Ace-K|
|Roaring Lion Zero||161||Stevia|
|Red Bull Lime Edition||114||Sucralose, Ace-K|
|Red Bull Pear Edition||114||Sucralose, Ace-K|
|Red Bull Purple Edition||114||Sucralose, Ace-K|
|Hyde Power Potion||350||Sucralose|
The diet beverage market has been growing. In fact, last year Diet Coke and Coke Zero both found their way into the top ten sodas according to sales.
The same is true with diet energy drinks since more and more consumers are becoming aware of the dangers of sugar-filled beverages.
Another trend is emerging with highly caffeinated sugar-free energy drinks marketed to the fitness community. These often have 300+ milligrams of caffeine per can and should be used with caution.
As you see above, most sugar-free energy drinks use the standard artificial sweeteners with the exception being Guru who is marketing some natural low-calorie sweeteners. Sucralose a.k.a. “Splenda” has been getting some bad press lately, so who knows if that will cause other companies to go the more natural route as well if consumers begin shunning sucralose the way they did aspartame and saccharin which were previously used in sugar-free energy drinks.
Stevia based sugar-free drinks are also becoming more popular. This natural sugar is being marketed as a better alternative to artificial sweeteners.
Time will tell if the trend eventually filters into big brands like Monster and Rockstar.
Written by Ted Kallmyer, last updated on December 11, 2019
Workout enhancer. Energy booster. Life saver. Millions rely on caffeine to navigate the craziness of modern life. But caffeinated beverages can be a powerful ally or your worst enemy, depending on how you get your buzz. Soda and energy drinks are pumped full of calories and unhealthy chemicals. They definitely are not recommended sources of caffeine.
But fear not, caffeine lovers: there are ways to get the energy and clarity you crave without falling prey to all the baggage. Here are the Top 10 from Health Fitness Revolution and author of the book ReSYNC Your Life Samir Becic:
- Green Tea: There are a hundred thousand varieties of green tea (okay maybe not that many, but there are plenty!). Most of them have a lower caffeine content at about 25mg per 8oz cup. That’s enough to clear out the cobwebs but not enough to have you wired all night. The benefits of green tea are myriad and are more than just added bonuses to the caffeine boost. The flavonoids boost immunity, aids in weight loss, and antioxidants even have anti-aging effects to keep free radicals at bay.
- Espresso: A smooth, robust, and aromatic shot of espresso is a great way to get caffeine if you need it, like, now. Super low cal and full of anti-oxidative benefits, what’s not to like?
- Unsweetened Iced Tea: Don’t get sweet tea. I worked in many restaurants over the years, and I vividly remember pouring bags of sugar (yes, plural) into the brewing tea. Sweet teas sold at convenience stores often have more sugar than sodas. Opt for sweet teas unassuming but way healthier cousin, regular old iced tea. A glass of iced tea has about 47mg of caffeine. Spruce it up with some lemon or just learn to love the taste of tea.
- Matcha: If you haven’t already boarded the matcha train, hop on ASAP. A type of stone-ground Japanese green tea, Matcha is different than its other green teas. It doesn’t need to be steeped because it is ground into a fine super green powder. It has an umami taste and sometimes a sweetness due to the high amino acid count. The high L-theanine content in Matcha gives a calming effect and the 25 mg of caffeine per scoop energize you. The result is a clear-headed serenity that allows you to focus on your work without jitters. Oh, The Vitamin C, antioxidants, magnesium and Zinc are good for you as well.
- Americano: This 5 calorie per cup source of caffeine is just espresso plus hot water. The preferred drink of American GI’s during WWII and waistline conscious Starbucks customers today.
- Guarana Berries: These little guys are found in the Amazon and pack quite a punch. Each one contains about twice the amount of caffeine found in coffee beans. They are available in extracted form or herbal teas and are an effective diet aid because they reduce hunger cravings.
- Yerba Mate: Another herb found in the Amazon and popular throughout South America, yerba mate is an energizing and social drink. It is most commonly prepared in a special device called a gourd, with a straw and hot water.
- Plain Black Coffee: The classic for a reason. Coffee has a high caffeine content and is low in calories, so long as fatty creamers and sugary syrups are committed. We wrote an entire article singing the praises of coffee’s health benefits, so read that to justify your next cup.
- Earl Grey Tea: The classic cuppa in the UK, Earl Grey gives you about half of the caffeine of a cup of coffee and is filled with cancer-fighting antioxidants. The aromatic bergamot used to make the tea also has calming properties that relieve stress and anxiety. Other forms of black tea are also healthy.
- Dark Chocolate: Not just a delicious dessert, dark chocolate also contains a smidgen of caffeine. It is also known to reduce cholesterol, promote weight loss, and can help brain function. You can read all about the health benefits in our write up. For a crazy caffeine double dip, melt a square of dark chocolate in your coffee.
Thirsty? Try One of These 9 Refreshing Alternatives to Soda
Americans continue to guzzle extra calories through sugary drinks like soda — which come with many health dangers. A growing body of research, including a study published in November 2013 in the American Journal of Public Health, has linked soda consumption to an increased risk for heart disease and diabetes, as well as to rising rates of obesity.
Findings from a study published in August 2011 in the journal Appetite suggested that drinking soda can actually trigger sweet cravings by dulling your sensitivity to sweet tastes, sparking a vicious cycle of eating sweet foods and drinks.
“The sugar in soda is so concentrated and invisible,” says Kelly Kennedy, RD, nutritionist for Everyday Health. “When I tell people that there are more than 16 teaspoons of sugar in a 20 ounce (oz) bottle of cola, they’re shocked. It’s just so easy to overdo it on both sugar and calories.”
All of that sugar intake has damaging effects. A study published in May 2015 in the journal Diabetologia found that swapping out just one sugary drink a day can cut your risk of type 2 diabetes by as much as 25 percent.
Diet soda fiends aren’t off the hook either: A study published in March 2015 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that diet soda intake is directly related to abdominal obesity in adults over age 65. The increase in waist circumference among diet soda drinkers was three times the amount in nondrinkers.
“While you’re not getting the same amount of calories or sugar from a diet soda that you would from a regular one, the belief is that with diet soda the body senses the sweet flavor and craves the calories that would normally go with that flavor,” notes Kennedy. “As a result, people end up ‘making up’ for the missed calories in other foods that they eat throughout the day.”
In Kennedy’s opinion, other unhealthy lifestyle factors “often go along with frequent soda consumption, which compounds soda’s effect on health. Oftentimes, when someone is having a soda, they’re not making the best food choices either.”
So what are some better choices? There are plenty of other refreshing beverages, with nutritional value, that you can drink instead of soda. It’s still important, though, to consider what’s in your soda substitutes. Replacing soda with high-in-sugar fruit juices or tea and coffee drinks loaded with added refined sugar isn’t much better for your health.
But swapping out soda for drinks that are low in sugar, such as unsweetened iced coffee or tea, can reduce your sugar intake while adding beneficial antioxidants to your diet. Low-fat milk, Kennedy adds, is also a better option, providing vitamins and nutrients, such as calcium.
Need some inspiration? Get started with these healthier, low-calorie thirst-quenchers that are sure to still satisfy your taste buds.
Additional reporting by Deborah Shapiro
6 foods and drinks that have almost as much caffeine as coffee
- Coffee isn’t the only way to get caffeine.
- The caffeine content in some of these popular drinks and foods will shock you.
- Do you crave chocolate at night? You might want to swap out your favorite candy bar for a treat with no caffeine.
Caffeine. Love it or hate it, this popular ingredient seems to be everywhere. From the foods we eat to the drinks we can’t seem to start our morning without, caffeine has become a staple of the American diet.
But when you think of caffeine, what’s the first thing to come to mind? Is it your favorite Starbucks drink or the extra tall can of energy drink you pound during your workout? Maybe it’s the chocolate bar you like to eat before you go to bed.
Although it could be any of these, there’s a good chance that coffee tops the list for most people. But what you may not know is that there are a lot of other foods and drinks that have just as much caffeine as coffee.
Jackie Arnett Elnahar RD, Esq., co-founder and CEO of TelaDietitian told INSIDER that depending on the brand, some food and beverages can have quite a bit of caffeine — even as much as coffee, which is around 95 milligrams of caffeine.
We rounded up a list of these surprising sources of caffeine.
Coffee vs. Soda: A Comparison
Coffee and soda are two favorite beverages that many Americans drink daily. They’re both delicious and caffeinated, which is why so many people turn to them on a regular basis. They also have an intertwined history. Here’s a look at the similarities and differences between coffee and soda.
Coffee Has More Caffeine Than Soda
The caffeine levels in coffee are significantly higher than those in most popular sodas. The typical caffeinated soda has between 25 and 50 milligrams of caffeine. In comparison, a 6-ounce cup of arabica coffee has around 100 milligrams of caffeine, and a shot of espresso contains about 70 milligrams. (Coffea robusta has twice as much caffeine as coffea arabica.)
Sometimes, it might seem like soda gives you more energy than a cup of coffee. That’s largely because soda also has a lot of sugar, which black coffee doesn’t have.
Coffee Has More Health Benefits Than Soda
Although some health providers say it’s alright to consume soda in moderation, it has virtually no health benefits. At best, zero-calorie sodas have neutral health effects. At worst, the calories in sugar-laden sodas has devastating consequences on people’s cardiovascular systems and waistlines.
When consumed in moderation, coffee has many health benefits. Drinking too much of it will lead to a caffeine dependence and interfere with sleep. In moderation, many studies have shown that coffee:
- reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease
- lowers the risk of stroke
- reduces the risk of liver cancer and liver disease
- lowers the risk of Parkinson’s disease
- might protect against Alzheimer’s disease
These are just a few of the health benefits studies have found. Of course, these benefits are only linked with black coffee. Drinking a double-whip breve mocha mint latte isn’t going to do anything good for your heart. Additionally, it’s important to remain hydrated when drinking coffee.
Coffee and Soda Have an Inverse Relationship
Since World War II, when Coca-Cola introduced soldiers to soda for 5 cents a can, coffee and soda have had an inverse relationship. When one’s popularity has declined, the other’s has increased.
As we detailed in A Story About Why America Moved Away from Coffee After the World War, the world’s leading coffee companies began producing low-quality coffee following World War II. They were importing robusta beans and soluble coffee, as well as shortening roasting times, adding water to coffee beans and reintroducing chaff to roasted coffee in order to boost their bottom line. At the same time, soldiers returning from overseas were turning to the soda they learned to love while deployed.
Through the 1970s, the quality of coffee being offered in the U.S. continued to decline. Many Americans followed soldiers and switched to soda,
In the 1980s, however, a revolution began that has continued through today. It’s in the 1980s that the coffee culture began to reemerge. As the culture grew, more and more people were reintroduced, or introduced for the first time, to great coffee. During the same time, medical researchers railed against the damaging health effects of soda and began to study the positive benefits of coffee.
Since 2000, the shift from soda to coffee has been especially prevalent. Between 2000 and 2012 (when data was updated), soda consumption fell by 38 percent, and coffee consumption rose by 24 percent.
Switch to Great Coffee
If you’re trying to cut back on soda, perhaps coffee’s the drink you should switch to. After all, many people have made the change recently. Let us send you a sample pack, so we can reacquaint you with outstanding coffee.