Are caffeine pills safe?
As a student, I know caffeine pills run rampant on college campuses. Since we're always on the go, popping a pill can be far more convenient than waiting in line for a cup of coffee.
Caffeine pills are easily accessible, portable, and cheap. You can buy a 100-count bottle of 200-milligram pills on Amazon or at your local pharmacy for as little as $6.55, and they're tiny enough to tuck away in any backpack. So it's not surprising that college students rely on them to overcome morning fatigue, stave off an afternoon slump, or pull all-nighters.
Though there's no denying the burst of energy you get from caffeine pills, the question is, are they healthy?
What are caffeine pills?
As many people know, caffeine is a stimulant that acts on the central nervous system—nerves, brain and spinal cord. Caffeine pills can be made of natural or synthetic caffeine. Some products may also contain inactive ingredients, such as coloring agents, emulsifiers, and other additives, says Rachel Link, a nutritionist based in New York City.
Cynthia Sass, RD, Health nutrition editor, says while every type of pill is made differently, most have between 100 and 200 milligrams of caffeine. That's less than a 20-ounce cup of Starbucks Dark Roast brewed coffee, which has about 340 milligrams. It’s more than a 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola, which has 34 milligrams.
What's the difference between caffeine pills and coffee?
There are a few significant differences between caffeine pills and coffee. Caffeine pills are "more accessible or portable than coffee, and some people don't like the taste of coffee or tea," Sass says. Because coffee can be so bitter, people often add creamer and sweetener. Popping a pill avoids the sugar shock and taste of coffee altogether. It's also calorie free, which may be the appeal, Sass reasons.
Sometimes "coffee can also irritate the digestive tract" and "trigger heartburn," says Link, which is why caffeine pills appeal to some people. Coffee "enters the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine and can have a stimulating effect as soon as 15 minutes after it is consumed," according to the National Sleep Foundation.