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You often hear people saying Red Bull contains a lot more energy than an ordinary coffee. Specifically I heard mention a few times that Red Bull contains 10 times the amount of energy than an ordinary coffee. Although I couldn't find this statement specifically there are plenty of other relevant statements around the internet:

I did a lab where I analyzed the amount of caffeine in different drinks, and Red Bull had an insane amount.

1 can is additional to 3 cups or more of coffee

Highly doubting this claim, I started looking around and already found it definitely doesn't contain 10 times as much caffeine. However, it also contains several other energetic ingredients like taurine and sugar.

Drinking 10 coffees and comparing this with drinking one Red Bull is easy, and quickly shows (at least for me personally) it has an entirely different effect.

How much energy does Red Bull give you, compared to a typical cup of coffee? Most likely people refer to alertness energy, which allows them to stay awake.

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    Who is claiming red bull = 10 cups of coffee? – Sam I Am Nov 26 '11 at 15:11
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    By energy, do you mean "food energy" (which will be easy to answer from any "Calorie Counter"), or some informal definition of alertness, in which case it needs to be defined. – Oddthinking Nov 26 '11 at 15:21
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    A coffee without sugar contains no energy at all. People normally drink coffee with their favored amount of sugar, while in Red Bull, it is a fixed amount. You have specify how much sugar is in the coffee, to compare its energy. – user unknown Nov 26 '11 at 20:46
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    "Wakes you up" or "makes you nervous" doesn't mean "contains energy". – user unknown Nov 26 '11 at 22:17
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    "alertness energy"? Can you point to a definition of this term please? (Subtext: I don't think there is one.) – Oddthinking Nov 26 '11 at 22:34
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Energy content

Coffee contains in the range of 0.25 calorie per ounce to 0.5 calorie per ounce.

A 250g (8.8oz) serving of Red Bull contains 110 calories for about 12.5 calories per ounce.

Conclusion: Red Bull contains 25x to 50x more energy per ounce than coffee.

Caffeine Content

While not energy, caffeine has an "energetic" affect on people.

Coffee contains anywhere from 80-130mg per 6 oz for 13.3mg/oz to 21.6mg/oz.

Red Bull contains 80mg of caffeine per 8.46oz can for about 9.5mg per ounce.

Conclusion: Red Bull contains 30% to 56% less caffeine per ounce than coffee

Other notes

How strongly you brew your coffee will change the energy content, but even a "double-strong" batch of coffee would only contain 1 calorie per ounce, giving Red Bull 12.5x more energy per ounce than coffee. And if you add cream or sugar to your coffee, then the energy content of the coffee will change, drastically altering the ratio against Red Bull.

Red Bull contains other "active ingredients" that exist in different quantities and in some case don't exist at all in coffee, and have the purported effect of altering the mood/energetic feeling of those who consume it. Because Red Bull and Coffee are such different substances, it is impossible to make a direct, objective comparison.

  • Glucose -- Sugar; this does get counted in the calorie count, but different types of calories affect the body differently. So while we can measure the actual energy content of the glucose, it's not the same as saying 25 cups of coffee would have the exact same effect on the human body.

  • Taurine -- 1000mg per can of Red Bull, improves nerve impulses. Not in coffee.

  • Niacin -- A B vitamin that aids in metabolism. Small amounts in coffee.

  • D-Pantothenol -- Vitamin B5, improves mood and "boosts energy". Small amounts in coffee.

  • Pyridoxine HCL -- Vitamin B6, aides in oxygen utilization. Not in coffee.

  • Vitamin B12 -- Better oxygen utilization. Not in coffee.

  • Caffeine -- This is found in coffee, and discussed above.

  • Wow, K, that's already new for me. Question remains whether this results in more alertness. – Steven Jeuris Nov 26 '11 at 17:58
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    @StevenJeuris: I don't know of any way to objectively measure "alertness." If you do, let me know. :) – Flimzy Nov 26 '11 at 18:28
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    This answer makes lots of bold claims about the effects of the ingredients: "improves nerve impulses", "aids metabolism", etc. They need references too. – Oddthinking Nov 26 '11 at 22:32
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    Please use metric units: meta.skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/1001/… – Sklivvz Nov 27 '11 at 0:51
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    @Flimzy: Hmmm. A non-peer-reviewed blog with limited references to support its claims? I remain doubtful. – Oddthinking Nov 27 '11 at 6:59
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As has been mentioned in both comments and in another answer, 'energy' is a subjective term to use for this.

Red Bull cans vary in size, but the European can size (250ml) delivers 112.5kCal of energy. A cup of Starbucks Americano (Grande) coffee contains 72kCal, meaning that in the scientific defintion of 'energy', the Red Bull contains more.

The point that this is missing is energy in the calorific sense does not equal feeling energetic, it just equals having more energy to use. For example, a slice of bread typically contains 80-120kCal of energy, so a similar amount to a can of Red Bull, but it will not make you feel energetic in the same way.

I think it's a fair given that Red Bull will make the majority of people feel more energetic, and that coffee also helps most people feel alert. Some of this affect may of course be placebo.

The significant difference between coffee and Red Bull, nutritionally and physiologically, is that, whilst coffee contains one significant ingredient that has an 'energising affect' on the body (Caffeine), Red Bull has 2 (Caffeine and Taurine). Both, potentially - depending on how you like your coffee, also contain Sugars of one sort or another, mainly Glucose.

Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor and cardiovascular agonist. The vasoconstriction caused by caffeine will cause the peripheral network of capillary blood vessel to become smaller, and thus move less blood, the effect of this is that the volume of blood within the body will be held in a smaller space, and thus the Arterial Blood Pressure will increase, increasing perfusion to the organs, including the brain. Thus, caffeine causes a feeling of alertness through a greater bloodflow to the brain.

Caffeine also causes a release of Adrenaline and Noradrenaline within the body. Adrenaline and it's derivatives are Beta-agonists, which raise blood pressure, and heart rate, so blood flow is further increased by heighten cardiac output.

Source

Taurine is an amino acid used in the formation of proteins, which is especially useful to the brain, which is a primary consumer of taurine. Although its affects on the cardiovascular system aren't fully understood, they are observed. It has a calming affect on Cardiac Output, and thus may help recovery from a large amount of caffeine.

The long and short of the question is that in pure energetic terms, Red Bull has slightly more energy, but that this isn't necessarily what makes drinkers feel energised. The affects of the ingredients of coffee and Red Bull will act differently on different people, so it's not possible to say which makes people more energised, as different people will react differently.

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