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What Are Caffeine Pills?
Updated on February 13, 2024
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What Are Caffeine Pills?

Caffeine is the main ingredient of popular picker-upper beverages like coffee. For many, drinking coffee in the morning helps clear mental cobwebs and jumpstart their day.

But some people take caffeine in pill form for their much-needed energy boost. Caffeine pills provide a quick and convenient way to get a precise dose of caffeine.

Let’s take a closer look at the benefits and risks of caffeine pills and the best way to take them. We also asked for the insights of Elise Harlow, a registered dietitian, on the effects and safety of caffeine pills.

Caffeine Pills We Recommend:

What Are Caffeine Pills? 2

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What Are Caffeine Pills?

Caffeine pills are dietary supplements that contain caffeine. Caffeine is a well-known central nervous system stimulant that can keep you alert, focused, and energized.

It works by blocking adenosine receptors in your brain. Adenosine is a chemical messenger that promotes and regulates sleep.

It plays a role in your body’s sleep-wake cycle by slowing down your brain activity to induce drowsiness. Caffeine prevents adenosine from binding to receptors, helping you stay awake.1

Caffeine pills typically contain 100 to 200 mg of caffeine.2 There are three main types of caffeine found in pills:

  • Natural caffeine or caffeine extracts — Extracted from natural sources such as coffee beans, tea leaves, or guarana
  • Caffeine Anhydrous — Similar to natural caffeine, but goes through a process that separates the caffeine molecule from the water that is typically attached to it
  • Dicaffeine malate — A much less common form of caffeine usually combined with caffeine anhydrous but only just one-tenth the dosage

Most pills contain caffeine anhydrous. It’s the cheapest, most studied, and most concentrated form of caffeine.

An 8-ounce cup of coffee can have 80 to 100 mg, while the same amount of green or black tea only has 30 to 50 mg of caffeine.3

Do Caffeine Pills Work?

Yes. 

Caffeine pills work, although you may notice slightly different effects than when you drink a cup of coffee or tea.

Like caffeinated drinks, caffeine pills are effective in increasing your alertness and energy levels. 

Their caffeine content can also help enhance your focus and productivity by boosting your mood and motivation.4

Health Benefits of Caffeine Pills

Scientists have studied caffeine well, and multiple research shows it has many positive effects on the brain and body. 

Since caffeine is the main active ingredient of caffeine pills, you may enjoy the same health benefits:

1. Mental Benefits

Caffeine stimulates your central nervous system for an energy boost and increased alertness. It also enhances cognitive functions like memory, concentration, and learning. 

Caffeine may improve motor function in Parkinson’s disease by alleviating symptoms such as tremors and freezing. It can also prevent the loss of neurons in people with Parkinson’s.

It can decrease the buildup of harmful plaques in the brain, lowering your risk for Alzheimer’s.6,7

2. Physical Benefits 

Caffeine can also enhance your physical performance. It can help you sprint faster, lift more weights, and run longer. It improves your reaction time, which is helpful in many sports.8 

In terms of physical benefits, there’s no difference between caffeine pills and coffee. Both enhance exercise performance and strength to the same degree.9,10

Caffeine Pills vs. Coffee — Which Is Better?

While coffee and caffeine pills produce similar effects, taking one over the other has some advantages.

FeatureCaffeine PillsCoffee
TasteNeutralWide variety of flavors
Cholesterol ImpactLess likely to raise cholesterolContains oils that might raise cholesterol
AntioxidantsLackingContains beneficial antioxidants (polyphenols)
ConvenienceEasy to takePreparation time required
Calorie ControlMinimal caloriesPotential for high calories with additions (sugar, cream)
Other ConsiderationsPotential side effects vary by dosageMay be better for those with acid reflux

Coffee Has Healthy Compounds

Caffeine pills usually have a single active ingredient: caffeine. Caffeine by itself has not been shown to have as many health benefits as coffee.

Coffee contains many active compounds in addition to caffeine, including11

  • Polyphenols
  • Diterpenes
  • Alkaloids

These healthy compounds have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and anti-cancer effects. They also help protect the brain from damage and oxidative stress. 

It may be the reason why coffee reduces your risk of diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.12

Coffee also contains small amounts of theobromine, which helps boost mood and increase focus. It may also help counteract some of the harmful effects of caffeine, such as increased blood pressure.13 

Caffeine Pills Are Convenient Energy Sources

Caffeine pills are a more practical way to get caffeinated. You don’t have to make a cup at home or line up at the nearest Starbucks. You can order your favorite caffeine pills online. 

You can place a few in your pocket as soon as they arrive. Any time you need quick doses of energy, you can take them. Since they’re not liquid, you’ll also have fewer bathroom visits.

Caffeine Pills Limit Your Caffeine Intake 

Each cup of coffee may contain different amounts of caffeine. It depends on the roast, brewing method, and where the coffee beans came from.

Because of this, you can easily overdo your caffeine intake. Pills are a great way to ensure you get the right dose and don’t drink too much.

So if you’re an athlete or a student who knows exactly how much caffeine you need to perform your best, caffeine pills may be a great option.

Caffeine pills and coffee has their benefits and disadvantages. When choosing between the two, it’s worth considering factors like

  • Budget
  • Situation or timing
  • Caffeine sensitivities
  • Preference in taste
  • How much caffeine boost you need

Remember, you can safely include them in your daily consumption as long as you stick to the recommended amount. Take caffeine in moderation to avoid coffee dependence.

Are Caffeine Pills Safe?

It depends.

While caffeine is safe in low to moderate amounts, excessive consumption may cause unpleasant side effects. Symptoms may show if you take over 1.2 g of caffeine in a day.12

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends up to 400 mg of caffeine daily as the safe amount for healthy adults.

It’s equivalent to four to five cups of coffee or two to four caffeine pills.3 Doses over 10 g can be fatal.12 

People with caffeine sensitivity may have adverse effects with just small amounts.3 You may want to control your caffeine intake if you have this condition. 

Caffeine pills are potentially dangerous because you can take too much caffeine and not realize it. For example, you may lose track of how many pills you take if you’re too focused on a task.

You can also become dependent on caffeine if you frequently take pills. As your tolerance increases, you may need to consume more and more.

If you suddenly stop taking caffeine pills after being used to them, it can cause withdrawal symptoms like headaches and fatigue.12 

However, this doesn't mean they aren’t safe. Most people can safely take caffeine pills.

Side Effects of Caffeine Pills

High dosage of caffeine pills may cause similar side effects as too much caffeine consumption, such as

  • Anxiety and restlessness
  • Nervousness
  • Facial flushing
  • Increased urination
  • Muscle twitches
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Upset stomach and nausea
  • Rapid heartbeat

More severe side effects can occur if you overdose on caffeine. You may have an irregular or fast heart rate, increased blood pressure, confusion, vomiting, and seizures.12 

If you are experiencing these, you should immediately see a healthcare professional.

How to Take Caffeine Pills Safely

If you’re going to take caffeine pills, there are a few steps you can do to ensure safe consumption:

  • Record the amount of caffeine or pills you take in a day
  • Avoid highly-concentrated caffeine sources (e.g., energy drinks)
  • Avoid consuming coffee when you’re taking pills
  • Pay attention to how your body reacts to the caffeine
  • Take L-theanine to neutralize caffeine’s effects14,15
  • Combining with L-theanine also improves mental performance14,15

Many of these tips can limit your caffeine consumption and prevent caffeine overdose. Others reduce the negative side effects of caffeine.

When is the best time to take caffeine pills?

Caffeine pills are best taken in the morning. You can also take them up to 6 hours before bedtime. Taking them too late in the day can interfere with your sleep.

However, registered dietitian Elise Harlow says that the effects of caffeine can be different for everyone.

"Everybody's personal response to caffeine will vary. If you have trouble sleeping even if you have no caffeine in the afternoon, you may be somebody who needs to stop taking caffeine earlier in the day," explains Harlow, M.S., R.D.N.

When should you avoid caffeine pills?

Pregnant women, as well as people with the following medical conditions, should avoid caffeine pills:

  • Heart disease or heart arrhythmias 
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Kidney or liver diseases
  • Ulcers 
  • Severe anxiety 
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia

Caffeine can also interact with certain medications. Before you take caffeine pills, you should see a doctor if you’re taking the following prescription drugs:16

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Drugs used to treat irregular heart rhythms
  • Quinolones antibiotics
  • Bronchodilators such as theophylline
  • Clozapine 
  • Idrocilamide 
  • Psoralen

Should You Start Taking Caffeine Pills?

Caffeine pills are not for everyone. But certain people may benefit from their convenience. For instance, if you don’t enjoy the taste of coffee or tea, caffeine pills may be just what you need. 

They can still keep you energized and focused even if they don’t have all the health benefits. Caffeine pills can also help with physical endurance and athletic goals. 

But if you have certain conditions or are sensitive to caffeine, you may want to avoid them. You must also stop taking them and see a doctor if you experience adverse side effects.

Registered dietitian Elise Harlow says we should be careful when buying caffeine pills:

"Supplements are not regulated by the FDA. This means that what a supplement label claims is in their supplement may not actually be true. It is important to buy supplements from trusted brands that have been tested by third parties."

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Updated on February 13, 2024
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1 sources cited
Updated on February 13, 2024
  1. Caffeine and adenosine.” National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  2. Caffeine (Oral Route).” Mayo Clinic.
  3. Spilling the Beans: How Much Caffeine is Too Much?” Food and Drug Administration. 
  4. Effects of Caffeine on Cognitive Performance, Mood, and Alertness in Sleep-Deprived Humans.” National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  5. Caffeine and Parkinson’s Disease: Multiple Benefits and Emerging Mechanisms.” Frontiers in Neuroscience.
  6. Caffeine for treatment of Parkinson's disease.” Neurology.
  7. Caffeine: Cognitive and Physical Performance Enhancer or Psychoactive Drug?” Current Neuropharmacology.
  8. A review of caffeine's effects on cognitive, physical and occupational performance.” National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  9. The Metabolic and Performance Effects of Caffeine Compared to Coffee during Endurance Exercise.” PLOS One.
  10. Effect of Coffee and Caffeine Ingestion on Resistance Exercise Performance.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
  11. Neuroprotective Effects of Coffee Bioactive Compounds: A Review.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
  12. Caffeine.” National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  13. Psychopharmacology of theobromine in healthy volunteers.” Psychopharmacology.
  14. Effects of L-Theanine Administration on Stress-Related Symptoms and Cognitive Functions in Healthy Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Nutrients.
  15. The combination of L-theanine and caffeine improves cognitive performance and increases subjective alertness.” Nutritional Neuroscience.
  16. Clinically significant pharmacokinetic interactions between dietary caffeine and medications.” Clinical Pharmacokinetics.

Elise Harlow
Elise Harlow, M.S., R.D.N.
Medical Reviewer
Elise Harlow is a registered dietitian with a Master of Science in Nutritional Sciences. She is the founder of an online nutrition consulting and coaching business.

Elise helps people use the power of food to lead healthier lives. She works with various clients, including those who want to achieve a healthier weight, improve their gut health, lower cholesterol, manage their blood sugar, or balance their hormones.
Will Hunter
Will Hunter
Content Contributor
Will is a content writer for KnowYourDNA. He received his B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Will has 7 years of experience writing health-related content, with an emphasis on nutrition, alternative medicine, and longevity.
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