menu iconknow your dna logosearch icon
Caffeine Pills — All You Need to Know About The Coffee Alternative
Updated on October 3, 2022
Back to top
back to top icon
hello world!
At Home Health
Caffeine Pills — All You Need to Know About The Coffee Alternative

Caffeine is a popular picker-upper. At least 80% of American adults consume coffee daily.1 

For many, it’s a morning ritual that helps clear mental cobwebs and jumpstarts their day. While coffee and tea are the main ways people get their caffeine, some people take caffeine pills. 

Caffeine pills provide a quick and convenient way to get a precise dose of this beloved chemical. But are caffeine pills safe, and do they actually work? 

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

Caffeine Pills — All You Need to Know About The Coffee Alternative 2

What Are Caffeine Pills?

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

It works by blocking adenosine receptors in your brain. Normally, adenosine binds to these receptors throughout the day and makes you feel sleepy. 

Caffeine prevents this, so you feel more awake and alert. It also causes your body to release more cortisol, which provides a stimulating effect.2 

Caffeine pills typically contain 100 to 200 mg 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

Different Types of Caffeine Pills 

There are three main types of caffeine found in pills:

  • Caffeine Anhydrous 
  • Dicaffeine malate
  • Natural caffeine or caffeine extracts

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

Caffeine anhydrous is basically the same as natural caffeine. But it’s been processed to separate the caffeine molecule from the water that is normally attached to it. 

Dicaffeine malate is a trademarked form of caffeine that is much less common. It’s usually combined to caffeine anhydrous but with just one-tenth the dosage. 

Supplement companies claim that it is slowly released and absorbed by the body. It’s supposed to help reduce the side effects of having too much coffee, such as anxiety and jitters.

Sometimes the bottle will say “natural caffeine.” This just means it was extracted from a natural source, such as coffee beans, tea leaves, or guarana.

Caffeine Pills vs. Coffee — Which Is Better?

While coffee and caffeine pills produce similar effects, there are some advantages of taking one over the other. Here are their differences:

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.4 These include:

  • 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.2

Coffee also contains 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.5 

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. 

As soon as they arrive, you can place a few in your pocket. Any time you need quick doses of energy, you can just 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 make sure you get the right dose and that you don’t drink too much.

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

Know Your DNA Reviews

Give the Gift of Knowledge

Read our guide all about DNA kits you can gift to your friends and family.

Do Caffeine Pills Work?

Yes. Caffeine pills are an effective way to feel more alert and energized. They can also increase your focus and productivity and boost your mood and motivation. 

You may notice similar or slightly different effects as when you drink a cup of coffee or tea.

Potential Health Benefits of Caffeine Pills

Caffeine is well-studied and has been shown to have many positive effects on the brain and body. Since it’s the main active ingredient of caffeine pills, you may enjoy the same health benefits:

Mental Benefits

Caffeine stimulates the brain and provides these benefits:6

  • Boost energy
  • Become more alert
  • Increase concentration
  • Improve memory and learning
  • Lift your mood

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 these patients. 

It can decrease the buildup of toxic plaques and reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s disease.7,8

Physical Benefits 

Beyond brain health and mental performance, caffeine can also help you sprint faster, lift more weights, and run longer. It improves your reaction time, which is helpful in many sports.

In terms of physical performance, there’s no difference between caffeine pills and coffee. Both enhance exercise performance and strength to the same degree.10,11

Are Caffeine Pills Safe?

It depends. While caffeine is safe in low to moderate amounts, excessive amounts may cause unpleasant side effects. Symptoms may show if you take over 1.2 g of caffeine in a day.2

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends up to 400 mg of caffeine a day for healthy adults — or about four to five cups of coffee.3 Doses over 10 g can be fatal.2 

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

Caffeine pills are potentially dangerous because you can take too much 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.2 

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

Side Effects of Caffeine Pills

Caffeine pills may cause similar side effects as caffeine, including:2

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

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.2 

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

How to Take Caffeine Pills Safely

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

  • 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 with L-theanine to reduce caffeine’s effects12,13
  • Combining with L-theanine also improves mental performance12,13

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

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 to Avoid Caffeine Pills

If you’re pregnant or have the following health conditions, you should avoid them:2

  • 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:14

  • 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. 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 true. It is important to buy supplements from trusted brands that have been tested by third-parties."

Know Your DNA Reviews

Holiday Shopping Guide

We rounded up all of our favorite at-home health products so you can get the perfect gift for your friends or family.

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.
Back to top icon