Ah, caffeine! The tried-and-true stimulant helps most of us get into gear in the morning and power through never-ending afternoons at the office. (Here’s the best time to drink coffee for a maximum boost.) Coffee is the top dog in the world of energy, but there are plenty of other sources of caffeine for every diet and palate. We share the good, the bad and the ugly.
A Sure Jolt
Coffee is most people’s go-to for a burst of energy, and for good reason-a single cup contains about 100mg or more of caffeine, depending on the roast. A good rule of thumb is the lighter the roast, the more caffeine it’ll contain. Some iced coffees are highly concentrated, too. Learn how to make your own cold brew here.
Good to know: Coffee takes about 20 minutes to take effect. Try to keep tabs on how much coffee you’re drinking. If you knock back more than four cups a day and start to feel jittery or have trouble sleeping, consider switching to half-caf or decaf in the afternoons and evenings.
Coffee’s concentrated cousin, espresso, offers nearly the same kick with far less liquid. A single ounce contains about 50mg of the energizing substance. Espresso’s complex flavor, often less bitter, can be a little easier on the palate than black coffee. If flavor’s what you’re looking for, you might be able to enjoy espresso without loading up on cream and sugar. Diet bonus!
Good to know: It’s easy to turn down a late night coffee drink, but be careful when eating late-night desserts made with the beans. A post-dinner espresso cookie may melt in your mouth, but the beans’ caffeine might keep you up late.
Energizing, but Proceed with Caution
Lattes and Cappuccinos
These sugary coffee shop delights bundle caffeine with a whole lot of flavor. (Make your own version at home.) Along with frothy milk and flavored syrups, the drinks are made with multiple shots of espresso. Most baristas will fit two shots of espresso into your large latte.
Good to know: With great flavor comes great responsibility-these tasty drinks are usually rich in sugar, so don’t make them your only source of caffeine.
A spot of tea can put some pep in your step without giving you the caffeine jitters. A cup of black or green tea typically contains around 30mg of caffeine, so you can sip throughout the day without worrying about overstimulation. A notable exception to this rule is chai tea, which can pack just as much caffeine as a cup of coffee.
Good to know: With the varieties of teas and blends available, there’s a tea to suit just about any palate. Many teas are also packed with antioxidants, which may help the body protect itself against cell damage and disease. Most herbal teas have no caffeine but might offer other benefits.
A refreshing can of pop can help get you through groggy afternoons with a decent dose of caffeine—a typical cola contains nearly 30mg. But take care to read the labels: Brands like Pepsi Zero Sugar pack a whopping 69mg per can.
Good to know: Try not to drink too much soda. The drink can stop diets in their tracks and contribute to health problems. Both the sugars and phosphoric acid in soda can cause trouble for otherwise healthy teeth and bones. Be careful about mixing soda with alcohol, as well. Caffeine can mask alcohol’s intoxicating effect, and sugar can make it easy to drink too much.
With as much caffeine as a cup of coffee and a sweet, sugary taste to boot, energy drinks are the darling of convenience stores. In addition to boosting energy, some claim to make it easier to focus on tasks. Be skeptical of health claims like this.
Good to know: A lot of energy drinks get their caffeine from the seeds of guarana, a South American climbing plant. Some energy drink ingredients can cause the jitters, energy crashes and other side effects. Stay away if you’re pregnant!
Surprising Ways to Perk Up
Believe it or not, dark chocolate can give you a slight energy boost. Cocoa beans contain caffeine as well, and a single bar of semisweet chocolate can contain around 20mg. Here are 40 ways to get your dark chocolate fix.
Good to know: When shopping for dark chocolate, make sure it’s at least 70% cacao to get the most bang for your buck. Milk chocolate just doesn’t pack the same wallop. Like tea, dark chocolate is also chock-full of antioxidants and has other benefits.
Along with satisfying tummies between lunch and dinner, some protein bars can fight the 3 p.m. blues with a zap of caffeine. Some popular brands contain up to 50mg per bar.
Good to know: Even if there’s no caffeine added, protein bars with chocolate, green tea, or coffee extract will contain natural levels of the stimulant.
Now that you’re all hyped up on our caffeine-packed facts, dish them out to your friends and family-along with a slice of coffee-enhanced dessert.