Red Bull vs. Straight Caffeine: Which Is Better?

You know you get a boost from caffeine, but are taurine and B-vitamins in your energy drink doing anything at all? Scientists tested Redbull to determine if those other ingredients help.

Over the last decade, energy drinks have become a huge market in both the sports world and the general public. Athletes use them to improve performance on the field, whereas the average Joe may pick one up to help him focus and get through the day. It is known the main ingredient in energy drinks that delivers results is caffeine. But what about all the other ingredients, like taurine and B-vitamins? Labels on various energy drinks often boast about other ingredients that are supposed to help with performance. A recent study investigated the secondary ingredients in Red Bull and the relationship to aerobic metabolism during and following heavy exercise.

The study included 8 recreationally trained individuals who completed a graded exercise test to determine their gas exchange threshold (GET). On two separate occasions, each subject ingested a serving (245 ml) of Red Bull or a control drink that had the same caffeine content prior to 10-minute constant-load cycling sessions. The intensity of the bouts was equivalent to their GET, and they rested 3 minutes between sessions.1

The accumulated liters of oxygen were higher for the first bout for both drink groups, but did not differ between drinks. Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption was higher following the initial versus the second bout, but also did not differ between drinks. Furthermore, there were no differences in heart rate or rating of perceived exertion between either drink group.2

The results of this study indicate that the secondary ingredients in Red Bull, including taurine and B-vitamins, do not enhance aerobic metabolism during or subsequent to heavy exercise. There have been numerous studies proving the efficacy of caffeine, which is the main ingredient in many energy drinks. Little research, however, had been done to determine if the secondary ingredients in these drinks had a beneficial effect on aerobic metabolism during and following heavy exercise. In terms of cost, caffeine as a standalone supplement costs much less than the average energy drink, and may actually provide the most bang for your buck when it comes to performance. Based on the results of this study, it may make more since if Red Bull’s slogan was changed to “Caffeine, it gives you wings!”

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.