Daily Addictions: Red Bull Versus Coffee

wish we knew how to quit you.

wish we knew how to quit you.

Three weeks ago, I made the switch from French-pressed coffee every morning to a harder stimulant of choice: Red Bull. And my life changed.

Yes, yes, I’m late to the game. I’ve been that way in general. I staved off coffee through all of high school. To no surprise, I nodded off in almost every class. In college, I didn’t drink coffee (seriously!) until my senior year, when I suddenly had a senior thesis to finish and then found myself becoming a Starbucks regular, drinking triple-grande macchiatos. And then I moved to Portland, where I stopped going to Starbucks and became a coffee snob. I made coffee almost every morning or went to Heart Roasters or Barista for a pricey-but-oh-so-good cuppa joe.

I’m not sure how I survived all those years of not drinking coffee, but once I started, it was hard to stop. When you have a mentally grueling and anxious job like writing multiple stories on deadline, it’s so difficult to give up the buzz. The rush is reliable. And if you buy coffee beans in bulk, the drink can actually be quite affordable.

One day, coffee wasn’t enough. The buzz didn’t come as strong. I had to drink more cups of coffee to achieve the same reaction. I was getting sick of the smell and the aftertaste of old coffee.

It was the week between the Coachellas. I covered Coachella fashion the first weekend, then worked six days in a row. I had a big project to finish, on top of several daily stories. My friend from Portland was also about to visit. The pressure was on. I ditched the coffee and, for the first time in my life, bought a large pack of Red Bull. It worked wonders. I zipped through my stories with an alert and fresh mind and kept chugging one energy drink after another. Red Bull gave me wings.

It lurked in the back of my mind that something devilish was in that Red Bull. But in a totally non-scientific, purely anecdotal account, the differences between the two drinks over the last three weeks were drastic for me:

Red Bull

Pros: Instant buzz. Small, compact cans. No brewing involved. Doesn’t have to be hot, or iced. Not as many jitters, or as much anxiety.

Cons: Yucky, too-sweet taste. My coworker across from me can smell the drink. No jitters, but a harder mental crash once the buzz wore off. Not sure what’s in it.


Pros: Strong buzz. The smell in the morning. Many different flavors and varieties. Can be organic or sustainable. Can be slowly savored.

Cons: Bad anxiety from the heart racing. The jitters. Many more cups to sustain the buzz. Mental crash.

Now here are some cold, hard facts: A plain cup of 8 fluid ounces of brewed coffee, without cream or sugar, has hardly any calories. Like one or two, according to medical, health and wellness websites. I usually drink my coffee black. Once you add in the accoutrements, the calories can shoot up to 100 or more per cup. Coffee, of course, is made directly from grinding the roasted bean, so it’s not too processed.

One regular Red Bull can, according to its website, has the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee, about 80 milligrams. But of course, it’s got other things mixed in there: B-group vitamins, sucrose and glucose sugars, the amino acid taurine and spring water. That’s certainly more ingredients. For 8.4 fluid ounces of Red Bull, it’s about 110 calories. About the same as a cup of sweetened coffee.

Do I have an addiction? At the speed we’re running these days on social media and daily deadlines, it would be hard to refuse Red Bull or coffee. Maybe the better question for me and all my fellow addicts is, do we have the will to slow down… and breathe?

Yeah. Not too sure about that. Maybe it’s time to look into joining my local chapter of Caff-aholics Anonymous.

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