Per the USDA, a typical 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee contains 94.8 mg of caffeine. Therefore, a 50 mg caffeine supplement would equal about a half-cup of coffee.
Keep in mind the USDA National Nutrient Database is basing that on a rather weak brew. (1)
Common a couple decades ago, but today thanks to Starbucks, stronger brews are the norm.
What you see in that Trader Joe’s cup is about 2.5 to 3 oz, but it’s more comparable to the USDA’s 4 oz.
The 16 oz Grande Pike Place – which is Starbuck’s house brew – contains 310 mg of caffeine. That’s over 60% more per ounce than what the USDA reports. (2)
They do have a smaller size – 12 oz tall – but that’s still packing a punch of over 200 mg. To get 40 mg of caffeine from coffee, it would be just a couple sips and you would have to toss the rest.
As with eating just one bite of a cupcake, the temptation to drink more is inevitable.
When all you need is a little pick-me-up, buying a little coffee can still give you a big buzz. With insomnia to follow.
Caffeine has a long half-life
Sure, that initial jolt of energy you get from gulping it down may barely last an however. However in a more subtle manner, this molecule affects your brain for a very long time.
Most research suggests the half-life of caffeine in humans is somewhere between 4 and 5 hours.
In other words, after 4 to 5 hours have passed, you still have half of it in your system. (3)
Another 4-5 hours later (now 8-10 hours after consumption) you have 25% remaining.
Your venti cup of black has almost 400 mg, but if you’re consuming that at 7 or 8 am, at least you’re not going back to sleep for another 14+ hours.
So how does this all factor into your afternoon funk, when you want an energy boost, but not so much that it means taking an Ambien at bedtime?
The standard supplement dose
Sure, Jessie on Saved By The Bell gave them a bad rep, but the truth is that caffeine pills aren’t bad for you.
They don’t have added sugar, artificial sweeteners, and other junk like energy drinks.
When compared to coffee, there’s no acrylamide, which is a carcinogen from roasting the beans.
Nor will the pills won’t make you poop.
Why does coffee make you poop? It’s not the caffeine, but rather a novel amino acid it contains.
Lastly, the benefit of a caffeine capsule or tablet is that you’re getting a more exact and predictable dosage, versus a guesstimation with coffees. Those can vary immensely by brand and brew.
Whether it’s a drugstore brand like No-Doz or something more natural like Smarter Vitamins version, which is derived from unroasted green coffee beans, these and others typically contain 200 mg per pill or capsule.
Less common are 100mg caffeine. Probably fewer than 20% of the supplement brands on the market use a 100mg dosage.
Whether 100 or 200 mg, those are the best caffeine pills for energy when waking up.
In the late AM and early afternoon, if you’re going to consume this stimulant, given its long half-life, really you should be going with a low dose caffeine pill – like 30 to 50 mg.
30 mg may not seem like much relative to Starbucks, though it can help.
For perspective, a regular serving of matcha green tea is around 30 mg and most people say it’s enough to at least provide a moderate amount of energy.
Ok so if you want a low dose, is the solution to simply break apart a 200 mg caplet?
Now matter how carefully we tried to break these Natrol High pills, we failed. They’re not quarters. Plus, a lot of crumbles and dust during breakage means its anyone’s guess as to how much is in each.
Reviews of 50 mg caffeine supplements
Don’t plan on picking up a bottle at Walmart or CVS.
Not even vitamin and supplement stores have them, from our experience.
In fact, searching the web far and wide, we were only able to find a couple containing 50 mg, along with one option for 40 mg caffeine.
Vali Smooth Energy capsules
Made with a vegan capsule, Vali is the best brand for a low dose pill because it contains caffeine 50 mg in addition to L-theanine 100 mg. The latter provides a synergistic effect, by minimizing jitters and anxiety.
L-theanine is found in the tea leaf and it’s why matcha has a reputation for being both energizing yet mentally relaxing.
It works by fitting into the same receptors as glutamate in the brain. Increased levels of glutamate are associated with stress and anxiety. Since caffeine can intensify those feelings, L-theanine is an excellent nootropic to use in conjunction.
Vali uses 3rd party testing for purity. They’re non-GMO, gluten free, soy free, and made in the USA.
Clif BLOKS energy chews
If you’re looking for a major brand that makes a 50 mg supplement, this is all we can find.
You know Clif as a major manufacturer of protein and energy bars. They also make energy chews. Primarily for athletes, as they contain electrolytes like sodium, as well as sugar.
Normally added sugar is bad for you, but if you’re an endurance athlete – such as a runner or bodybuilder – simple carbs are important for replenishing the glycogen depletion in your muscles.
A serving size of Clif energy chews is 3 pieces, which are wrapped in a single packet.
All 3 of those pieces equates to a 50 mg dosage of green tea extracted caffeine. There’s also 12g of sugar. Not ideal if you’re just sitting at your desk. However if you’re at the gym bodybuilding or doing a serious run, Clif BLOKS makes complete sense.
What’s unique about Clif BLOKS is that if you don’t want to eat all 3, you could eat just 1 and get about 17 mg, 4g of sugar, and 33 calories.
Or chew 2 for 34g of caffeine, 8g of sugar, and 67 calories.
They’re available in several flavors like black cherry, citrus, strawberry, ginger ale, and even margarita with salt! BLOKS are naturally flavored. Although we don’t personally use them, they’re highly-rated among competitive runners.
Viter Energy sugar free mints
The next option is a bit lower of a dosage. If you have a smaller body mass or extreme difficulty sleeping, trying a 40 mg caffeine pill may be better – it’s a 20% lower dosage than 50 mg.
The drawback of Viter Energy mints is that they are not natural or organic. Like a Tic Toc or Orbit gum, they contain things like sucralose (though fortunately not aspartame).
The good news is that the serving size is just one piece, so it’s not like you’re consuming these ingredients in abundance.
Viter Energy comes in several flavors; wintergreen, chocolate mint, cinnamon, peppermint, and spearmint. All are zero calories and sugar free, making them ideal for those on weight loss diets.
In addition to the caffeine 40 mg dose, each mint contains added B vitamins for energy; B3, B6, B9, and B12.
Check them out on Amazon and let us know what you think.