Caffeine is one of the most reliable and effective ways to perform better and stay alert.
It has an immense range of benefits, ranging from mental acuity to physical strength and endurance.
Caffeine pills are great if you need a precise dose of caffeine without any extraneous ingredients.
Intimidated by the number of options? Our research team went through all of the best caffeine pills on the market, ranking them in order of their quality.
1. Zhou Energy + Focus
Zhou Energy + Focus is our top choice because it combines a high 200 mg dose of caffeine with the mediating and synergistic effects of L-theanine.
One reason why green tea is particularly effective at boosting mental and physical acuity without side effects is because of the interaction between caffeine and L-theanine, which work together for more optimal effects than caffeine alone.
The L-theanine helps prevent some of the negative effects that caffeine can cause, and Zhou takes full advantage of this. It’s also got a vegan-friendly cellulose capsule, and the only ingredient other than caffeine and L-theanine is rice flour. You really can’t go wrong with this one.
2. Nutricost Caffeine
Nutricost offers one of the simplest caffeine supplements out there, with 200 mg of caffeine per capsule and only two other ingredients: gelatin and rice flour.
It’s hyper-minimal; the only bad news is that vegetarians and vegans might want something other than gelatin (an animal product) to make up the capsule.
3. BulkSupplements Caffeine
It doesn’t get any simpler than this. BulkSupplements delivers a 200 mg caffeine supplement in a gelatin capsule, with zero additional ingredients.
Yes, vegetarians and vegans will be put off by the cow-derived gelatin, but everybody else can make this their number one choice for a straightforward high-dose caffeine supplement.
4. Genius Caffeine
The innovative spin that Genius puts into its caffeine supplement is its trademarked slow-release caffeine formulation.
While most forms of caffeine are absorbed very rapidly, Genius Caffeine claims that their micro-encapsulated form of caffeine will deliver a steady stream of the supplement to your blood over a longer period of time, providing a smoother ramp-up and ramp-down of the effects.
This should help fend off some of the adverse effects of caffeine for those who are sensitive to them, too.
5. Vitalfuse Fused Focus
Vitalfuse combines a standard serving of caffeine (150 mg) with several other supplements designed to complement and augment the focusing and attention-boosting properties of caffeine.
It’s got bacopa, theacrine, and a few other potentially nootropic supplements added into the mix. If the simple rush of caffeine isn’t cutting it for you, think about going for Fused Focus–especially if you have cognitively demanding tasks ahead of you.
6. SmarterVitamins Caffeine + L-Theanine
SmarterVitamins shows that they really know their stuff with regards to the dynamics of caffeine inside the body with this supplement.
Providing L-theanine alongside caffeine is clever, because research has found that several of the benefits of green tea can be traced to the synergistic action between caffeine and the amino acid L-theanine. With 200 mg of caffeine per softgel, it’s not lacking in the energy department, either.
The L-theanine should help blunt some of the negative effects of caffeine, so this supplement is worth a try if you find yourself with nausea or jitters after a normal caffeine supplement.
7. ProLab Caffeine Maximum Potency
If all you want is a simple caffeine supplement that delivers a high dose quickly, ProLabs is a very solid choice. With 200 mg of caffeine per capsule and no time release agents, you’ll get a quick rush of caffeine to give you an extra boost of energy.
There are a few more binders and excipients than strictly necessary, but that’s hardly a reason to discount this supplement.
8. Jet Alert Caffeine
Jet Alert is a good choice if you know you need a smaller and more calibrated dose of caffeine. At 100 mg per capsule, it’s a little easier to dial in the exact dosage you need.
Since a lot of the science on caffeine delivers caffeine at doses proportional to the body mass of the participants, you’ll want something a little more precise to dial in your dose. This is where a smaller dose supplement like Jet Alert comes in handy.
9. Vali Time Release Caffeine
Vali provides a time release caffeine supplement, but with only 100 mg of caffeine per pill.
If you are very small, or are sensitive to higher doses even in time release formulations, this might be a good choice, but otherwise, there are better time release formulations on the market.
10. Best Naturals Caffeine
Best Naturals has a solid 200 mg of caffeine per tablet, but it’s a lesser-known brand with a lot of extraneous ingredients.
Given that there are other caffeine supplements that have only one or two non-caffeine ingredients, you can do a lot better if you are looking for a quality caffeine supplement.
Caffeine pill benefits and side effects
Caffeine is one of the oldest and most versatile supplements in use. Taking caffeine pills can be helpful whether your goal is to run faster, lift more weight, study harder, or be more vigilant.
Caffeine’s effects across a wide variety of tasks are well-characterized, so it’s very easy to figure out how much caffeine you’ll need and when to take it in order to meet your performance goals.
The benefits of caffeine pills stretch from resistance training to endurance training to mental performance. There is a wide range of research testifying to the efficacy as a supplement to increase your performance in all of these fields.
For resistance training, as well as other high intensity, short duration exercise, caffeine appears to blunt feelings of fatigue, increasing your ability to lift more weight for more reps, which is why caffeine is a popular ingredient in pre-workout shakes.
One study, published in 2007 in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance studied the effects of a dose of caffeine on bench press and leg press in a group of volunteers (1).
The effects of the dose of caffeine on maximum number of reps, as well as perceived feelings of fatigue, were compared to a placebo given to a control group. The researchers found that bench press maximum reps (at a constant weight) increased from an average of 10 in the control group to an average of 12.5 in the group given caffeine.
The subjects given caffeine reported feeling the same level of fatigue as the subjects given the placebo, indicating that the caffeine increases your performance across the board. In other words, applying the same effort results in better performance after you’ve taken caffeine.
Similar results have been found in studies on endurance exercise performance. A systematic review published in 2009 in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research looked at 21 different studies of caffeine’s effect on endurance performance (2).
After reviewing the data and pooling results, the researchers concluded that caffeine can improve endurance performance by three percent or more.
That may not sound like much, but it would amount to finishing a marathon about a mile ahead of where you’d be without caffeine. Moreover, these findings were robust and supported by many studies.
Caffeine is also well-suited for boosting the performance of short-term anaerobic exercise, as long as it involves a short, sustained, high-intensity effort lasting at least 60 seconds.
That was the conclusion of a 2009 publication in the journal Sports Medicine by researchers at Texas A&M University and the University of North Alabama (3).
In contrast, caffeine is not as well-suited for very high intensity sessions with short rest between repetitions, like a HIIT training session.
The benefits of caffeine extend to mental tasks, too. A scientific article by R. H. S. Ruxton found that moderate caffeine consumption improves reaction time, boosts mood, and increases alertness (4).
Perhaps most importantly for mental performance, it also increases your short term memory recall: this means you can keep more pieces of information in your head at once, making your studying, planning, and work on cognitively demanding tasks much more effective.
If you are focused on the mental benefits of caffeine, one thing you can try is taking a caffeine pill that includes L-theanine as well as caffeine.
There is a large body of evidence that these two compounds work together to boost your mood and mental function beyond what caffeine normally can do. Initial evidence for this effect came from studies of the mood and mental acuity boosting powers of green tea extract; researchers noted that L-theanine appeared to account for some of the effects independent of caffeine (5).
Direct studies of the combined effect of L-theanine and caffeine started to explore the effects of both together. A paper published in 2008 in the journal Psychopharmacology examined just this combination (6). The researchers found that, while caffeine alone has a tendency to cause jitteriness, when combined with theanine, this tendency disappears.
This is good news for people who are sensitive to the negative effects of caffeine, because it suggests they can be blunted or prevented by a caffeine pill which also includes theanine.
Given that it is so potent, it should not be surprising that caffeine has some side effect when taken in excess. According to the Mayo Clinic, taking too much caffeine (defined as over about 400 mg per day) can lead to headaches, nausea, insomnia, restlessness, tremors, and a rapid heartbeat (7).
Extremely high doses have even been associated with fatal overdoses. When taking caffeine pills, it’s important to know where the other sources of caffeine in your diet are.
If you already are taking a weight loss supplement, for example, you might be getting a substantial dose of caffeine as it is. Caffeine’s effects take several hours to wear off, so spread out the caffeine you do consume throughout the day.
Caffeine is most effective when its dosage is calibrated to your body weight. Most scientific studies recommend doses of three to six milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body mass.
This means that if you weigh 80 kg (175 pounds), you will see optimal results at doses of caffeine between 240 to 480 mg of caffeine. Sometimes it’s hard to get exactly the correct dosage, given that caffeine pills usually come in multiples of 100 mg, but the dosage of caffeine is fairly forgiving.
Some research suggests that doses that are pretty low (below 3 mg per kg) are still effective (8). As far as timing, you’ll want time your caffeine intake so that you take a caffeine pill about 60 to 90 minutes before when you want to be at peak performance.
The effects last for several hours, so you don’t need this timing to be perfect. A time release formulation will help deliver a longer, steady stream of caffeine to keep you operating on a high level for a long time, but this might happen to the detriment of absolute peak performance. This is a worthy trade, though, if you need to be working at high intensity (mentally or physically) for several hours at a time.
For strong, evidence-based performance enhancement, caffeine is the golden standard. There can be no dispute that caffeine pills are a highly effective supplement when it comes to improving your performance in resistance training, endurance events, and a wide range of mental tasks.
It takes a little work to figure out the right dosage for you that will lead to the optimal performance level with the lowest potential for side effects, but there’s no doubting that it’s worth it.
If you find yourself vulnerable to the negative effects of caffeine, or if you are particularly focusing on the mental acuity-boosting properties of caffeine, try a caffeine pill that includes L-theanine as well, since these two compounds work together synergistically to improve mental performance and reduce side effects like jitteriness.