Caffeine. This single compound has been the secret weapon of great men for ages. But, despite its timeless appeal caffeine has quite a few complexities that chances are you don’t even know about.
Here, we’re going to slam out all the science and functionality of caffeine. Not so that you can go geek around and write a biochemistry paper… But so that you can GET THE MOST out of caffeine, understand the differences between sources, co-factors, and even the different patented forms of caffeine.
From there, the world is yours.
Table of Contents
- Caffeine: Where Does It come from (natural sources)
- The Most Popular Natural Caffeine Sources
- Top Natural Caffeine Sources
- Top Purified and Patented Caffeine Sources
- Which Form of Caffeine Is Best?
Caffeine: Where Does It come from (natural sources)
When you think of caffeine, coffee is typically the first source that our reflex brain spits out. In reality though, there are over 60 plants on earth that create the compound caffeine.
Interestingly enough, caffeine wasn’t intended by nature to give us go-hard energy and focus. Instead, caffeine is a natural pesticide that plants produce to kill bugs that try to eat them. Additionally, many plants release caffeine into the soil to inhibit other seeds from sprouting nearby and restricting their resources.
One could say that in the world of plants, producing caffeine is the ‘smart’ thing to do and helps them get ahead. Just like us.
The Most Popular Natural Caffeine Sources
If you are interested in the primary natural sources of caffeine, they are produced by the following plants most popularly used by humans.
- Coffee Beans
- Green Tea
- Cocoa Beans
- Guarana Beans
This list of 4 sums up the primary producers of caffeine consumed in our society.
Of interest to many though, is why one source varies in effect from another?
Effects vary from source to source due to caffeine-like compounds found in each plant, as well as total caffeine content in the plant source. We’ll cover each source of caffeine in a bit more detail below.
So, is that it? No.
Guaranteed, any other article you have read on caffeine gave you this and nothing more. A quick list of natural caffeine sources. Even, if you were looking for the different patented forms of caffeine and made that quite clear in your search query.
That’s exactly why we decided to write this article, because every other that we have read falls short by a mile.
Top Natural Caffeine Sources
Coffee Bean Extract (0.8 – 4% Caffeine)
Coffee beans contain roughly 0.8 to 4% caffeine and its extracts are utilized as roasted coffee beans, or green coffee bean extract.
While roasted coffee beans still contain a high profile of caffeine, many of the other antioxidants and vitamins found in the bean are degraded. In green coffee beans (unroasted), these antioxidants and vitamins are readily available.
Coffee beans also contain accessory alkaloids other than caffeine that act as stimulants. They include Theobromine, theophylline, paraxanthine, methyliberine and liberine which are all found in much lesser concentrations than caffeine.
There is an alkaloid in green coffee beans which is destroyed during roasting – Trigonellene. This compound can be found in things ranging from green tea to fenugreek, is noted for its hypoglycemic, hypolipidemic, neuroprotective, antimigraine, sedative, memory-improving, antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-tumor activities.
Cocoa Bean Extract (Raw Cocoa Solids 0.8% Caffeine)
Therefore, to get the stimulatory benefits of caffeine and accessory alkaloids in cocoa beans, you would want to purchase a product that contains cocoa solids.
Like Coffee beans, there are a wide variety of anti-oxidants present in cocoa beans. However, most of them are degraded in the process of becoming chocolate.
Of note, is the high quantities of fat found in cocoa beans. Nearly 50% of the bean consists of fats, which are removed to form cocoa butter. This fat is considered to be one of the most stable forms of fat out there, having an extensive shelf life.
Green Tea Leaf Extract (Varies by process, can be 0 to 3%)
In Green Tea leaf, caffeine content averages 3% . Though, accessory alkaloids are in far scarcer quantities than coffee and cocoa.
Upon processing to create green tea extract, this caffeine is often removed, as, EGCG is the desired compound to amass. EGCGs are believed to be an effective fat burner, as well as general health aide.
Although very little solid clinical evidence exists to support these century old claims.
Guarana Bean (3.2 to 7%)
Compared to all other natural sources, Guarana beans contain the largest percent caffeine content by dry weight at 3.2 to 7 percent. This amount is typically double of what you will find in coffee, our go-to caffeine source.
However, during processing, final caffeine contents can be augmented.
Guarana is also noted for its accessory stimulants, much like coffee and cocoa. Though, it is believed that these exist in much higher concentrations within guarana.
Many supplements use guarana as a fat burner. This is based on caffeine’s fat burning capability.
Top Purified and Patented Caffeine Sources
In addition to coffee and extracts, there are also a wide variety of lab processed, ultra-pure caffeine supplements. These are the forms of caffeine that you typically find in energy drinks and pre workout supplements.
In our experience, purified forms of caffeine take effect more quickly, do not cause headaches, and provide a cleaner and stronger energy experience. Here we will cover all forms of lab made caffeine.
Caffeine Anhydrous is the purest form of caffeine that money can buy. What this is, is caffeine taken from one of the natural sources above, where it is then stripped of all water (anhydrous), and purified so there are no longer any other compounds present. Just 100% caffeine.
Caffeine Anhydrous is widely used. Due to this, it is not patent protected like the other forms of caffeine that we will cover below. Overall though, this is our favorite form of caffeine since its pure, cheap, and mega effective!
The only thing that you need to remember, is that this is not like popping green tea extract. Everything in this pill is caffeine, and with that being said, you’ve got to wisely moderate. Otherwise, you’ll be geeking out hard.
Caffeine Citrate (CAFCIT)
Caffeine Citrate is the fastest acting caffeine available, commonly used to treat babies with Apnea of Prematurity.
In the bodybuilding and nootropic world, Caffeine Citrate is not extensively used. Of note, Pro Supps uses it in their pre workouts, but not very many others.
Caffeine Citrate is generally prepared in a ratio of 1:2 caffeine anhydrous to citric acid salt, respectively.
Since Caffeine Citrate kicks in so rapidly, we would be interested to see it used in more supplements to offer an immediate energy boost. But likewise, this fast rise in caffeine blood levels is also accompanied by a faster drop in levels.
Dicaffeine Malate (Infinergy and Kaff2 Malate)
This form of caffeine is exactly what you would expect, two caffeine molecules bonded to a malic acid.
Supposedly, by bonding caffeine to malic acid, this form of caffeine does not cause stomach discomfort or the instantaneous need to use the bathroom (common with coffee).
However, we personally have not tried pure dicaffeine malate on its own and can’t contribute our personal experience. Overall though, this may be a promising form of caffeine, especially when combined with say caffeine citrate.
Caffeine- Pterostilbene (PurEnergy)
PURENERGY (pure energy) is made by Chromadex, and consists of a caffeine-pterostilbene co-crystal. This co-crystal allows caffeine to uptake into the blood stream much, much more slowly. So, after 6 hours when regular caffeine anhydrous is all burnt out, PURENERGY is apparently just hitting its peak!
On the Chromadex PURENERGY page, they state that PURENERGY results in 30% more blood stream caffeine than normal caffeine supplementation, that after 6 hours there is 51% more caffeine in the blood stream, and PURENERGY extends caffeine’s half-life by 25%.
Note: chromadex has removed PURENERGY from their website.
This is all cool, but the question you ought to be asking yourself is, do you really want your caffeine lasting THIS long? And, nothing on their website has stated that PURENERGY hits harder, or is even timely. How long does it take to kick in?
With this all under consideration, PURENERGY may be great for caffeine supplementation early in the morning, where it has an opportunity to energize your entire day. However, for mid-afternoon and evening lifters who need a boost – this stuff is going to end up staying with you far after you try to go to sleep. Which will obviously have some issues.
Which Form of Caffeine Is Best?
When it comes to deciding which form of caffeine you would like to consume, it’s important to consider your desired method of delivery and end result.
If you want to take caffeine to lose weight, then you should consider a more natural form like caffeine from coffee bean, green tea, or guarana; as these forms contain other co-factors that aid fat loss.
If you want to take caffeine to have more energy while you study, mixing caffeine anhydrous with L-theanine is a very easy and cheap short-term fix. Likewise, you could consider PURENERGY for longer durations.
As you can see, there are many options for caffeine supplementation. Personally, we love simple and pure caffeine anhydrous. However, we totally understand if you want to enjoy a warm cup of green tea, or coffee with cocoa solids in it!
With that being said, we hope that you have learned something new here, and can walk away with a wider range of options as well as a better sense of what type of caffeine sources will fit you best.