We’ve all been there: 3 p.m. rolls around on a gloomy Friday afternoon, and all you can think about is getting into comfies and watching the latest rom-com. But when pressing deadlines prohibit you from slamming your computer shut the moment your eyes begin to droop, it might be time for a little midday energy boost. But the real question is: Can your digestion handle yet another double shot of espresso to get you through the day?

According to Sarah Robbins, MD, a gastroenterologist, gut health expert, and the founder of Well Sunday, not all energy-boosting drinks are created equal. This is why she recommends six specific types of caffeinated beverages that have the least impact on digestion to help keep you feeling focused for hours on end without a dreadful tummy ache.

How does caffeine impact digestion?

First things first, all types of caffeine can have a profound effect on the body. But it’s usually your central nervous system that takes the biggest hit, Dr. Robbins explains. “Caffeine influences several neurotransmitters [chemical messengers in the brain] that affect mood, energy levels, and overall cognitive function,” she says. However, that’s not to say that caffeine won’t impact your digestion just as much. In fact, having too much caffeine can lead to heartburn, indigestion, among other uncomfortable gastrointestinal woes (hi, coffee poops).

The good news is that there are ways to help minimize caffeine’s impact on the body. One such example is choosing ideal sources of caffeine that affect digestion the least. Another is limiting your caffeine intake (by choosing drinks with lower caffeine content). Ahead, we’re sharing Dr. Robbins’ top six options that do a bit of both to help keep digestion issues at bay and your energy levels high.

6 best energy-boosting drinks that impact digestion the least

1. Coffee

We’re as relieved as you are to hear that coffee is still gastro-approved as one of the top caffeinated drinks that won’t necessarily wreak havoc on your digestive system. The key? Consuming it in moderation. Thankfully, Dr. Robbins says the recommended amount is more than you think. We’re talking three to four cups per day, folks.

“When consumed in moderation—typically three to four cups per day—coffee has been linked to numerous health benefits, including a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, Parkinson’s disease, and liver disease,” she says.

However, you’ll want to be mindful of your coffee mix-ins. “The key is to consume coffee without excessive amounts of sugar or high-fat dairy products to maintain its health benefits [and impact digestion as minimally as possible],” Dr. Robbins explains. Sugar is often linked to causing gut inflammation, while dairy can trigger digestive problems for certain groups sensitive or intolerant to lactose.

Caffeine content: 95 milligrams per cup

2. Green tea

Not only is green tea delicious, but dietitians also consider it one of the best teas for gut health, thanks to its anti-inflammatory benefits and potent antioxidant content that supports a healthy gut. “It’s rich in antioxidants, particularly catechins, which have been linked to various health benefits, including improved heart health and reduced risk of certain cancers,” Dr. Robbins adds.

To make things even sweeter, green tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid that helps promote relaxation and can help mitigate the overstimulating effects of caffeine. This is why Dr. Robbins recommends drinking green tea when you’re in need of a jitter-free energy boost while avoiding over-caffeinated territory. “Green tea contains a moderate amount of caffeine compared to coffee, providing an energy boost without the intense jitters or crash,” she says.

Caffeine content: 29 milligrams per cup

3. Matcha

Caffeine with benefits? Matcha is what you’re looking for. “Matcha is a type of powdered green tea that includes the entire leaf, making it a more potent source of nutrients than standard green tea. It contains caffeine and L-theanine, which work together to provide a sustained release of energy without the anxiety and restlessness that can accompany coffee consumption,” Dr. Robbins says. “Matcha is also packed with antioxidants, which can help protect the body against free radicals,” she adds.

Caffeine content: 76 to 177 milligrams per cup (depending on how it’s prepared)

4. Black tea

Although black tea has almost half the caffeine content as coffee, Dr. Robbins says it’s a great way to get a noticeable energy boost (with some additional health perks). “It also contains antioxidants, including flavonoids, which are beneficial for heart health. The fermentation process black tea leaves undergo increases the level of these beneficial compounds,” she says.

Caffeine content: 47 milligrams per cup

5. Yerba mate

For a well-balanced caffeinated beverage, Dr. Robbins recommends yerba mate, a popular South American beverage made by brewing the leaves of the eponymous plant. “Yerba mate contains caffeine as well as compounds like theobromine and theophylline, which have a more balanced stimulating effect on the body. It’s also rich in antioxidants and can provide a boost in energy and mental focus without some of the negative side effects associated with higher caffeine drinks,” Dr. Robbins says.

Caffeine content: 80 milligrams per cup

6. Herbal teas with guarana

When considering sneaky foods that contain caffeine, guarana is often on the list. But its high caffeine content—when consumed in moderation—isn’t necessarily bad news for your digestion.

“Some herbal teas include guarana, a plant native to the Amazon basin, known for its seeds that are rich in caffeine. Guarana can provide a gradual energy boost. Since these teas are often blended with other herbs, they can offer additional health benefits and a more balanced effect compared to pure caffeine sources,” Dr. Robbins says.

Caffeine content: Guarana seeds contain four times the amount of caffeine 1found in coffee beans, but caffeine content will vary depending on the type of guarana-containing drink.

An RD shares the benefits of drinking coffee:

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.

  1. Moustakas, Dimitrios et al. “Guarana provides additional stimulation over caffeine alone in the planarian model.” PloS one vol. 10,4 e0123310. 16 Apr. 2015, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0123310

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