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How Much Caffeine is Too Much Caffeine?

Personally, there’s a very narrow line I have to walk when it comes to caffeine. If you read my bio in the About section of the website, you know that I used to gulp 2 Starbucks Venti coffees a day to sustain my ‘chronic toxic lifestyle’. Indeed, the right amount of caffeine can make you feel like you can slay the day and just a little too much and you can start sweating through your shirt and feeling spacey and unfocused. Can you relate to the love-hate relationship? If so, let’s talk about how much caffeine is too much caffeine.


Where is caffeine found?

Caffeine has been identified in more than 60 plant species and history suggests that it may have been consumed as far back as the Paleolithic period (1)! Currently, the most common dietary source of caffeine is coffee, but cocoa beverages, soft drinks, energy drinks, and specialized sports foods and supplements also contribute to regular intake (2). Caffeine is also present in many prescription and nonprescription (i.e., over-the-counter) medications, including some taken for headache, pain relief, cold, appetite control, staying awake, asthma, and fluid retention (3).


What effects does caffeine have on the body?

After ingestion, caffeine is quickly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract into the bloodstream. Once it’s in the bloodstream, caffeine promptly gets absorbed into body tissues and crosses over multiple barriers in the body, including the blood-brain barrier (a roadblock between your bloodstream and your brain which is there to protect your brain from toxins), the blood-placenta barrier for pregnant ladies, and the blood-testis barrier for men. Caffeine peaks in the blood anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours (4).


Benefits of caffeine:

Caffeine is considered a drug because of its stimulant effects on the nervous system. It has been found to positively influence mental performance, increase energy, and improve mood (5).

Caffeine has been found to have a role in the prevention of physical degeneration from Parkinson’s disease (6) and studies have also shown that chronic caffeine consumption has been linked to a significantly lower risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases (meaning diseases that affect the brain and nervous system), such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Other benefits of caffeine consumption include improved mental alertness, speed reasoning, and memory, weight loss, improved physical performance during endurance exercise, and protection against certain skin cancers (7).


Negative side effects of caffeine:

Negative side effects associated with caffeine include nervousness, anxiety, sleeplessness, irritability, dehydration, stomach upset, diarrhea, and nausea, increased heart rate, and both psychological and physical dependence (8).


What are the tolerable limits?

In adult men and non-pregnant women, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers 400 milligrams (about 4 cups of brewed coffee) a safe amount of caffeine for healthy adults to consume daily. Pregnant women should limit their caffeine intake to 200 mg a day (about 2 cups of brewed coffee), according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.


For comparison:

• 8oz of coffee contains 100mg of caffeine

• 8oz of green tea contains 35 mg of caffeine

• a can of soda contains anywhere from 40-72 mg of caffeine

• energy drinks can range from 20-400mg+ of caffeine (yes, per drink!)

• and caffeine content of drugs varies from 16 mg to 200 mg per tablet


How to decide how much caffeine is right for you?

People have different tolerances and responses to caffeine, partly due to genetic differences. Take inventory of how you feel when you drink something caffeinated, and decide for yourself what makes sense. If you feel jittery, anxious, or addicted to the rush, then perhaps you should pull back on the caffeine and opt for a chemical-free Swiss Water® Process decaf coffee or naturally decaffeinated herbal tea. If you’re ultimately feeling better with less, then follow your body’s cues.


Keep in mind that not all caffeinated products are created equal! Opting for organic, whole-food sources of caffeine, like coffee, tea, or cacao is going to provide other additional nutrients that will benefit your body. In general, it’s smart to avoid sodas, energy drinks, and other highly processed items with artificial sources of caffeine— as they are unnatural and can cause inflammation and other negative side effects.


SOURCES

1. Barone, J. J., & Roberts, H. R. (1996). Caffeine consumption. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 34(1), 119–129. doi:10.1016/0278-6915(95)00093-3

2-3, 5-6. Cappelletti, S., Daria, P., Sani, G., & Aromatario, M. (2015). Caffeine: Cognitive and Physical Performance Enhancer or Psychoactive Drug? Current Neuropharmacology, 13(1), 71–88. doi:10.2174/1570159x1366614121

4. “Caffeine.” The Nutrition Source, 12 Nov. 2020, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/caffeine/.

7-8. “Caffeine: Benefits, Risks, and Effects.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/285194#risks.

 

Hi, I’m Ekat, an integrative nutrition health coach and and a bio-individual health activist who believes in the power of food and lifestyle changes to help you find your way your vibrant health and achieve optimal wellness! I created Healthfully Ekat as a platform to help you find, restore and maintain your own bio-individual healthful balance. Learn more



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