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Caffeine: How much is too much?

POSTED BY: Julia Riola

How much caffeine do you consume daily? Is it the first thing you reach for in the morning to get your day started? These days, I find myself waking up thinking I need a cup of coffee stat! And this is just the first of several cups for the day. As you start to calculate the caffeine you drink don’t forget any soda or tea as well as coffee.  It adds up pretty quickly!

After some research, I found out my caffeine routine is not abnormal. The National Coffee Association’s 2013 survey found that in the United States 83% of adults drink coffee and 63% drink it every day. We all know there is a Starbucks just around the corner waiting to help with our afternoon caffeine pick me up. But how much caffeine a day is too much?

“For healthy adults, less than 300 milligrams of caffeine a day is recommended which is equivalent to four small cups of coffee,” says Sherri Flynt, licensed dietitian from Florida Hospital’s Center for Nutritional Excellence.  “A Starbucks venti coffee is 415 mg and a grande is 330mg. Both are over the daily limit!”

Have you ever had unpleasant side effects due to overconsumption of caffeine? Issues such as restlessness, insomnia, fast heartbeat, upset stomach, or irritability can all be caused by heavy daily caffeine usage. If so, it may be time to alter your caffeine routine.

If you do plan to make a change to your caffeine intake, don’t quit cold turkey, it can leave you with headaches and unwanted withdrawal.  Cut back gradually, this will help your body get used to the lower levels of caffeine. Try decaffeinated beverages, which often taste just as good as the caffeinated version. Or, if you are a tea drinker, try brewing it for less time which cuts down the caffeine content.

For many healthy adults caffeine is part of their daily routine and health problems aren’t a concern unless you start to be affected by over consumption. Be aware of your caffeine habits and keep tabs if it starts to affect you in negative ways.

References:

Smith AP., "Caffeine at Work." Hum Psychopharmacol. 2005 Aug; 20(6):441.

Perez, Marvin, “Coffee Consumption Increases in U.S., Association Survey Shows.” March 2013, Bloomberg.com.