Is it time to curb your caffeine habit?

Is it time to curb your caffeine habit?

We’re all well aware of the perks caffeine provides but too much can also pose problems.  Many of us enjoy our daily caffeine fix and in many cases it has its benefits:

·      Energy booster, enhances memory and athletic performance

·      Eases headaches

·      Helps prevent constipation and type 2 diabetes


·      Protects against brain diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s

But like the saying goes, “everything in moderation,” also applies to our caffeine intake.  Too much can make you nervous, anxious, and jittery while also affecting our sleep, blood pressure, heart rate, and heart rhythm. 

What we do know is that up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day appears to be safe for most healthy adults.  That’s roughly about the amount of caffeine in 3 to 5 eight-ounce cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of cola or two energy shot drinks per day.  However, keep in mind that the actual caffeine content in beverages varies widely, especially among energy drinks.

So, could you be consuming more caffeine than you realize, especially if you are noticing symptoms. If you are consuming more than 4 cups of caffeinated coffee a day, and are experiencing migraine headaches, insomnia, nervousness, irritability, restlessness, stomach upset, a fast heartbeat or muscle tremors, you may want to cut back.  Everyone is different on how much caffeine they can handle.  But even if it doesn’t bother you, there is a limit on how much to have each day.  If you start adding up all the caffeinated items you are consuming over the course of a day, rising much more than 400 milligrams is probably too much. 

Another factor is lack of sleep.  Most adults need around 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. But if you have a habit of consuming a caffeinated beverage in late afternoon or evening, this could be messing with how much sleep you are getting. Chronic sleep loss can be a hazard – it can add up and lead to disturbances with your daytime alertness and work performance.   If you are using caffeine to help “wake you up and be more alert during the day,” you are likely masking sleep deprivation since caffeine may be keeping you from falling asleep at night, resulting in less sleep at night and creating an unwelcome cycle.

Here is a listing of not just foods and beverages but also medications you may be taking contributing to a little more caffeine than what’s good for you:

·      Green tea – 8 ounces contains about 28 milligrams.  Some people may believe herbal tea has no caffeine but it’s actually made from the same leaves as black tea.

·      Black tea – 8 ounces contains about 47 milligrams.  Even though black tea has half the caffeine of coffee, one too many cups in one day can add up quickly.

·      Iced tea – 8 ounces contains about 25-48 milligrams.  Size matters.  Most tea purchased at a restaurant is sold in larger sizes which could mean more than 100 milligrams of caffeine per drink.

·      Brewed coffee – 8 ounces contains between 130-180 milligrams.  If you stick to an 8 ounce cup of about 2-3 a day, you are fine.  But if purchasing from a retailer, a small size is a 12 ounce cup providing more caffeine than you bargained for. 

·      Espresso – 2 ounces contains about 126 milligrams.  Like your cappuccinos, lattes, macchiatos?  Be careful as a 2-ounce “double shot” is usually used as their base in most of the espresso-based drinks at your local coffee shops.  Go for the 1-ounce “singe” shot to get about half that amount (63 milligrams). 

·      Soda – 12 ounces contains 34-54 milligrams.  The range for caffeine found in both diet and regular sodas will vary. If trying to watch the amount of caffeine consumed throughout the day, opt for “caffeine-free” sodas. 

·      Energy drinks – 16 ounces contains 140-350 milligrams.  Energy drinks are one of the worst overly-caffeinated beverages to drink.  Ingredients like guarana can hide extra caffeine plus the sugar or artificial sweeteners can make it easy to drink too much providing a boatload of too much caffeine.

·      Caffeinated gum – 1 piece contains 20-100 milligrams.  Here again, do your research on this item.  The range can be quite wide like energy drinks due again to hidden caffeine in ingredients like guarana.   

·      Dark chocolate – 1 ounce contains about 23 milligrams.  The FDA does not require chocolate makers to list how much caffeine is in dark chocolate since caffeine occurs naturally in it.  If sticking to just one serving, which is about a third of a typical dark chocolate bar, it’s not much.  But eat more than that, and the numbers start adding up. 

·      Over-the-counter pain medications – Two tablets of certain pain relievers may contain about 130 milligrams.  Many of these medications combine aspirin, acetaminophen or both with caffeine.  These can work quite well on your headache but start popping too many pills and your daily total can rise precipitously high.  Look for caffeine-free pain relievers and ask your pharmacist what they recommend.  

Curbing your caffeine intake

 There are several steps you can take to change your caffeine habits:

·      Pay attention to how much caffeine you are consuming from food, beverages, gum, and medications.

·      Cut back gradually by drinking one less cup or can of soda or switch to a smaller cup size. A

·      Avoid drinking a caffeinated beverage late in the day.  This will help your body to get used to the lower levels of caffeine and lessen potential withdrawal effects.

·      Try decaffeinated beverages. Many of them taste and look the same as caffeinated drinks

·      Shorten the brew time on tea which cuts down on its caffeine content. Or choose herbal teas that don’t have caffeine