How Much Caffeine is Too Much

By: KELLY SHERIDAN

Few people go through a 24-hour period without having at least one caffeinated beverage. Whether it is an early morning latte, a mid-afternoon Coca-Cola, an evening cup of tea, or perhaps all of the above, chances are you are one of many who need caffeine to get through the day. Although coffee is an obvious choice if you want a more powerful energy boost, other pick-me-ups include tea and soda.  Keep in mind that it is easy to consume an unhealthy amount of caffeine over the course of a day. While caffeine in moderation presents mild health benefits and has been shown to aid athletes in workouts, overconsumption can be detrimental to one’s health.

 

So how much caffeine is too much? Marcia Costello, a registered dietician and professor of nutrition at Villanova University, provided a great deal of valuable information on the subject. Before determining how much caffeine one should have on a daily basis, consider that a healthy dose of caffeine is about 250 milligrams or less per serving. This equates to about:

Coffee (generic): 2.5 cups

Coffee (black): 1 cup

Tea (black): 5 cups

Cola: about 4.5 to 7 cans

…Thinking about cutting back? Read on!

According to Costello, caffeine consumed in moderation does provide small health benefits. Primarily, it increases alertness and the ability to focus. Keep in mind, though, that it takes 45 minutes for the body to feel caffeine’s effects. Caffeine has also been used by athletes to enhance workouts. However, Costello also made a point of mentioning that certain athletes, specifically those in the NCAA, have limitations as to how much caffeine they are allowed to consume. She more strongly recommends caffeine to those who work out for long periods of time, such as distance runners or football players who are likely to play for most of the game. The reason behind this is due to the way that caffeine burns energy. Caffeine delays fatigue by releasing an alternative energy source, this source being fatty acids.

Contrary to how this sounds, it is not possible to lose weight by sitting around and sipping coffee all day. Caffeine does speed up the metabolism. It does this by releasing fatty acids and those are immediately burned. However, this break-down only occurs during movement. The fat-to-energy process is about 30 percent more efficient when caffeine is consumed before a workout. So before hitting the gym, sit down and enjoy a cup of java. Chances are that it will pay off once you start to break a sweat!

Despite its benefits, Costello warns against consuming caffeine in excess because it can result in negative side effects. Caffeine stimulates the release of adrenaline, which increases the heart rate. Further, it can cause irritability, insomnia, stomach upset, and trigger increased levels of anxiety. Caffeine also acts as a diuretic and increases the loss of fluid from the body. It is extremely important to stay hydrated throughout the day when consuming caffeinated drinks, especially for athletes and active individuals. Caffeine can also be a contributing factor to osteoporosis when consumed in large quantities over an extensive period of time. It should be noted that these negative side effects depend less on the amount of caffeine consumed, and more on the individual. Those who consume caffeine less frequently are more likely to be sensitive to it, and will feel its effects more easily.

Though abstaining from all caffeine immediately may seem like a good idea, Costello emphasizes that this is not the healthiest choice. Going cold turkey can lead to symptoms of caffeine withdrawal, which may include difficulty sleeping, headaches, and nausea. To safely decrease caffeine intake, she recommends starting out by eliminating one major source of caffeine per day. For example, if you have a cup of black coffee in the morning, afternoon, and evening, try switching out your after-dinner caffeine source in favor of a decaf variety. Continue doing this for a few days to give your body time to adjust. Then, if necessary, try to cut out another daily coffee in favor of something lighter in caffeine, such as tea. This progression can lead to a healthier and less caffeinated lifestyle.

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One Comment on “How Much Caffeine is Too Much”

  1. February 22, 2012 at 5:10 am #

    OMG I love coffee so much! I could never cut back. Im a super fan! Great post btw.

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