Caffeine – How much is too much?
Hmmm… That smell of coffee in the morning. Or that lovely (… Enter your favourite coffee-related beverage here. Mine is ice latte) you get when you arrive to work or straight after lunch when you are in your after-lunch-dip. One cup here and another one there, we are so used to drinking this warm, black cozy drink, that we hardly ever pay attention to how many we are having. But where should we set the limit??
Millions of people drink coffee every day to wake up, keep on working, or as a leisure activity ‘Let’s meet for a coffee’. However, we often forget (or simply unaware) that coffee is not our only source of caffeine, it is also available in cola, energy drinks, black and green tea, dark chocolate and for the gym fanatics in your pre-workout drink.
For most (healthy) adults, 400 mg is considered safe (aka 4 cups of coffee or 10 cans of cola). However, different people have different levels of sensitivity to caffeine. Some people are susceptible to the effects of caffeine from simply one cup of tea. Ever wondered what might cause you a migraine? Check out the list below to read some of the side effects caused by over-consumption of caffeine:
- Upset stomach, yet in some cases can help with constipation
- Fast heartbeat
- Muscle tremors
- Last, but not least, having too much coffee is linked to higher mortality rates.
Though, some of the mentioned effects are quite dependent on your habits. Drinking more (or less) coffee during the day may trigger these effects. A personal story that happened to me recently, I usually start drinking coffee only during my first break at work, which is usually around 10-11 AM. A couple of months ago, I had an early appointment with my manager at 9:30 in the morning. This meeting made me feel nervous and I woke up quite early to be ready on time. From all the excitement, I was all set more than an hour before schedule, and to kill some time and relax, I’ve decided to treat myself with a nice cup of coffee. The effects of having a cup of coffee 2-3 hours before my “normal” coffee break at work weren’t late to show up and I felt anxious, restless, and even very dizzy.
As mentioned earlier, consumption of caffeine may lead to insomnia, which is lack of sleep. Having coffee in the late afternoon, even as early as 2:00 p.m., can disturb your much-needed sleep (study say). Chronic lack of sleep causes sleep deprivation, which adds up and eventually disturbs your alertness and performance during the day.
Reducing your caffeine consumption
Feeling like you are drinking too much caffeine p/day? Do not worry, we’ve got your back on to reduce the amount. Just try not to abruptly quit on your caffeine intake – it may lead to withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, irritability, and difficulty focusing. Luckily, the symptoms are not severe and they usually disappear after just a few days.
So how can you reduce your caffeine intake?
Tip #1 – Track your behavior
pay attention to how much caffeine you consume from different foods and beverages. Read their labels. Start a “caffeine diary” – track every day for at least a week how much caffeine you’ve consumed. That will give you an insight into the amount of the consumed caffeine, and on when and where it can be cut off.
Tip #2 – Cut back gradually
don’t stop altogether. Cut back one portion of caffeine you consume (one cup of coffee or tea less, one can of coke less – which is also an advantage when cutting on your sugar intake. Begin, from avoiding caffeine in the (late) afternoon. Consequently, your body will get used to the change and the withdrawal effects will be reduced.
Tip #3 – Go decaf!
Try decaf coffee. It looks and tastes pretty much the same, just without the caffeine.
Tip #4 – Go herbal
herbal teas don’t have caffeine in them and are an excellent alternative to black or green tea. If you cannot seem to say goodbye yet to black or green tea, you can brew it for less time – the longer the teabag is in, the more caffeine will be in your tea. Try putting it in for slightly less time.
Tip #5 – Check the label!
Some medications, such as painkillers, also contain caffeine. And quite a lot. But there are also caffeine free painkillers. Try looking for those.
Tip #6 – Stick to a 2 o’clock cut off
As this current study shows, late-afternoon caffeine can cause problems for your sleep, even if you aren’t aware of it. To avoid sleep disruption, restrict your caffeine consumption primarily to the morning hours. If you do have a midday cup of coffee, make sure to drink it before 2 p.m.
Tip #7 – Taper caffeine as the day progresses
Start your day with your most highly caffeinated beverage and ease up on the caffeine as the morning goes on.
Remember, limiting caffeine doesn’t mean removing it entirely from your daily routine. A moderate amount of caffeine, consumed at the right times, can be useful and even healthy, stimulating alertness and energy, but after lunch, I might just go for some herbal tea for a change.
What will be your substitute for coffee?
sources: psychology today; mayoclinic; ncbi