Many adults, especially in their work lives, rely on caffeinated drinks to maintain their productivity. Millions of people rely on caffeine every day to stay alert and improve concentration.
While caffeine has its perks, it can also pose serious problems to your health and mental wellbeing. We’ve highlighted how to find out how much caffeine is a healthy amount and if you need to curb your consumption.
What to consider about your caffeine intake:
Caffeine is not inherently bad for your health. Up to 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine a day is the recommended safe amount for most healthy adults. That is roughly the same amount of caffeine as four cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of cola or two “energy shot” drinks.
Keep in mind that the actual caffeine content in beverages varies widely, especially among energy drinks. Alternative forms of caffeine—such as in powder or liquid form—can provide toxic levels of caffeine. For example, just one teaspoon of powdered caffeine is equivalent to about 28 cups of coffee. Such high levels of caffeine can cause serious health problems and possibly even death.
Although caffeine use may be safe for adults, it’s not a good idea for children. Adolescents and young adults need to be cautioned about excessive caffeine intake and mixing caffeine with alcohol and other drugs, as it can drastically increase the addictive nature of the substance. Women who are pregnant or who are looking to become pregnant and/or those who are breast-feeding should talk with their doctors about limiting caffeine use to less than 200 mg daily.
Even among adults, heavy caffeine use can cause unpleasant side effects. And caffeine may not be a good choice for people who are highly sensitive to its effects or who take certain medications.
You may want to cut back if you’re drinking more than 4 cups of caffeinated coffee a day (or the equivalent) and you have side effects such as:
- Frequent urination or inability to control urination
- Fast heartbeat
- Muscle tremors
Furthermore, some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others. Be cautious if you’re susceptible to the effects of caffeine, as even small amounts may prompt unwanted effects, such as restlessness and sleep issues.
How you react to caffeine may be determined in part by how much caffeine you’re used to drinking. People who don’t regularly drink caffeine tend to be more sensitive to its effects, as is the case with any drug.
Cut back on caffeine if you’re not getting enough sleep:
Caffeine, even in the afternoon, can interfere with your sleep, as it stays in your bloodstream for an average of seven hours. Even small amounts of sleep loss can add up and disturb your daytime alertness and performance.
Using caffeine to mask sleep deprivation can create an unwelcome cycle. For example, you may drink caffeinated beverages because you have trouble staying awake during the day, however the caffeine keeps you from falling asleep at night, shortening the length of time you sleep.
Factor in any medications or supplements:
Some medications and herbal supplements may interact with caffeine and exacerbate its effects. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about whether caffeine might affect your medications. Examples of these substances include:
- Ephedrine: mixing caffeine with this medication — which is used in decongestants — might increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke or seizure.
- Theophylline: this medication, used to open up bronchial airways, tends to have some caffeine-like effects. Thus, taking it with caffeine might increase the adverse effects of caffeine, such as nausea and heart palpitations.
- Echinacea: this herbal supplement, which is sometimes used to prevent colds or other infections, may increase the concentration of caffeine in your blood and may increase caffeine’s unpleasant effects.
Curbing your caffeine habit:
Finally, whether it’s for one of the reasons above or because you want to save money on coffee drinks, cutting back on caffeine can be challenging. An abrupt decrease in caffeine may cause withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, irritability and difficulty focusing on tasks. Fortunately, these symptoms are usually mild and get better after a few days. Should you want to change your caffeine habit, try these tips:
- Keep tabs. Start paying attention to how much caffeine you’re getting from foods and beverages, including energy drinks. Read labels carefully. But remember that your estimate may be a little low because some foods or drinks that contain caffeine don’t list it.
- Cut back gradually. For example, drink one fewer can of soda or drink a smaller cup of coffee each day. Or avoid drinking caffeinated beverages late in the day. This will help your body get used to the lower levels of caffeine and lessen potential withdrawal effects.
- Go decaf. Most decaffeinated beverages look and taste much the same as their caffeinated counterparts.
- Shorten the brew time or consider switching to herbal teas. When making tea, brew it for less time. This cuts down on its caffeine content. Or choose herbal teas that don’t have caffeine.
- Check the bottle. Some over-the-counter pain relievers contain caffeine. Look for caffeine-free pain relievers instead.
If you’re like most adults, caffeine is a part of your daily routine. Usually, it will not pose a health problem. Yet be mindful of caffeine’s possible side effects and be ready to cut back if necessary. Excessive caffeine consumption can be a bad habit to pick up as it can negatively affect your lifestyle!
If you would like further help about how to make positive lifestyle changes, contact us today. Ceed can help you stay on top of health and fitness goals like reducing your caffeine intake!