Samantha Villa with her family
Healthy Living

Caffeine: How Much is Too Much?

Dec 13 2021

Do you know much caffeine is actually in your favorite daily beverage?  

An 8-ounce cup of coffee has 95 milligrams of caffeine in it, a Coke has 34 milligrams of caffeine, a Monster energy drink has 86 milligrams of caffeine and a Red Bull contains 111 milligrams of caffeine.

As for the recommended daily intake of caffeine per day? For healthy adults, it is no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine.  

So, why do we consume so much caffeine? Caffeine is considered a stimulant, meaning it activates your brain and nervous system while also circulating chemicals throughout your body. Small doses of caffeine can make you feel energized.

But just like other stimulants, having some sort of caffeine every day can lead to your body building a tolerance to it. That’s when people tend to up their intake as they search for that caffeine boost.

Having too much caffeine can lead to problems, including:

  • Insomnia
  • Jitters
  • Anxiousness
  • Fast heart rate
  • Upset stomach
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Unhappiness
  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • High blood pressure

Unlike your typical cup of coffee, caffeine supplements and powdered caffeine are very strong and could be particularly risky. A teaspoon of caffeine powder can provide as much caffeine as 28 cups of coffee, which is nearly seven times the recommended daily amount.  

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), too much caffeine can lead to serious side effects and create a risk for caffeine overdoses. While caffeine overdoses are rare, they can lead to ventricular fibrillation and even cardiac arrest.

Samantha Villari (pictured above, right) a registered dietitian at Mercy Health – Weight Management Solutions in Cincinnati, Ohio urges people to be aware of what they are putting in their bodies.

“I think it is important to realize that even decaf coffee has caffeine, and the amount of caffeine is not always listed on product labels,” she shares. “Athletes with a high caffeine intake seem to be an emerging trend.”

However, poor sleep from too much caffeine can lead to poor performance. This then can lead to a higher caffeine intake to help improve performance.

“It’s a vicious cycle,” Samantha adds.

And the only way to stop the cycle is to cut back on your caffeine intake.

“Gradually is the name of the game,” Samantha says. “If you have three cups of coffee in the morning, try having two and so on.”

While there can be a withdrawal period that can happen to anyone when they cut back on any stimulant, with caffeine withdrawal, there are no dangerous side effects. You may, however, experience headaches, fatigue, low energy and some irritability.

The good news is that if these side effects arise, they will only last a couple of days.

Learn more about the clinical nutrition and dietetics services we offer at Mercy Health.

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