Can’t live without your daily caffeine fix? The explosion of gourmet coffee shops like Starbucks and Tully’s, and the rising popularity of energy drinks like Red Bull and Rockstar makes it clear that we just can’t function without our daily jolt of liquid energy. Caffeine is one of the most widely consumed substances in the world. But how much do you actually know about it? And how does it affect our bodies and our health?
Most people hear caffeine and think coffee, but caffeine appears in many products. Caffeine is found naturally in coffee and chocolate, but is also added to a lot of beverages like sodas, energy drinks, and sports drinks, as well as many over-the-counter drugs.
Caffeine has been proven to affect the body’s metabolism, especially stimulating the central nervous system, which is why most people use it as artificial energy. Caffeine is a mild stimulant that can increase alertness, but the results are short lived-which brings people back for more. Caffeine is a diuretic which increases your urinary output (hello, frequent potty breaks) but is shown to add to total water intake similar to non-caffeinated beverages if consumed throughout the day.
The United States has not set a dietary amount for safe caffeine consumption, but studies show most healthy adults can consume 200-300 milligrams a day (about 2-3 cups of coffee) without any adverse effects.
Canada is the only country who has set a daily amount, which is 300 mg for women of childbearing age, and 400 mg for the rest of the healthy adult population.
If you aren’t a coffee drinker, here are some caffeine counts for comparison:
- Chocolate (1 oz): 3-28 mg
- Brewed tea (8oz): 30-50 mg
- Carbonated Beverages (12 oz)
Barq’s Root Beer: 23 mg
Coca-Cola Classic: 35 mg
Pepsi: 38 mg
Dr. Pepper: 41 mg
Mountain Dew: 54 mg
- Sports/Energy Drinks
Red Bull, 8.3 oz.: 76 mg
Monster Energy, 16 oz.: 160 mg
Rockstar, 16 oz.: 160 mg
Sobe No Fear, 16 oz.: 174 mg
Most energy drinks contain natural energy products, such as guarana, ginseng, and taurine. In addition to these, and caffeine, energy drinks contain a lot of sugar. In an average 8 oz. serving, you can find as much as 80-300 mg of caffeine and 35 grams of processed sugar. While no reports have identified any negative effects from guarana, ginseng, and taurine in the amounts used in energy drinks, the amount of caffeine and sugar in these drinks has been shown to cause insomnia, nervousness, headache, and tachycardia.
Excessive caffeine consumption (500-600 mg or 4-7 cups of coffee) can affect anxiety, headaches, irritability and nausea. Everyone has different sensitivities to caffeine. One person can drink coffee all day long and be fine, while one cup for someone else could make them more jumpy than a wanted felon on a pogo stick.
Several factors affect one’s sensitivity to caffeine:
- Body mass: the smaller you are the sooner you feel the effects of that cup of joe
- Your history of caffeine use: the more often you drink, the less sensitive you are to the caffeine
- Your stress level: psychologically, if you are stressed, your sensitivity increases, or if your body is physically stressed, like in hot weather, your threshold also drops
Caffeine is not only found in beverages, but it occurs in over 1,000 over-the-counter drugs. Excedrin Extra Strength, an over-the-counter pain reliever, contains 130 mg of caffeine per 2 tablets – that’s almost half of your recommended caffeine intake for the day. You may remember the dietary supplement Ephedra, which was banned for increasing one’s risk of heart attack, stroke, seizures and death. Despite the campaign against it, Ephedra can still be found naturally in some herbal teas, so it’s very important to check the ingredient labels on everything you consume. Antibiotics like Ciprofloxacin (Cipro) and Norfloxcin (Noroxin) can also interfere with the caffeine in your system by increasing the amount of time it stays in your body.
The consumption of caffeine and its effects on bone loss are controversial. Some studies show that consuming caffeinated drinks can contribute to calcium loss in your digestive system, which in turn weakens your bones.
Did You Know?
Calcium absorption significantly decreases after the age of 35. That why it is so important to intake the optimal amounts to build up calcium stores in the body.
Another issue with our gourmet coffee obsession is all that junk that comes along with it. According to the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, gourmet coffee adds nearly 200 extra calories to your daily intake. Fancy coffee beverages often contain whole milk, whipped cream, caramel sauce, and flavored syrups. Some even contain ice cream. To cut back on your coffee’s calories content, and to help your waistline, specify your drink to be made with non-fat milk, no whip, or better yet, just go with black coffee.
Truth: Although, the fat content in the food may have been lowered, the sodium and sugar content may have been increased which defeats the initial purpose. An excessive amount of sugar may have been added to increase flavor but that excess will turn into fat.
Bottom line: Caffeine can be beneficial as a pick me up if you stay within the safe ranges of 200-300 mg per day, but exceeding these levels can cause anxiety, irritability, headaches and nausea. Begin reading food labels to be sure just how much caffeine you are consuming.
5 Ways to Wean Yourself Off Caffeine
- Alternate your routine between caffeinated and decaffeinated drinks.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Alternate your routine between energy drinks and 100% fruit juices.
- Dilute your coffee with fat free milk.
- Fill your cup with 3/4 regular soda and a 1/4 caffeine free soda.
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