Red Bull, Rockstar, Monster, 5 Hour Energy, and their energy-boosting cousins – coffee, tea, and sodas –are all drinks used to give people a lift, and they all have a common ingredient: caffeine. Caffeine can have both positive and negative effects depending on your personal body chemistry and how much you drink. And yes, you can have too much caffeine.
Besides the notable drawback that energy drinks have a lot of sugar and additives that are hard to digest and also may lead to weight gain, here’s what you need to know about your morning lattes and favorite pick-me-ups.
What is caffeine?
Caffeine is a stimulant. It changes the chemistry in the brain (temporarily), causing brain cells to fire more rapidly. This also triggers stress hormones to be released.
The potential benefits:
- Increased concentration and alertness.
- Temporary increases in brain activity, and exercise endurance for people who are tired.
Negative effects of caffeine (even in otherwise healthy people):
- Nervousness, anxiety, and tremors.
- Diarrhea and vomiting.
- Insomnia (sleeplessness).
- Heart palpitations.
- Cardiac arrest.
- Additional issues for people with existing cases of anxiety, stomach, liver, or kidney problems or seizures
- Withdrawal symptoms for people who are used to having caffeine on a regular basis – fuzzy-headed feelings, headache, constipation, or low energy.
How to avoid negative effects of caffeine:
Caffeine affects everyone differently, and the effects last in your body for about 4-6 hours. If you are going to drink caffeinated beverages, it is important to not drink large quantities all at once. Eating or drinking large amounts all at one time doesn’t give your body time to process it and signal you with the early warning signs that you’ve had enough. If you drink it slowly, your body adapts, and you can stop drinking it if jitters or a racing heart occurs.
For this reason, it’s very dangerous to take caffeine in pills or powder form. It hits your system immediately. This can be life-threatening if too much caffeine is taken.
How much is safe for you?
The recommended daily limit for safe consumption by adults is 400mg per day or less. This can be less for teens or those who have never had much caffeine before. Some people have a low tolerance for the effects of caffeine and feel it more strongly and some people can be allergic to caffeine. Symptoms can start to occur at 250-500 mg depending on your sensitivity to caffeine.
If less than 400 mg a day is generally safe, how much is in common drinks and supplements? A great resource is Caffeine Informer for looking up how much caffeine is in different products. Remember: the larger the size of your cup of coffee or can of energy drink, the more caffeine is in there.
|Caffeine amount in Mg||Ounces in a typical serving|
|Red Bull||80 mg||8.4 oz|
|Monster||160 mg||16 oz|
|Rockstar||160 mg||16 oz|
|5 Hour Energy||215 mg||2 oz|
|Cappuccino||154 mg||12 oz|
|Espresso||77 mg||1.5 oz|
|Brewed coffee||108 mg||8 oz|
|Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf coffee||333 mg||16 oz|
|Starbuck Tazo Chai Tea||100 mg||16 oz|
|Brewed tea||53 mg||8 oz|
|Diet Coke||45 mg||12 oz|
|Ben & Jerry’s coffee ice cream||68-84 mg||8 oz|
Tips to remember:
Any drink containing caffeine can have some good effects if you absolutely need it. However, the less you consume, the better off you will be in terms of overall health. You’ll avoid dependence and lessen your processed sugar intake (whether from the can or from the sugar packets your adding to your coffee).
- Drink caffeinated drinks gradually.
- Drink it only in the morning and early afternoon so it doesn’t affect your sleep.
- Drink caffeinated drinks in moderation.