Are You Consuming Too Much Caffeine?
In today’s go-go-go culture, one that’s given rise to humble bragging about our hectic schedules, caffeine has become our constant companion. We need it to wake up, to concentrate, to push through the afternoon slump, to gear up for an evening of shuffling kids to practices and lessons. In fact, research shows 85% of Americans drink at least one caffeinated beverage per day—mostly coffee.
But just because everybody’s doing it, does that make it okay? (Do we sound like your mom?) Well, it depends. To determine if you’re consuming too much caffeine, ask yourself the following questions:
How many milligrams of caffeine are you consuming every day?
In general, healthy adults can handle an astonishing amount of caffeine—up to 400 mg per day, according to the Mayo Clinic. To offer some perspective, a cup of coffee has about 95 mg of the stuff. (Keep in mind that when we say “a cup” we’re talking 8 fluid ounces, not that ginormous mug your aunt gave you for Christmas last year.)
But safe caffeine consumption amounts vary widely from person to person, says a postdoctoral research fellow at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. The Mayo Clinic agrees, asserting several factors contribute to caffeine sensitivity, such as genetics, body size, age, ongoing health conditions, and medications being taken. It’s worth noting that children should avoid caffeine entirely, and if you’re pregnant or nursing, you should talk with your doctor about any amount of caffeine consumption.
How’s your tummy?
So, how do you know how much is too much for you, specifically? Here’s how: Listen to your body. If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, too much caffeine may be to blame:
- Stomach pain or diarrhea
- Increased heart rate
- Difficulty sleeping
- Frequent urination or incontinence
- Increased anxiety/nervousness
Are you relying on caffeine as an energy source?
A recent Gallup poll indicates nearly half of people who drink three or more cups of coffee per day describe themselves as “addicted,” but only 10% of all coffee drinkers are interested in decreasing their consumption. Gallup suggests that means most people aren’t experiencing negative side effects. But we wonder if it’s really that most people feel like caffeine’s their only option.
If you’re saying, “Yep, that’s me,” we have good news for you. There are plenty of no-caffeine ways to boost your energy:
- Sleep more. (Duh.)
- Add at least a little exercise to your daily routine. Even simple stretching at your desk can help.
- Swap out products made with white flour for whole grains.
- Drink more water.
- Get a little sunshine (while wearing sunscreen, of course).
- Pump up the jams. No, really. Listening to the right music may boost productivity.
Where are you getting your caffeine?
As we’ve established, consuming up to 400 mg of caffeine is perfectly safe for most healthy adults. But if you’re getting your caffeine boost from sugar- and fat-laden lattes or from energy drinks with unpronounceable ingredients, you could be putting your health at risk in other ways.
In addition, you may be underestimating the amount of caffeine you’re consuming in an average day. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, all sorts of beverages and foods contain caffeine, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced that it’s investigating added caffeine in food products.
So, is caffeine bad for you? Not for most people. Is it possible to overdo it? Absolutely. Fortunately, your body will tell you if you’re consuming too much caffeine from the wrong sources. All you have to do is listen.
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