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How much caffeine is too much?

You may think that caffeine is mostly in tea or coffee – you’re not entirely wrong. Caffeine is in a lot of beverages we drink daily, from cocoa to energy drinks; from fizzy pop to weight loss supplements. As a result, it is a good idea to understand how much caffeine is too much and figure out how much caffeine is in our day-to-day diets.

What Drinks Have Caffeine?

The main drinks that contain caffeine are coffee, tea, and some energy drinks. However, many popular fizzy drinks also contain some caffeine, although it isn’t as extreme as some energy drinks.

A standard cup of instant coffee that you make at home contains approximately 57mg (6mg if you choose decaffeinated coffee), whereas a shot of espresso contains 77mg. Meanwhile, a standard can of full fat Coca-cola contains 34mg, with the diet variety containing 46mg. Do those numbers seem high?

Well, if you compare it to other drinks on the market – especially energy drinks – then you’d be surprised. Coca-cola’s energy drink contains 99mg, which isn’t much higher, but Monster energy drinks contain 145mg. That is almost triple the caffeine of a normal cup of coffee.

Other drinks contain significantly more caffeine, with Reign Total Body Fuel containing 180mg. But, if that doesn’t get you hyped up enough, then Bang Energy will provide you with a sound 300mg of caffeine – more than 5 times the amount of a standard home-brewed coffee.

How Much Caffeine Is Too Much?

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to how much caffeine is too much, because each person reacts differently. Furthermore, a wide variety of physical characteristics will change how it reacts from person to person, such as weight, diet, or metabolism, as well as the actual dosage itself.

For healthy adults, it has been agreed that 400mg a day will leave you with little to no negative side effects. 400mg is equivalent to approximately 7 cups of instant coffee (57mg per cup) or about 2.5 cups of brewed coffee (163mg per cup). Many of us drink that amount or more on a regular basis, but going above this level may mean that some side effects become more evident.

However, those doses are taken gradually throughout the day. Health organisations and regulators suggest that having a dose of up to 200mg at once will leave most people without any side effects – a can of Reign should be fine – but it is recommended that this is done before more extreme exercise. On top of that, drinking too many caffeinated drinks can lead to a lack of sleep – studies show that the average half life of caffeine is approximately 5 hours. This means that you could easily still have caffeine in your system 10 hours after you’ve had your morning coffee.

Caffeine and Medical Conditions

If you have a medical condition, or are weakened in some way, then caffeine can react differently. For example, if you have a heart condition, the fact that caffeine raises blood pressure for several hours after consuming it may cause certain negative side effects (or worsen pre-existing issues). Each person, however, needs to be measured on a case-by-case basis. There is no piece of advice that suits everyone.

Another group of people who will need to consider their caffeine intake are pregnant or breastfeeding women. The recommended dose of caffeine is lowered to 200mg per day. There are relatively few studies on the effects of caffeine during pregnancy, so it is wise to take the side of caution – too much caffeine during pregnancy has been known to cause nausea, or possibly even miscarriage.

Caffeine in Adolescents and Children

Similarly, there isn’t enough information available to determine what a safe level of caffeine is for children and adolescents. One suggestion is to use an adult’s upper limit per dose as a child’s upper limit for the day.

As a guide, the adult’s upper limit is 3mg per kilogram of body weight. However, some health organisations suggest that it should be lower for children – no more than 2.5mg per kilogram – as a daily allowance.

This equates to:

  • 45mg/day for 4-6 years
  • 62.5mg/day for 7-9 years
  • 85mg/day for 10-12 years

Over the years, there has been caution raised over the amount of caffeine in energy drinks, with young people in the UK being asked to prove identification of being over 16 to buy energy drinks in certain settings. This is, in part, also to support a reduction in child obesity.

What Happens If I Have Too Much Caffeine?

A toxic level of caffeine is considered to be 10mg per kilogram of body weight – lethal levels, however, are considered to be 150mg per kilogram. Therefore, caffeine can kill, but a healthy person would have to drink dozens of caffeinated drinks in quick succession to do so.

Problems arise when other forms of caffeine are ingested. These include caffeine powders and pills. According to regulating authorities, a teaspoon of caffeine powder contains the same amount of caffeine as 28 cups of coffee – it’s intense. As a result, it is much easier to overdose when taking caffeine in forms outside of normal food or drink. Deaths from caffeine overdoses are rare, but they do still happen so it is a good idea to avoid becoming too dependent on caffeine as a whole.

Advice on Caffeine Consumption

Generally speaking, studies that have recorded negative side effects from caffeine consumption relate to regular and high caffeine intakes. A high amount as a one off will rarely have a negative impact on a healthy adult’s body. In fact, doses above 400mg (sometimes up to 800mg) in a day have been used in short-term studies to measure the performance-enhancing effects of caffeine.

However, this is dependent on the person and their physical characteristics. For some, a high amount of caffeine on occasion can be fine, but a regular high intake of caffeine can often lead to more negative side effects, especially if the person is using caffeine pills or powder.

As a rule, like with any substance, it is a good idea to enjoy it in moderation – avoid becoming dependent on caffeine to prevent bad sleeping patterns, higher blood pressure, and other health issues that it could cause. But, don’t let this spoil your morning brew!

Primal Bite

Caffeine is included in many drinks you consume daily – not just coffee and tea.

The recommended amount is approximately 7 cups of instant coffee or 2.5 cups of brewed coffee per day.

Caffeine can be toxic, but you would have to consume supplements such as caffeine powder in order to reach such dangerous levels, or drink dozens of cups of coffee in quick succession.