The alarm clock goes off, you have already snoozed three times, so you reluctantly drag yourself out of bed. Your body nips and tugs at you to get back in bed, while your mind is so foggy it feels like an old, coagulating glass of milk. You consider giving in, but then you are sanctified. A piping hot “cup of sleep” (aka the Luke Dolan term for coffee) finds its way into your mug and down your throat and… boom! Now you are ready to tackle the day head-on.
I cannot speak on behalf of anyone else, but that above paragraph sounds like me most mornings. Drink the joe or spend all morning performing- and feeling- subpar… and possibly face a headache too. There’s something more sinister lurking behind that headache though: caffeine dependency. We all know caffeine is a drug per se, but isn’t coffee good for you? When is too much coffee, or caffeine, a bad thing? There is a lot of misinformation about caffeine floating around. This article provides information to educate the reader and transform him or her into a conscious caffeine user, capable of making the most of every cup!
In short, less than 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per day is deemed acceptable for adults without any medical conditions. Many of you probably drink more (I know there are definitely days I have), but 400mg or less per day is considered safe. Another important question: why do we the people love caffeine so much? In doses of 85-250mg, caffeine elicits an increased sense of alertness, curbs lethargy, and aids in the fluidity of thought1 (as if you needed me to tell you that!). Conversely, in doses of 250-500mg, caffeine can cause nervousness, restlessness, and insomnia.1 If you have ever experienced negative feelings from caffeine, consider assessing your dosage based on the above information. If you are curious how much caffeine is in your favorite beverage, reference the list below:
330mg per “Grande” (16oz) Starbucks® Coffee
95-165mg per brewed cup (8oz) of coffee
47mg per can of Diet Coke®
25-49mg per brewed cup (8oz) of black tea
25-29mg per brewed cup (8oz) of green tea2
Another aspect of caffeine to consider is that the way your body responds to caffeine is unique to you. The absorption and transport of caffeine, and its corresponding physiological effects, are all manifested in complex science jargon. One thing that is worth being aware of as a caffeine junkie, however, is that the half-life of caffeine is 5-8 hours1. (Note: a half-life is defined as the time required for something to decrease by 50%. E.g. if you drank a cup of coffee and you peaked with 80mg of caffeine in your blood, after 5-8 hours there would be 40mg of caffeine in your blood. After another 5-8 hours? 20mg). This partially explains why some individuals are more sensitive to caffeine than others: caffeine literally stays in their blood longer. This also partially explains why some people cannot have caffeine later in the day.
Caffeine's diuretic effects are also worth taking note on. Most people are aware of this. Essentially, caffeine suppresses a hormone called antidiuretic hormone (ADH). By suppressing this hormone, the kidneys retain less water than they usually would; thus, caffeine's diuretic effects. This is not designed to be alarming, just know that pale urine after coffee consumption does not necessarily indicate good hydration status. You are likely just expelling more urine than you otherwise would. Drink a glass or two of water after your morning coffee, if you want to see the science in action.
If your head is starting to spin, take a deep breath (or sip of coffee). This article is not designed to sway the reader. The motivation for this article came from the idea that most people’s caffeine consumption is chronic and unchanging. Ipso facto, it seemed like a worthwhile endeavor to assist people in being conscious consumers of caffeine; thereby maximizing the benefits, and minimizing the downsides, they derive from their caffeine consumption.
Stay hydrated and classy fellow caffeine lovers,
-Luke “food guy” Dolan
1,3,7- trimethylxanthine aka caffeine1
2Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017, April 14). Caffeine content for coffee, tea, soda, and more. Retrieved August 4, 2017, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/caffeine/art-20049372?pg=1
1Yew, D., MD, Byrns, C. N., & Benitez, J. G., MD, MPH. (2017, June 06). Caffeine Toxicity (M. A. Miller MD & F. Talavera PharmD, PhD, Eds.). Retrieved August 4, 2017, from http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/821863-overview#showall