Caffeine helps many of us cope with the demands of everyday life. But in some cases, the side effects of your favorite beverage can be a sign that you need to think about reducing the amount.
Whether it is endless cups of coffee at work or energy drinks to avoid lunch fatigue, it seems that most people can not spend their day without a little caffeine. It is not surprising, after all, that research shows that Coffee is the most consumed beverage in the world.
But as with many good things, Excess caffeine can be problematic, even fatal. While caffeine poisonings or deaths are rare, they can still occur.
A study published in May 2018 in Nutrients identified 92 cases in which caffeine was the sole cause of death and noted that these cases were more common among infants, psychiatric patients and athletes than in the general population.
One such case that received a great deal of attention involved a UK-based trainer who died after consuming a caffeine powder supplement equivalent to about 200 cups of coffee, the BBC reported in March 2022.
This very rare but worrying lethal effect of caffeine exposure may make you wonder if the amount you are taking is safe.
How much caffeine is too much?
Certainly, caffeine can be a safe drink for most people. Current guidelines from the US Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) suggest that up to 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine a day is good for healthy adults. This equates to about four to five cups of coffee, although research has found that caffeine levels can vary depending on the beans used, how they are roasted and how the coffee is made.
A study published in February 2019 at Food Research International compared eight brewing methods and found that filtered coffee tended to have less caffeine per cup than other methods, while cold coffee tended to have more.
Interestingly, studies have found that those who drink coffee have an 11 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease than those who do not drink at all. But it is not clear whether this effect can be attributed to caffeine or other coffee compounds.
Caffeine is lethal only in extremely high concentrations. The FDA has warned about concentrated caffeine powder, as there is a greater risk of consuming more than the recommended amount and reaching toxic or even deadly levels.
The body estimates that toxic effects, such as seizures, can be seen with rapid consumption of approximately 1,200 mg of caffeine or 0.15 tablespoons of pure caffeine. This makes it particularly dangerous to consume powdered supplements directly from the container, without first mixing with liquid.
Data collected between 2011 and 2012 and published in Nutrients in 2016 showed that, among caffeine consumers, the average daily intake was about 135 mg and came from only three main sources: coffee, tea and soft drinks. A typical 226 gram cup of coffee has 80 to 100 mg of caffeine, 226 grams of green or black tea has 30 to 50 mg.
But caffeine can be found in many other products, such as ice cream, energy bars, breakfast cereals, chocolates, protein powders and, of course, energy drinks, where caffeine levels can reach 300 mg per can. . Thus, a person’s caffeine intake can actually increase during a day.
For most people, caffeine consumption is relatively safe. But people differ in their sensitivity to caffeine depending on several factors, including genetic differences in the enzyme that metabolizes caffeine. In addition, there are indications that women are less sensitive to the effects of caffeine than men. So some people may respond more to caffeine in lower doses and experience some unpleasant side effects.
Since too much seems different to everyone, look for the following signs that may indicate that you have overdone it with coffee.
You are constantly on the alert
Caffeine is a stimulant, better known for promoting alertness and increasing energy, because it works by binding to the adenosine receptors in the brain. Adenosine is a molecule that activates feelings of calm and fatigue and when caffeine blocks receptors, it can make you exchange feelings of fatigue with those of alertness. This is generally good if you need to wake up for a morning date, but for some people this extra arousal can turn into feelings of anxiety, irritability and nervousness.
If you find that you often feel nervous, upset, or irritable after drinking a strong coffee or consuming a caffeinated energy bar, it may be a good idea to look for other ways to boost your energy levels, such as a morning walk.
You have trouble sleeping
Depending on how much you consume, caffeine can increase the time it takes to fall asleep and reduce the overall quality of your sleep. Caffeine levels peak in your bloodstream up to about two hours after consumption, but some studies have found that it can persist for up to 9.5 hours, which could potentially affect your normal sleep time.
Do you have headaches?
This severe headache could be the result of a third cup of coffee. Caffeine can contribute to migraines in some people because it stimulates the central nervous system.
For most people, moderate consumption of 200 mg of caffeine daily does not cause a problem, but the National Headache Foundation
suggests to those who often suffer from headaches, to avoid daily caffeine consumption.
It is worth noting that caffeine deprivation can also contribute even more to the appearance of migraines, especially when there is a sharp decrease in the amount. So it is better if you want to reduce it to do it gradually, so as not to face any problem.
Do you want to eat something sweet?
Your morning cup of coffee could lead your hand to the cookie jar. Studies have found that caffeine could temporarily affect the taste buds and make food and drink look less sweet – something that could make you crave more sugar. If you find that you eat sweets every time you take caffeine, it may be a good idea to limit your coffee to see if it helps balance your taste buds. You may find that the donut now tastes much sweeter, so you want it less.
You find it difficult to exercise
While research shows that small amounts of caffeine before a workout can give you a boost, on the other hand too much can have the opposite effect. After reviewing the existing literature, the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) has officially stated that taking caffeine supplements in moderation seems to have a positive impact on aerobic and muscular endurance and strength, among other benefits related to physical condition.
The literature identifies caffeine levels ranging from 2 to 6 mg per kg (kg) of body mass as beneficial, but also points out that very high doses of caffeine (9 mg / kg body mass) are associated with a high incidence of unpleasant symptoms such as tachycardia and heart palpitations, anxiety and headaches. Therefore, if you experience these or other side effects during or after your regular workout, you may want to reduce your pre-exercise intake.
How to reduce caffeine if you want
If caffeine use negatively affects your health or lifestyle, it may be in your best interest to reduce your intake. But it is good to know that caffeine deprivation can cause side effects such as fatigue, nausea, flu-like symptoms, headaches and mood disorders.
Unlike opioid or alcohol withdrawal, reducing caffeine is not considered dangerous, but it can certainly be unpleasant. To make things easier, reduce caffeine gradually to reduce or avoid the common withdrawal symptoms. One way to achieve this is to reduce your caffeine intake by 25 percent each week, until you can keep it below the threshold that causes you unpleasant symptoms.