Approximately 90 percent of Americans consume caffeine on a daily basis. It may provide us with more energy and alertness when we feel like we need it most, but when does caffeine intake become too much? 

Experts say that we can feel the benefits of caffeine with as little as 50 to 100 mg, which is equivalent to a small cup of coffee.  But beyond that, caffeine can result in nausea, sleep deprivation, and anxiety, plus mask true adrenal fatigue. Find out here if you are addicted to your morning jolt and how to curb your caffeine cravings.

Psychiatrist

  • Track your caffeine patterns. Genes dictate how people metabolize caffeine. In order to discern your tolerance, observe caffeine’s effects on your body.  Experiment with using a bit less or a bit more and see how that influences the way you feel, think, and behave. Adjust use accordingly. Moreover, less caffeine is generally better as the benefits typically occur at even low doses.
  • Be aware of dependency. Understanding how much caffeine you regularly consume will help control intake.  Each person reacts to caffeine’s effects differently, but if you are jittery or sick to your stomach, chances are you had too much caffeine.  With over consumption, you may also start to only experience negative effects such as nausea, insomnia, and rapid heart rate.
  • Gradually cut back. Cutting caffeine out of your diet cold turkey may result in negative withdrawal effects, such as feeling sluggish and tired and having difficulty concentrating.  If you would like to limit your caffeine consumption, gradually phase it out of your everyday routine.

–Daniel P. Evatt, PhD, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland

Naturopathic Doctor

  • Everything in moderation.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the American Medical Association classify a low caffeine intake as 130-200 mg and a moderate intake as 200-300 mg.  In addition to increased alertness, focus, and energy, low to moderate intake has some benefits on neurological disease and depression and may decrease risk of diabetesLimit caffeinated beverages to two cups or servings a day.  Avoid soft drinks and energy drinks, sticking to coffee or green tea when you need a caffeine fix.
  • Substitute with supplements.  Switching out your morning cup of Joe for an adrenal-support supplement will not only stimulate youbut will also support your body’s adrenal glands for the long-term.  Our adrenal glands keep us going “overtime” when we’re stressed or working hard.  Great caffeine substitutes include ginseng, ashwagandha, licorice root, and rhodiola.
  • Keep it to the morning.  Drinking coffee or black tea in the late afternoon or evening will affect your sleep cycles. By the time your body processes the caffeine, it may take several hours before it leaves your body.  To stay energized later in the day, stick to healthy foods, such as a salad with lean protein for lunch or an apple with peanut butter as a snack; stay hydrated; and take a brisk walk to build energy so you can sleep soundly later.

–Kemby DeLellis, ND, Lokahi Health Center, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

Caffeine researcher

  • Limit during pregnancy.  Experts recommend pregnant women consume only small amounts of caffeine during pregnancy because it increases heart rate and blood pressure. Because your baby’s metabolism is still maturing, it cannot process the caffeine the same way you can. During the last stages of pregnancy, caffeine can disrupt the baby’s sleep and movement patterns. Mothers who regularly consume more than 400 mg of caffeine a day may observe withdrawal symptoms.
  • Maintain good habits.  After your baby is born, you should still watch your caffeine consumption.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast-feeding women consume no more than 200-300 mg a day. These low amounts of caffeine won’t impact healthy infants: Breast milk contains one percent of the caffeine ingested by the mother.  However, if your newborn shows signs of restlessness, limit your caffeine intake further to see if that is the cause.
  • Monitor your kids.  Studies show child and adolescent caffeine consumption is on the rise.  Energy drinks, which can contain 4 to 6 times the amount of caffeine found in soft drinks, are often marketed directly to adolescents.  Children can experience difficulty sleeping when consuming as little as 1 mg caffeine per approximately 2 lbs of body per day, or about one 12-oz can of Mountain Dew for an 80-pound child. Offer healthy substitutes, such as water or low-sugar fruit juice.

–William Warzak, PhD, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska