How Much Caffeine is too Much?

Coffee Photo via Wunderstock

Maybe you feel jittery and have trouble concentrating at the end of the day, or perhaps you have a fever or throbbing headache. Either way, the symptoms of a caffeine overdose are usually very apparent– they often involve a trip to the toilet. Some symptoms of too much caffeine manifest themselves later in the day, such as insomnia and restlessness. But what about the gray area between a few cups of coffee and too much caffeine?

How Much Caffeine is Too Much per Day?

According to the Mayo Clinic, 200mg- 300mg of caffeine (2-4 cups of coffee) is healthy for adults. More than that is likely too much caffeine. Approximately 200mg is enough to reap all the positive benefits of caffeine (alertness, decreased risk of Alzheimer’s) without going overboard. More than 500mg is considered too much caffeine per day– I wouldn’t drink more than 4 cups.

Of course, everyone is different. Men tend to be more susceptible to the effects of caffeine than women. People with sensitive stomachs may not tolerate much caffeine at all, and caffeine metabolism is at least partly genetic. At the same time, a heavyset individual’s caffeine intake may be too much for a gymnast.

The Symptoms of Too Much Caffeine

Restlessness, the jitters, insomnia, muscle tremors, anxiety and irritability are all symptoms of too much caffeine. You may not fully notice these side effects if you are dealing with problems or stress– it’s easy to attribute sleeplessness and anxiety to a stressful job and then forget about how much coffee you drank that day.

Cutting Back

Coffee is the favorite drink of many, but too much just isn’t healthy. Even if you’re bordering on 4 cups it may be time to cut back. Instead of going cold turkey, slowly curtail your caffeine consumption. Replace coffee with green tea, which has around a third of the caffeine content. This is enough to give you a slight kick and still feel like you’re drinking something. Decaf is always an option as well.

Caffeine in Popular Drinks

  • Espresso– 50-100mg
  • Generic cup of coffee– 80- 100mg
  • Black tea– up to 80mg
  • Green tea– 20-30mg

Brew time is the most important factor in determining caffeine content. Reduce brew time for less caffeine. You can also share a pot of coffee with a friend or coworker, space your coffee out over a longer period of time (sip instead of guzzle) or mix caffeinated coffee with decaffeinated brew. Or you could just live with drinking too much caffeine, but this isn’t advisable in the long-term.

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