If you turn to a cup of coffee or tea to get going in the morning, you aren’t alone. About 90 percent of Americans consume some form of caffeine every day. With so many of us consuming it daily, the question of if caffeine is beneficial or harmful to our health is often posed. This month, we’re going to breakdown what the research says.
If you’re part of the 90 percent, don’t worry about having to give up your caffeine fix just yet. For healthy adults, most research agrees that up to 400mg a day is considered safe. This is the equivalent to about four 8oz cups of coffee or about 8-9 cups of black tea. A couple of exceptions to this are pregnant or breastfeeding individuals and those who have high blood pressure or heart disease, who should speak with their doctor regarding caffeine consumption. Research also suggests that a moderate amount of caffeine can be beneficial. For example, moderate caffeine intake has been associated with a reduced risk of depression, dementia, and improved athletic performance. However, the effects of caffeine can vary greatly from person to person. If you find that you are drinking over 400mg a day or if you are experiencing headaches, a fast heart rate, irritability, insomnia, or increased anxiety it may be a good idea to cut back.
When looking at caffeine intake, we know the source does matter. Coffee and tea offer the most bang for your buck as they contain antioxidants that can help prevent or slow damage to cells. To get the most benefit from these beverages, try to limit the amount of sugar and creamers added. Soda is another source of caffeine for many Americans and it is recommended to limit consumption due to the high amount of added sugars. Energy drinks should also be limited due to their high concentration of caffeine and lack of regulation. Another popular way caffeine is consumed, especially among teens and young adults, is by mixing caffeine with alcohol. Mixing caffeine with alcohol has been shown to increase instances of high-intensity binge drinking by four times in people between the ages of 15-23. This can be dangerous as caffeine masks the depressant effects of alcohol. This often leads to drinking more than you otherwise would be able to and believing that you’re soberer than you are which in turn increases the risk for dangerous behaviors.
If you’re interested in exploring how to reduce your caffeine intake, a good first step would be to start to observe your caffeine habits and take stock of how much and when you turn to caffeine throughout the day. This will help to identify patterns and where you can have the most impact. Since cutting back on caffeine has the potential for withdrawal symptoms, it’s recommended to make changes gradually. One way to decrease the amount you consume in a day is to have a “cut-off time” for caffeinated beverages. This can be especially helpful for those who struggle with insomnia. If you find that you’re craving a caffeinated beverage after the cut-off time, drinking some extra water can help with alertness, or reaching for a decaf coffee or herbal tea can help to curb the craving. You may also want to add some energizing snacks or take a quick walk in the afternoon to beat the midday slump. Foods like nuts, dark leafy greens (a smoothie is a great way to incorporate these on the go), citrus fruit, dark chocolate, or bran cereals are great options to boost energy levels without caffeine. Avoiding snacks with high amounts of sugar can help as well as they can cause energy levels to dip.
Overall, when examining your caffeine intake, listen to your body and find what works best for you. Begin to pay attention to how you react to caffeine throughout the day and how it may be helping or hindering you. If you’d like to begin to dial back your caffeine intake, start with small steps and build new habits slowly. Be sure to watch for more wellness tips and tricks and If you would like one-on-one help with building healthy habits, feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy sipping!