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How Much Caffeine Is Too Much?

Caffeine can provide a boost of energy, help you become more alert, and improve your mood. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, many people don’t realize that caffeine is a drug that stimulates the nervous system and can cause negative side effects.

Depending on the amount of caffeine consumed, one or more of the following may occur: jitteriness, anxiety, irritability, increased blood pressure, stomach irritation, decreased length and quality of sleep, headaches, and abnormal heart rhythm.

The impacts of caffeine and the intensity of side effects can differ for everyone. What is okay for one person could be too much for another. The key is to watch for adverse side effects and decrease or avoid caffeine intake. Extremely high caffeine ingestion can trigger serious health problems such as heart attack, stroke, or even death. Caffeine can cause serious health challenges for children.

The Mayo Clinic recommends the following daily limits of caffeine:

·         Adults: less than 400 mg/day

·         Adolescents: less than 100 mg/day

·         Children: 0 mg/day

Caffeine can be harmful to some groups of people. Seek advice about caffeine consumption from your health care provider if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have a sleep disorder, migraine, anxiety, GERD, ulcers, or high blood pressure. Problems with heart rhythm, heart rate, and certain medications can also have detrimental consequences.

If consumed regularly, a person can become dependent on caffeine. As little as 100 mg/day can cause dependency, so monitor your intake. The chart below shows commonly consumed caffeinated beverages and the amount of caffeine they contain.

Name Standard Amount Caffeine in Standard Amount Caffeine in 16 Oz.
Energy Drinks
5-Hour Energy 2 oz. 200 mg 1,600 mg
Sobe No Fear 16 oz. 182 mg 182 mg
Monster 16 oz. 172 mg 172 mg
Rockstar 16 oz. 160 mg 160 mg
Red Bull 8.4 oz. 79 mg 151 mg
Coffee, Tea
Brewed Coffee 8 oz. 163 mg 324 mg
Average Coffee 8 oz. 95 mg 190 mg
Iced Tea 8 oz. Average of 47 mg 94 mg
Soft Drinks
Mountain Dew 12 oz. 54 mg          72 mg
Coke 12 oz. 34 mg          45 mg
Diet Coke 12 oz. 45 mg          60 mg
Pepsi 12 oz. 38 mg          51 mg
Sprite 12 oz. 0 mg           0 mg
Others
Chocolate Milk 8 oz. 5 mg 10 mg
Dark Chocolate 1 oz. 20 mg 320 mg
Milk Chocolate 1 oz. 6 mg 96 mg
Cold Relief Meds 1 tablet 30 mg
Vivarin 1 tablet 200 mg
Excedrin 2 tablets 130 mg

To reduce caffeine consumption, gradually swap caffeinated drinks with non-caffeinated drinks. Read labels on drinks, food, and medications to determine caffeine content, and stay away from those that contain high amounts. Replace your caffeinated beverage with water. Water can help flush caffeine out of your system and keep you properly hydrated. Indications of caffeine withdrawal include drowsiness, headaches, irritability, or trouble concentrating, but symptoms should last only a few days. Monitoring your caffeine consumption and following these recommendations and guidelines can lead to improved health and a longer life.

To view all references, see the article on Extension.usu.edu.

By: Cindy Nelson, Utah State University Extension associate professor, cindy.nelson@usu.edu