Are You Overdosing on Caffeine?


Americans love their caffeine. Every day, around 90 percent of them consume at least the equivalent of a cup of coffee’s worth of caffeine. And while a daily cup of coffee has been associated with a number of health benefits, there can always be too much of a good thing.

How Much Caffeine is Too Much Caffeine?

The amount of caffeine necessary to give you some less than desirable side effects is lower than you probably think. Though the exact amount isn’t the same for everybody, just 400 milligrams is enough to see the effects of overdosing on caffeine.

Now it might sound like you’d need to drink a lot of coffee to consume 400 milligrams of caffeine—but you really don’t. Your average medium-sized cup of takeout coffee contains around 300 milligrams of caffeine, and that number can swing up or down depending on the particular café and the beans they use. That means you could easily exceed 1,000 milligrams of caffeine if you drink three or more cups of coffee a day, putting you way over that 400 milligram threshold.

What Are the Risks of Overdosing Caffeine?

Having too much caffeine can result is a number of effects, varying in severity. As registered dietitian nutritionist Dr. Trevor Kashey explained, excess caffeine can lead to things like gastrointestinal irritation and trouble sleeping. Caffeine also promotes the production of cortisol, a hormone associated with increased stress and anxiety. In fact caffeine-induced anxiety disorder is an officially recognized mental-health issue.

One of the more drastic risks associated with caffeine overdosing, however, is the increased possibility of suffering a ministroke, says Neurologist Dr. Chris Winter.

“It’s really weird to see a 21-year-old who’s had lots of subtle vascular strokes over the years, and these tend to be people who were really pounding energy drinks,” Winter told Outside. “There is certainly such a thing as too much caffeine.”

Know When to Cut Back

Kashey says there’s actually a pretty easy way to find out if someone should reel in their caffeine consumption.

“Ask someone to remove caffeine, and watch the look on their face.”

If they look mortified just thinking about giving up their daily coffee habit, that’s probably a good sign that they need to cut back.

Maggie Sweeney – a researcher at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institute – added that you should also look for tell-tale signs of withdrawal: headaches, fatigue and irritability

Now, if you do need to end your longterm relationship with coffee, going cold turkey could be tough. However, Kashey suggests that the worst of it will be over in a couple of days.

But if giving it up all at once isn’t for you, you can ween yourself off it by progressively mixing a little more decaf into your regular coffee over a period of time.

“If you’re a particularly heavy user, it may take several weeks to gradually reduce your caffeine consumption,” Sweeney said.


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