How much is too much?
I stumble out of bed, trying to pull my tangled mass of hair into a ponytail as I make my way to the kitchen. I find my coffee pod and place it into the machine, groggily pushing buttons, thankful for the refreshing aroma that meets my senses. Sitting at my laptop, sipping the bitter, black liquid, I began to type, allowing the swirling fluid to stir my thoughts into coherency.
30 minutes later, the cloud of sleep has lifted from my body, and I’m furiously stabbing away at my keyboard as if possessed. An hour and a half later, I get back up to make another cup of caffeine to keep the newfound energy from escaping.
Caffeine has become the most consumed stimulant in the US. Not only is it in your morning Starbucks order, but its also found in that energy drink you drink before you hit the gym, or the glass of sweet tea you sip at dinner. Before you drink your fourth cup of coffee for the day, make sure you know the effects it’s having on your body.
There’s been an increase in anxiety in the US. Today, “anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US,” affecting around 40 million adults — almost 1 in 5 people.
Research published in 2016 discovered higher caffeine intake was linked to obesity, lower academic achievement, and an increased risk of severe depression.
Now caffeine obviously increases alertness, making some people almost jittery. It blocks the effects of adenosine, a brain chemical that makes you feel tired. At the same time, it triggers the release of adrenaline, the “fight-or-flight” hormone associated with increased energy. However, at higher dosages, these effects will be heightened and can cause anxiety and nervousness.
400 mg of caffeine is the recommended dosage for adults, while children 12 or under should keep their distance from caffeine. To put that into perspective, a grande coffee at Starbucks holds about 330 mg of caffeine.
Although coffee is marketed as something that will keep you wide awake while staying up for 50 hours straight, overtime caffeine can cause significant fatigue.
It’s known as rebound fatigue. After the effects of the coffee have left your body, you’re left feeling even more tired than before. I’ve noticed it in my own body. I’ll feel great up until 10 am, and then I’m left feeling incredibly groggy and yearning to hurt my wallet with $5 coffee.
One review of 41 studies found that although caffeinated energy drinks increased alertness and improved mood for several hours, participants were often more tired than usual the following day.
Caffeine has also been linked to insomnia, for good reason. Coffee is my best friend when it comes to needing to stay awake. But if consumed in the afternoon, it can play havoc on your sleep. For most people, caffeine stays in their system for about five hours. Everyone is different, though, and it could stay in your system for up to nine hours, affecting your sleep.
Although caffeine triggers certain brain chemicals similar to the way cocaine and amphetamines do, it does not cause classic addiction the way these drugs do.
Several studies show the addicting effects of caffeine and how the body reacts if it goes without caffeine for a while. In one study, 213 caffeine users completed questionnaires after going 16 hours without consuming it. Daily users of coffee experienced headaches, fatigue, and other withdrawal symptoms.
Caffeine headaches, along with lethargy, irritability, muscle pain, nausea, and dizziness are all adverse effects you’ll feel if caffeine is being withheld from your grasp.
Its also believed that caffeine can permanently alter your brain chemistry. This is most likely because when caffeine is removed from your diet, changes will occur in dopamine levels in the brain.
There are cases of people who have overdosed and died from caffeine. A study completed by Mayo Clinic found that men who drank more than four 8 fl.oz. cups of coffee in a day had a 21% increase in all-cause mortality; some stories are a little dramatic. Like the man who drank 25 Red Bulls in one night or the man who consumed 20 caffeine pills at once just to test the limits of his body (equal to 4000 mg of caffeine), but death by caffeine has happened.
Now, I’m not telling you to quit drinking coffee or to stop enjoying your sweet tea. I’m just telling you to keep the old adage, “Everything in moderation” close to mind, and keep an eye on the effects caffeine is having on your own body.