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Feelin’ Buzzed: Is Caffeine Good for You or Is It Time to Cut Back?

Are you one of those, “Don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee” types or a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed go-getter in the morning?

While the reality for many of us lately is messy pandemic hair (don’t care) kind of mornings, there is something about the smell of coffee (namely the coveted caffeine we require within) that gets us ready to face the day ahead.

Americans love our caffeine. In fact, more than 95% of adults consume some form of caffeine, be it coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks or from food. Caffeine is even being added to skincare products for its antioxidant properties and to aid in reducing puffiness and redness.

Although caffeine can give us that jolt to kickstart our day, help with a mid-day slump and even help reduce undereye circles, could it have a negative effect on our health?

“Caffeine does have numerous benefits, mentally and physically, but it really comes down to how much you consume and the source—not every source of caffeine is equal,” said Ashley Amaral, a registered dietitian with Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix.

While there are beaucoup benefits to caffeine, too much of anything can be bad. If you are considering cutting back or switching out the source for your morning buzz, here’s what you should know.

The Upside of Caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant, which means it’s going to affect your nervous system—your brain, cognition and your mood. For many people, it helps them feel more alert, boost their moods and help them concentrate.

Although we know it’s a great pick-me-up, Amaral said more research is revealing other upsides, including a lower risk of heart failure, stroke and heart disease and enhanced athletic performance.

“Research shows that pre-exercise ingestion of 300 to 600 milligrams of caffeine resulted in increased agility and running distance,” Amaral said. “Habitual use of caffeine may also reduce the performance benefit as your body adapts to it, but it doesn’t hurt to try. For peak performance, intake caffeine about 10 to 70 minutes beforehand.”

Not All Sources of Caffeine are Created Equal

Caffeine isn’t just in drinks and skincare, you can also find it in seeds, nuts, chocolate and certain foods—and even in some over-the-counter drugs and weight loss supplements.

Put aside the caffeine pills, sodas and energy drinks and opt for natural sources of caffeine for their antioxidant properties, such as coffee or tea. Energy drinks are often high in sugar and empty calories – not to mention full of chemicals and dyes.

How Much Caffeine Should I Have?

For most people, the safe consumption (400 milligrams per day) of caffeine poses no serious health risks. But if you have a history of a heart condition, are a child or adolescent or pregnant and lactating, you may be more vulnerable and should talk to your doctor about your intake.

“Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consume no more than 200 milligrams of caffeine per day, roughly 12 ounces,” Ashley added. “There is no evidence, however, as some studies suggest that excessive intakes of caffeine may slow fetal growth rates and can result in miscarriages.”

Too Much of a Good Thing

While caffeine packs of a punch of benefits, there are some side effects linked to excess use, including gastrointestinal problems, trouble sleeping, raised blood pressure and anxiety.

Caffeine can also interact with some medications, so check with your doctor before taking any new medication.

Is caffeine ever lethal? “The lethal caffeine consumption is 10 grams, which equates to about 40 cups of coffee,” Amaral said. “This typically is only able to be reached through tablets or powder form.”

Should I Cut Back on My Cup of Joe?

If you’re consuming too much caffeine, you may run the risk of experiencing some of the side effects mentioned above but also some withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches and irritability, if you decide to go cold turkey.

The good news is that you can wean yourself without feeling in the dumps. Amaral shared these helpful tips on cutting back on caffeine.

Important Tips to Help Cut Back Caffeine

  1. Opt for natural sources of caffeine. Consider a coffee or tea for their disease-fighting antioxidant properties. If you can, skip the cream and sugar.
  2. Know your limits. Try not to consume more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day. This equates to about 2 to 4 cups. Use the helpful chart below as your guide.
  3. Stay hydrated. Remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  4. Try integrating half-calf or decaf. You may want to swap out one cup of coffee with decaf or half-calf to lower your intake.
  5. Listen to your body. If you start to feel anxious, jittery or have trouble sleeping, decrease your caffeine intake.
  6. Talk to your doctor. It’s important to discuss any major lifestyle or dietary changes with your doctor. To find a Banner Health physician near you, visit bannerhealth.com.

Caffeine Intake 101 Chart Graphic

Got more wellness questions? We’ve got answers. Check out these quick reads on the Banner Health blog.

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