Caffeine is a potent stimulant we use as workout supplement or as a daily energizer. But how much of it is really safe?
My Sleep Vs. Caffeine
How potent caffeine is I learned first hand last year, when I tried to get to the ground of some sleep problems I experienced. My girlfriend thought it was due to the cappuccinos I treated myself to in the evenings and suggested I switch to caffeine-free tea after 8 pm.
Tea? What next? Me selling my dumbbells and starting yoga, for good measure finishing off with readjusting our furniture according to feng shui principles?
Okay, it couldn’t hurt trying. My cappuccinos basically are two strong espressos diluted in milk, and equal around 120 mg of caffeine per mug.
And my girlfriend was right: not having 240 mg a couple of hours before bed turned out to be a good idea. My sleep has improved a lot.
Thank you, girlfriend.
How Much Caffeine Is Safe?
Nonetheless, the mg of caffeine in my cappuccinos bring us to another problem with caffeine: how much of it has an effect on us and how much is safe?
Here in Europe the EFSA (our equivalent to the FDA) was asked to find out. Their experts went to work, compiled available research papers and extracted their findings. Based on those, they recommend the following (PDF):
- 400 mg / day are safe for adults (sans pregnant women) aged 18 to 65
- For those, having a single dose of up to 200 mg is also safe
- But 200 mg / day are the upper limit for pregnant women
- For children and teens aged 3 to 17 3 mg per kg body weight (~1.5 mg per lb) are the daily limit
Let’s convert these to some of the common forms we consume caffeine in:
- A regular can of cola (330 ml) has 35 mg caffeine
- A mug of coffee has 80 to 120 mg
- A can of iced tea has 30 mg
- A large energy drink (Rockstar etc.) has 220 mg
- An energy shot (5-Hour Energy etc.) has 120 mg
- A milk chocolate bar (100 g) has 30 mg
We Consume A Lot Of Caffeine
I’m not sure I follow all the EFSA’s numbers, because how you react to caffeine also has a to do with habit. Give someone who never drinks coffee or caffeinated sodas a single 200 mg dose and that guy goes dancing on the roof.
Still, these numbers give us an idea and, looking over my own habits, I calculate that per day I have about 350 to 450 mg of caffeine. And that is after I switched to tea in the evenings.
How about you? How much caffeine is in your everyday life?
Picture courtesy of Rob Taylor.