How much is too much caffeine? The lowdown on coffee, tea, sodas and energy drinks

coffee splashing and spilling in mugby James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

You can find interpretations all over the place about coffee’s and tea’s association (good or bad) with diseases such as cancer, blood pressure and heart disease. Recently, news has been favorable, especially when looking at overall deaths.

But most of us drink these beverages for the caffeine energy boost. Aside from the beverage itself, how much actual caffeine is too much?

Baylor Regional Medical Center at Grapevine thinks about 400 mg per day is the maximum for most people. Of course this varies. If I drink more than about 300 mg in the morning, I get shaky and nervous.

I see patients who drink as much as 2 quarts of Mountain Dew per day and a pot of coffee. In some, that much increases your blood pressure. I have also seen microscopic blood in the urine which I think comes from direct bladder irritation since it goes away when they cut back.

As a reference, here’s approximately how much caffeine is in some common things.

  • chocolate: 10 to 20 mg per 1.5 oz. (approx. one candy bar)
  • colas/sodas/pop: 50 mg per 12 oz. (one can)
  • tea: 50 mg per 8 oz.
  • coffee: 100 to 125 mg per 8 oz.
  • energy drinks: 160 mg per 16 oz.

So how much is too much for you? I think Baylor has it about right. Keep it under 400 mg per day. If you are anxious, jittery or shaky, or have headaches or trouble sleeping, try keeping it under 200 mg and none after noon. Some are so sensitive they have to cut it out all together. But most can feel better and enjoy their cup of Starbucks or tea or can of Red Bull in the morning knowing that there’s not much, if any, known risk in moderation.

What about you? Do you need that boost in the morning?

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6 Responses to “How much is too much caffeine? The lowdown on coffee, tea, sodas and energy drinks”

  1. Mark Salinas Says:

    2 quarts of Mountain Dew? Yikes! I usually have a cup of coffee in the am and another in the early afternoon. If I am feeling ambitious a Diet Coke might sneak in once in a while. Nice post.

    Mark Salinass last blog post..Bouncing for Fun and Health

  2. James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H Says:

    Mark, as usual, “moderation rules”

  3. lhubbard Says:

    I usually have a Diet Coke–sometimes two. But even with that little bit, I can get a headache and feel all weird if I don’t get my fix in the a.m.

    Leigh Ann Hubbard
    Managing Editor
    James Hubbard’s My Family Doctor

  4. James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H Says:

    Leigh Ann, caffeine-withdrawal headaches are real. The reason is not fully understood. To avoid the headaches, cut back on the caffeine gradually.

    Caffeine (about 60mg) is also found in headache medicines such exedrine and anacin. In part, the caffeine helps gastrointestinal absorbtion of the other ingredients in the tablets.

  5. Charee Klimek Says:

    I’ve obviously got to cut back. I think I must be at 800mg a day to keep up with my work. Appreciate the article!

  6. James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H Says:

    Charee,hopefully you can taper down gradually, Thanks for the post.

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