Here's how much caffeine you should have in a day

October 14, 2019 4 min read

Here's how much caffeine you should have in a day

TL;DR The ideal amount of caffeine intake in a day boils down to 400 mg, which is equivalent to many different things depending on the food or drink you're taking. When you consume more than this amount, some adverse effects may take place like headache, anxiety, and insomnia.

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Coffee, tea or (caffeine) mints.

So, which of these have you popped or downed today?

These products all contain varying amounts of caffeine, alongside others you wouldn't have thought to contain it. Ice cream, frozen yogurt, breakfast cereals, pudding, pain medications … even cocoa butter lotion apparently all have it! [1]

Do you like most (or all) of these products? Then you must be wondering how much caffeine you take in daily.

We've got you covered. 

Keep reading to find out the safe amount to consume and what might happen if you get too caffeine-happy.

 

 

What's the safe amount of caffeine to consume in a day?

Let's start with a very important question:

How much is too much?

Studies have shown that caffeine remains in the safe zone when consumed in low-to-moderate amounts [2]. But what exactly does “low-to-moderate” mean?

The most important figure to remember on this topic is...

400 milligrams (mg).

That’s the amount of caffeine that’s considered safe to consume in a day… at least for adults. [3]

If you’re wondering what 400 mg means, you can refer to image below:

 

Infographic on how much 400 mg is

 

Note that caffeine content varies in different products so don’t forget to check the label!  

And if you’re wondering how much the “killer” amount is (literally), then USA Today reports it would “likely take anywhere from 50-100 cups of coffee,” or a teaspoon of pure powdered caffeine ingested at once. [4]

Now you must really love your caffeine to death if you take in that much!

 

What happens if you consume more than that?

Crossing the line, aka going beyond 400 mg or 1/16th teaspoon of pure powdered caffeine, may lead to the following adverse effects: [5, 6]

 

Migraine headache

Drinking too much coffee or tea can cause withdrawal symptoms, caffeine rebound and medication rebound, which can all lead to migraine or the worse version of your typical headache. How this happens is covered in our article “Does caffeine cure or cause migraines?”

 

Anxiety

From modest doses [78] to incredibly high intake (1,000 mg or more) a day [910] caffeine could cause nervousness, rapid breathing, stress and mood swings. And studies say these adverse effects can take place regardless of how many times you have your caffeine – whether you’re a coffee-lover or just an occasional drinker. [11]

 

Insomnia

Caffeine can cause sleeplessness, especially when consumed beyond 3 PM. Studies show that having more than you’re supposed to can eat up on your sleeping time, especially among seniors. [1213]

Read this article to find out when’s the best time to drink coffee.

 

Muscle tremors or rhabdomyolysis

Excessive caffeine intake can also cause rhabdomyolysis, which is a “serious syndrome due to a direct or indirect muscle injury. It results from the death of muscle fibers and release of their contents into the bloodstream.” [14151617, 18]

One study cited a woman who guzzled a liter of coffee with 565 mg worth of caffeine and eventually suffered from symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, i.e. nausea, vomiting and dark urine. Don’t worry, she recovered after getting medical attention. [19]

 

High blood pressure

Caffeine as a stimulant has been observed to temporarily increase blood pressure among non-habitual coffee drinkers. [20212223]

The same happens during exercise among healthy people and those with “mildly elevated blood pressure” alike. [2425]

 

Rapid heart rate

Stimulant overload can also alter the rhythm of your heartbeat, which was reported among young people who had gone overboard with their energy drinks. [26]

 

More trips to the toilet

Most research reports higher likelihood of frequent urination or inability to control urination with excessively high caffeine intake, especially among older people or those suffering from incontinence.

In some cases, high consumption may even likely develop incontinence among those with a healthy bladder. [27]

 

Adverse effects of too much caffeine

 

Who should and shouldn’t be having caffeine

While caffeine may be safe for adults, its effects could vary based on people’s tolerance. Research shows that genes may have something to do with it. That’s why some can have more cups of coffee over others without having any drawbacks. [28, 29]

Some people though should carefully watch their intake, especially the following:

  • Children and adolescents should limit consumption as they may be “particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of caffeine” [30]
  • Women who are pregnant, those who are trying, or moms who breastfeed should consult with a medical professional before heading back to their go-to cafe. Here’s how much caffeine pregnant women should have.
  • Those who are under medication and highly sensitive to caffeine’s effects.

 

How to keep it in check?

The key to consuming caffeine without feeling robbed of your daily fix is to pay attention to your body and whether you're seeing signs of any of the adverse effects above.

If you think you're heading towards the danger zone, try to ease off on your favorite caffeine products and mix them up with decaffeinated ones.

But the most important one is to know is the content of the products you consume. Check the label, but be vigilant at the same time (some products may be disclosing a lower amount than the real one).

    If you're not sure how much caffeine a product is supposed to have, fret not. Here's an infographic to guide you the next time you have your caffeine.

     

    Caffeine content in various products

     

    Sources 

    [1] https://sleep.org/articles/foods-with-caffeine/

    [2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28603504

    [3] https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/caffeine/art-20045678

    [4] https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/05/16/south-carolina-teen-dies-caffeine-how-much-coffee-can-kill-you/99975022/

    [5https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/caffeine/art-20045678

    [6] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/caffeine-side-effects

    [7https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25471197

    [8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2195579

    [9http://apt.rcpsych.org/content/11/6/432

    [10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12204388

    [11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2195579

    [12https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27527212

    [13] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26899133

    [14https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27802855

    [15https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24079989

    [16] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21611596

    [17] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24220878

    [18] https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/rhabdomyolysis-symptoms-causes-treatments#1

    [19] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24220878

    [20https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19049813

    [21https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24935999

    [22https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26708636

    [23] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19083466

    [24https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2321541

    [25] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8998252

    [26] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28527645

    [27] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3077934/

    [28https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20532872

    [29] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27702941

    [30] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2699625/

     

    Tina Sendin
    Tina Sendin


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