Taking coffee or tea in the morning is the best way to start the day for most people. The main reason we love these morning beverages is that they contain caffeine. It’s, therefore, no surprise that people love and are probably addicted to caffeine.
What is caffeine?
Caffeine is a bitter substance found in different foods and beverages. It is naturally present in coffee, tea, and cocoa and also found in its synthetic form in energy drinks, candies, snacks, health supplements, and medication.
However, people mostly associate caffeine with coffee. According to these statistics, 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed every day globally. That’s how seriously people take caffeine.
It’s the best cure for the groggy feeling we have when waking up in the morning. And it also works wonders by perking as up during boring afternoons.
Generally, caffeine is a great way to kick-start the system. It also provides us with lots of benefits.
What are the benefits of taking caffeine?
Caffeine is an antioxidant. When taken in moderation, it can ;
- Improve your concentration and boost your energy
- Help you to lose weight by increasing your metabolism, and
- Prevent chronic ailments such as cancer, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s
Although caffeine gives us these benefits, it’s not a valid reason to take it in excess. Taking too much of it can lead to dangerous side effects.
However, before we address these negative effects, we should start by understanding how caffeine addiction occurs.
How you develop caffeine addiction?
When you started taking caffeine, you probably only drank one or two cups. Now you’re doing more than five. How did it happen?
Well, when you take your first caffeinated beverage, the stimulant plugs your adenosine receptors, causing dopamine to flood your system. It also triggers the release of adrenaline which boosts your energy levels.
However, after some time, you’ll notice these feelings reducing as the effects of caffeine start wearing off. At this juncture, your natural reaction is to reach for another caffeine beverage. That opens the gate to a continuous cycle that will have you drinking gallons of coffee in a day.
The best way to avoid these scenarios is to determine your caffeine tolerance by finding out how many cups of coffee or caffeinated beverages are too much for your system.
How much caffeine is too much?
A standard cup of coffee contains 80 -100 mg of caffeine, while that of espresso contains 60 mg. A cup of tea can contain up to 60 mg of caffeine, and a can of cola contains 35-45 mg. Lastly, an 8- ounce energy drink contains 70 mg of caffeine.
Many people start feeling the effects of caffeine after taking about 250 milligrams. Negative effects typically materialize when you take more than 400 mg a day. The really dangerous side effects of taking too much caffeine occur when you go beyond 1000 mg.
What about hidden caffeine content?
You may wonder, how can one take over 1000 mg of caffeine when a coffee cup only contains about 80 mg? It all boils down to hidden caffeine content.
There are many beverages or foods we take, not knowing they contain caffeine. Others we are aware of but are not sure how much.
For example, although a cup of cappuccino looks just like a standard cup of coffee, it can contain as much as 282 mg of caffeine. Therefore, if you love taking lots of cappuccinos, you may end up having even five cups a day.
That translates to over 1000mg of caffeine in your body. Yet while taking them, you may not notice you are going overboard. It’s no surprise that most of us are overdosing on caffeine each day.
So, how do you avoid hidden caffeine? The main thing to note is that anything that promises to give you a quick lift is most likely full of caffeine or another kind of stimulant that’s not good for your body when taken in large quantities.
Avoiding such foods and beverages, especially energy drinks, is the best way to stay away from hidden caffeine. Otherwise, you expose yourself to the side effects of taking too much caffeine.
10 side effects of taking too much caffeine
Taking small doses of caffeine spread over long intervals is the best way to enjoy its benefits. If you choose to take excess amounts, you risk some of the following side effects.
- Increased stress levels
Caffeine beverages boost alertness by releasing adrenaline. The release of adrenaline suppresses tiredness by energizing us, which is why we drink coffee and other caffeine-rich beverages.
However, if you’ve taken too much caffeine, you know it can lead to feelings of restlessness. In some cases, it causes a pronounced feeling of anxiety and nervousness you can’t control.
These symptoms can increase your stress levels, making you feel unsettled or suffer panic attacks. When it gets very serious, you may even develop a caffeine-induced anxiety disorder.
- Rapid heart rate
A racing heart is not normal unless you are afraid of something or over-exerting yourself.
Too much caffeine can also cause your heart to beat out of control, especially if you are predisposed to heart problems. In other cases, the heart palpitations lead to dizziness and may even trigger a fainting spell.
If you feel such effects, it’s probably time to cut down on your caffeine intake. Otherwise, you may develop a condition known as atrial fibrillation, which is common in people with pre-existing heart conditions.
If you don’t reduce your caffeine intake, your heart palpitations may also lead to kidney failure or death.
Although, some studies seem to prove heart failure patients can consume at least 100mg of caffeine every five hours. It’s recommended that people with such conditions stay away from caffeine to avoid these dangerous side effects.
The stimulating effects of caffeine affect the way we behave. You’ll notice that you feel incredibly energized after a few cups of coffee and may focus more on tasks.
However, if you overdo it, you may end up becoming erratic in the way you talk and behave. You may find yourself sweating or being restless with symptoms such as constant tremors or twitching eyelids.
All these symptoms are referred to as caffeine jitters, and they manifest when you take more than 1,000 mg of caffeine in a day. The best way to avoid them is by watching how much caffeine you take.
While caffeine helps you stay awake, it can also disrupt your sleep cycle. That may sound confusing, but here’s how it works.
The effects of caffeine take some time to wear off. While it’s in your system, it interferes with the way that Adenosine works.
When the body releases enough Adenosine, it helps us to sleep. However, when caffeine interferes with its production, it leads to insomnia.
On average, caffeine remains in the system for between five and nine hours. The more caffeine you take, the longer you are likely to stay awake.
The time you take, it can also affect whether you can go to sleep at night or not. For example, drinking a caffeine-rich beverage in the morning will keep you alert for most of the day. But drinking caffeine later in the day is likely to keep you awake up to the early hours of the morning.
To be safe, drink your last caffeine drink no later than noon. That will give your body enough time to deal with its effects before you go to bed.
- Digestive problems
Have you ever taken a cup of coffee and immediately felt the urge to have a bowel movement? That’s because coffee has a laxative effect. It triggers the release of a hormone called gastrin in the stomach, which speeds up activity in the large and small intestines by encouraging peristalsis.
Peristalsis is the contraction of the bowels that forces food to move through the digestive system. While small doses of caffeine are good for mild peristalsis, taking large doses can cause diarrhea.
In some cases, it can cause stomach cramps as predigested food finds its way into the intestines due to the laxative effects of caffeine.
If you make a habit of taking too much caffeine, it can even go beyond triggering diarrhea to causing stomach ulcers.
The reason for the formation of ulcers is that the effects of caffeine cause the acidic contents of the stomach to pass into the small intestines too fast, causing them to get injured.
Therefore, if you feel your digestive system has a problem after taking too much caffeine, it may help you stop or decrease the number of caffeinated beverages you are taking.
- High blood pressure
When you take caffeine, it stimulates the adrenal glands to release adrenaline. The stimulatory effects of adrenalin on the nervous system can trigger high blood pressure.
Over time, when the body keeps suffering such bouts of elevated blood pressure, it may permanently damage the arteries, thereby interfering with blood flow to the brain and heart.
When that happens, people with weak hearts or pre-existing heart conditions suffer cardiac arrest.
Even if you have a strong heart or are not suffering from heart disease drinking over 6 cups of coffee a day may increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Therefore, taking caffeine in moderation when you are susceptible to high blood pressure is the best choice.
While caffeinated beverages can increase energy, taking too much of them can also cause fatigue.
Fatigue is often a result of the withdrawal symptoms experienced by the body as caffeine leaves the system. It’s one reason people take a lot of caffeine as they try to overcome the tiredness they feel once it starts to wear off.
Therefore, if you are taking a caffeinated drink to increase your energy or improve your mood, know that once its effects wear off, you will end up feeling tired.
That doesn’t mean you should drink more and more caffeine to keep alert instead; it’s better to adopt other ways of increasing your energy or boost your mood whenever you feel low.
- Frequent urination
If you take several cups of caffeine, you will notice an urge to urinate more frequently than you usually do. It happens because caffeine increases blood flow to the kidneys, encouraging them to release waste by dilating their blood vessel.
The best way to avoid frequent urination when taking caffeine is to take it in moderation. You’ll know how much caffeine can trigger frequent urination if you compare the caffeine you take to your body weight.
If you weigh 150 pounds, taking 300 mg of caffeine in a day will make you urinate more frequently. But taking up to 450 mg of caffeine in a day can lead to incontinence.
The best way to avoid frequent urination or incontinence caused by caffeine is to limit your intake of caffeinated beverages to 150 mg daily.
Persistent urination and diarrhea caused by taking too much caffeine can interfere with your body’s fluid balance leading to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.
Dehydration will result in the depletion of minerals and vitamins that are essential for your vital body functions. That’s one reason we experience muscle cramps after taking too much coffee.
In rare cases, consistent dehydration due to caffeine intake can lead to the breakdown of muscle tissue, causing a rare disease called Rhabdomyolysis.
Rhabdomyolysis occurs when the protein from damaged muscles gets into the bloodstream. Such a situation can also lead to kidney damage.
- Severe drug interaction
If you are on medication for anything, taking caffeine indiscriminately can be dangerous.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s supplements, over-the-counter medication, or prescription drugs. Any time you are on some kind of medication, it’s advisable that you watch your caffeine intake. You never know how it will interact with it.
Some drug interactions may be mild, while others can be pretty dangerous. For example, you may suffer insomnia or increased heart palpitations. Therefore before mixing any drugs with caffeine, ask your doctor if it will cause any problems.
How do I cut down my caffeine intake?
Those are some side effects you can expect when you take too much caffeine. Maybe they’ve encouraged you to decrease your intake. If so, go right ahead.
Although a caffeine habit is hard to get rid of, it’s not impossible. Some tricks you can use to beat it include;
- Mixing your regular coffee with a decaffeinated brand to help you get used to taking less caffeine.
- Switching to coffee alternatives such as chicory root coffee, Matcha, and Rooibos tea.
- If letting go of coffee and other caffeinated drinks is not an option, train your body to take less by reducing your intake gradually. For example, if you take five cups a day, take three instead and try to make them last you the whole day.
- If you take caffeine to boost your energy or focus, it may be better to find another way of doing so, such as consuming a healthy energy bar or exercising.
- Maybe you take too much caffeine because of stress? If that’s the case, find ways of letting go of these stressors or managing them in a healthy way to overcome your caffeine addiction.
What can I do to deal with caffeine withdrawals?
Once you embark on the journey to reduce your caffeine intake, you can expect to suffer some withdrawal effects. There are things you can do to ensure they are not severe.
Start by gradually cutting back on caffeinated beverages or foods. Also, drink lots of water to rehydrate your system, and when you experience muscle pains or headaches, take a few painkillers to ease the pain.
You could also take electrolyte replacing drinks and vitamin-rich foods or drinks to strengthen your body against withdrawal symptoms.
If you are overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety and find yourself reaching for caffeine, overcome them by doing some deep breathing exercises or taking a short walk to boost your mood and relax your body.
Is caffeine really the only problem?
Okay, maybe you are addicted to caffeine, but is it the only problem? How about all that sugar or creamer you use in your coffee. Or those calorie-rich snacks you take with it.
When you consider such matters, it makes you realize that everything is bad when taken in excess. The best solution, therefore, is to moderate your intake of any food or beverage. That way, you can enjoy life without always worrying about side effects.