coffee in ceramic cups

Ready to beat your caffeine addiction? If you’re used to starting the day with a cup of coffee, energy drink, tea or supplements loaded with caffeine, you’re not alone.

An estimated 90% of adults in the U.S. drink caffeine every day. (1) Caffeine may offer a quick pick-me-up. Caffeine has some downsides, too.

Ready to beat your caffeine addiction, or at least curb the cravings to improve your health?

Let’s start by answering a simple question: What is caffeine?

It’s a stimulant naturally found in coffee beans, cacao‌ and guarana. It’s also added to drinks and nutrition supplements. (2) The most common sources of caffeine include:

  • Coffee drinks
  • Sodas and energy drinks
  • Tea
  • Chocolate
  • Guarana-based products
  • Supplements

How much caffeine is safe to consume?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends adults consume no more than 400mg of caffeine per day from all sources (drinks, food, supplements). (3)

Wondering how much caffeine you consume in a day?

Here’s how much caffeine is found in common drinks and supplements: (3)

  • Coffee: An 8-ounce cup of coffee has 95–200 mg of caffeine
  • Soda: A 12-ounce can of soda has 35–45 mg of caffeine
  • Energy drink: An 8-ounce energy drink has 70–150 mg of caffeine
  • Tea: An 8-ounce cup of tea has 14–60 mg of caffeine
  • Chocolate: A 1-ounce piece of dark chocolate has 10–20 mg of caffeine
  • Weight-loss supplements: Many weight-loss supplements contain caffeine, but the amount varies from 1–300 mg or more.
  • Caffeine tablets typically contain 100–200 mg of caffeine

What happens when you consume caffeine?

Everybody knows a shot of caffeine can be a quick way to boost energy and stay awake.

But what’s really happening when you consume caffeine?

There’s some short-term benefits, along with some less-than-healthy side effects:

Short-term benefits of caffeine

When you drink a cup of coffee, gulp down an energy drink‌ or take a supplement with caffeine, the short-term benefits are what keep most people coming back for more.

Consuming caffeine in small amounts can: (4)

  • Increase alertness
  • Reduce fatigue
  • Improve reaction times
  • Decrease appetite and support weight management
  • Improve mood and decrease depression

Consuming too much caffeine can have negative effects on your health, too. This can include: (4)

  • Increased anxiety
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Dehydration
  • Digestive problems
  • Consuming high amounts of caffeine can even be fatal
  • Note: For pregnant women, consuming more than 200mg of caffeine per day can increase the risk for low-birth weight and other problems during pregnancy.

Here’s what caffeine withdrawal looks like:

If you’ve been used to a daily dose of caffeine, your body and your brain start to expect it. Remember, it’s an addictive stimulant.

And if you call it quits on caffeine without a gradual reduction, there’s a good chance you’ll go through withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Fatigue

Fortunately, caffeine withdrawal symptoms are typically strongest the first few days after quitting. If you can make it through a week without caffeine, withdrawal symptoms typically subside.

6 Healthy Ways to Curb a Caffeine Addiction

Wondering how to curb your caffeine addiction to protect your health without major withdrawals?

Here are 6 healthy ways to curb caffeine cravings. (5)

  1. Track your caffeine consumption: Before you make any changes to the amount of caffeine you’re consuming, keep track of how much you’re consuming.
    • Remember, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends limiting caffeine consumption to‌ or less than 400 mg per day.
    • Once you know what your caffeine intake looks like, you can create a plan to make some changes.
  2. Check food labels for caffeine content: Not sure how much caffeine is in your coffee, energy drink, chocolate, or supplements?
    • Read the food label. Many products made with caffeine include the amount of caffeine it contains in milligrams.
    • Can’t find it on the label? Chances are pretty good you can look up the caffeine content in drinks and products online, too.
  3. Cut back slowly:  If you want to lessen withdrawal symptoms associated with cutting back on caffeine, make your exit gradually. For example:
    • Drink one less cup of coffee per day.
    • Instead of an energy drink with high levels of caffeine, switch to a soda with less caffeine. Or only drink half an energy drink or soda.
  4. Drink more water: Before you gulp down a cup of coffee, energy drink, soda or other caffeine sources, make sure you’re drinking enough water.
    • For most adults, that’s around 64 ounces of water per day.
    • You may need more water if you exercise a lot, have a physically-demanding job, work in hot weather or live in a hot climate
    • Instead of supporting hydration, caffeine has the opposite effect of drinking water and increases dehydration and urination.
  5. Get your Zzzs:A lot of people reach for caffeinated drinks and supplements to combat tiredness and fatigue. But it’s really just a temporary fix if you’re not getting enough sleep.
    • Instead of relying on caffeine to get you through the day, get enough sleep. Here’s how:
    • Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.
    • Create a bedtime routine
    • Turn of all electronics and screens about an hour before bed
    • Stay away from caffeine late in the afternoon or evening
    • Go to bed at the same time every night, even on weekends.
  6. Be more active: One recent study found that just 20 minutes of exercise has the same effect on mood, focus and memory as a cup of coffee. (6)
    • Start your day with 20 to 30 minutes of exercise.
    • Or if you’re feeling tired, take a walk instead of gulping down a caffeinated drink.
  7. Eat healthy foods: Skipping meals or eating sugary sweets and snacks can cause rapid changes in blood sugar levels.(6) This can impact mood and energy levels. Caffeine might be a quick fix, but there’s a better way:
    • Eat more nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds‌ and legumes
    • Whole and fresh foods take longer to digest and help regulate blood sugar levels better than sugary snacks and refined carbohydrates.

Ready to curb caffeine cravings and improve your health?

Cut back on caffeine gradually, and adopt these healthy lifestyle habits. You’ll feel better, have more energy‌ and be healthier.

References

  1. American Heart Association. (2022). Is caffeine a friend or foe? From: https://www.heart.org/en/news/2022/08/08/is-caffeine-a-friend-or-foe
  2. Harvard University. (2020). Caffeine. Harvard School of Public Health. From: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/caffeine/
  3. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2023). Spilling the beans: How much caffeine is too much? From: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/spilling-beans-how-much-caffeine-too-much
  4. Walter, K. (2021). Caffeine and health. JAMA, 327(7): 693. From: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2789026
  5. Cleveland Clinic. (2023). How to quit caffeine without a headache? From: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-quit-caffeine
  6. Morava, A., et al. (2019). Effects of caffeine and acute aerobic exercise on working memory and caffeine withdrawal. Scientific Reports. From: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-56251-y

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