Caffeine for Young Adults
When our schedules fill up, sleep is often first to go. When we wake up groggy the next morning, we reach for a jolt of caffeine to get our day started. Having caffeine in moderation won't harm you. In fact, in small amounts (one 8-ounce cup a day), caffeine can help elevate your alertness, concentration, and apparent energy level. However, if you rely on caffeine too often, you may end up feeling that you need that caffeine boost just to get through a normal day.
How much caffeine should I have?
There is no nutritional need to consume caffeine. However, the American Medical Association Council states that moderate tea or coffee drinking likely has no negative effect on health, as long as you live an otherwise healthy lifestyle.
A moderate amount of caffeine is considered to be 250 milligrams or less (about three 8-ounce cups of coffee). Be sure to drink at least one cup of water for every cup of caffeinated beverage you drink to avoid getting dehydrated.
If you regularly consume more than 250 milligrams of caffeine a day, you can become dependent on it and will need it to feel awake or alert. If you have reached this level, a day without caffeine can make you feel withdrawal symptoms such as headache, dizziness, drowsiness, headache, shakiness, and depression.
Large amounts of caffeine may decrease bone density mass, which may lead to osteoporosis. Additionally, caffeine can worsen some nervous disorders, heart conditions, and may interact with some medications. Caffeine may also disrupt sleep or make it hard for you to fall asleep at night.
In the United States, there is no requirement to state the amount of caffeine present in a food, beverage, or supplement on the product's label. You might be consuming more than 250 milligrams of caffeine a day without even knowing it! Consider these sources of caffeine:
- A "small" cup of brewed coffee is usually ~12 ounces of caffeine
- 1 cup of green tea: 15 milligrams of caffeine
- 1 cup of regular black tea: 40 to 60 milligrams of caffeine
- 8 ounces of SoBe No Fear: 83 milligrams of caffeine
- 16 ounces of Monster: 160 milligrams of caffeine
- 8 ounces of Rockstar: 80 milligrams of caffeine
- 8.3 ounces of Red Bull: 80 milligrams of caffeine
- 12 ounces of Jolt Cola: 72 milligrams of caffeine
- 12 ounces of Mountain Dew: 55 milligrams of caffeine
- 12 ounces of Coke: 34 milligrams of caffeine
- 5 ounces of brewed coffee: 115 milligrams of caffeine
- 1 ounce of dark chocolate: 20 milligrams of caffeine
- 2 tablets of Excedrin extra strength: 130 milligrams of caffeine
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Is caffeine addictive?
Caffeine is not considered an addictive drug like cocaine, heroin, or alcohol because it does not produce the same compulsive drug-seeking behavior. However, like addictive drugs, caffeine produces greater tolerance in people who consume it regularly.
These users must take higher doses to achieve the same results as they have had in the past, and they may experience withdrawal symptoms if they do not regularly consume caffeine.
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How do I cut back on caffeine?
If you drink caffeine because you're often tired, the best way to overcome exhaustion is to sleep enough. However, if sleeping more is not possible with your schedule, there are still other things you can do to feel energized without guzzling coffee and energy drinks all day.
If you want to cut back on caffeine, do so slowly. Try substituting your daily caffeine boost with caffeine-free tea, milk, juice, a piece of gum, or (better yet) water. Drinking more water over the day will actually keep you better hydrated, which helps keep your energy level up.
The first few days of cutting back on caffeine may be tough because your body has gotten used to high intake levels of caffeine, but hold steady and in a few days your mood will settle and your energy levels will increase.
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Written By: Sonja Swenson,
public health education intern
Reviewed by: Nancy L. Brown, Ph.D.
& Melissa Raby, R.N.
Last Reviewed: July 2013
Below are links PAMF accessed when researching this topic. PAMF does not sponsor or endorse any of these sites, nor does PAMF guarantee the accuracy of the information contained on them.
Caffeine and Heart Disease, American Heart Association (ACA).
Analyzing Caffeine in Selected Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA): Agricultural Research Service.
Caffeine in the Diet, Medline Plus.
Caffeine Content of Food & Drugs, Center for Science in the Public Interest.