How much caffeine is too much caffeine?

Most of us love a good cup of coffee to start the day. Then maybe another when we get to work. Another in the afternoon slump. How much is too much?

By Barrett White

According to Dr. Vandana Shrikanth, up to four cups a day can be appropriate for the average adult, though body types and metabolism may affect that. “There are several studies done on coffee and a meta-analysis showed that coffee has several health benefits such as antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-inflammatory properties,” Dr. Shrikanth says. “A responsible amount could be fewer than four cups a day. Usually the way a person’s metabolism handles the coffee depends on their genes and the microbes in their gut.”

If you’ve had too much caffeine, the signs are easy to spot. “It is well known that coffee causes increased alertness,” Dr. Shrikanth continues. It’s this symptom of caffeine consumption that makes coffee popular for many people’s morning routines. “But excessive coffee intake may cause difficulty sleeping, headache, and nervousness. In some individuals, it may cause irregular heart rate, tremors, or gastric irritation.”

However, this is not to say that caffeine is dangerous. Regular responsible consumption of coffee does have its benefits. “Studies have shown that in regular coffee drinkers, the risk for liver cirrhosis, fibrosis, and cancer is reduced,” Dr. Shrikanth says. “It has also been shown to help reduce cardiac issues, stroke, diabetes, liver disease, and the risk of Parkinson’s disease.”

“However, daily coffee intake may cause harmful effects in pregnant individuals, which may lead to low birth weight and pre-term delivery in the first and second trimester,” Dr. Shrikanth adds. 

Are you looking for the health benefits (or the morning alertness) of caffeine consumption, without coffee? Some of Dr. Shrikanth’s favorite coffee alternatives include green tea, green juice, or smoothies. If you’re looking to consume coffee with way less caffeine, give decaf coffee a try: Contrary to popular belief, decaf coffee does have caffeine, just much less of it than regular coffee. According to the National Coffee Association, a typical cup of decaf coffee may still contain 2-3 grams of caffeine. To put that in perspective, a cup of regular coffee may have as much as 95 grams!