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How Much Caffeine is Too Much?

How Much Caffeine is Too Much?

Clark Clark
6 minute read

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A generous slice of cake, an adorable puppy, and a roller coaster ride all sound fun. But what about 5 pieces of cake in one sitting, 10 puppies in a newly-decorated living room, and 15 rollercoaster rides back-to-back (that escalated quickly)? Initially, it might seem fun. In reality, that’s a lot of chaos. 

More is not always better.

Caffeine consumption works the same way. A moderate amount of caffeine is fine and even has some health benefits; however, caffeine in excess brings adverse effects. Granted, the amount of caffeine you can handle depends on several factors, from genetics to intake frequency.

The key is knowing how much is too much.

Coffee’s Caffeine Content

The amount of caffeine in coffee depends on several factors such as coffee type, roast, brew, and serving size. A regular 8-ounce cup of coffee typically contains about 80-100 milligrams of caffeine. 

The following is the caffeine content of some popular coffee drinks:

  • Decaf coffee: still contains caffeine, but only 2-7 mg for an 8 oz cup
  • Latte: typically contains 1-2 shots of espresso, so 64-128 mg of caffeine
  • Cold brew: contains about 100-140 mg of caffeine for an 8 oz cup
  • Espresso: a 1 oz shot contains about 64 mg of caffeine, less than an 8 oz regular cup of joe

What happens if you have too much coffee? Too much coffee (which is 5+ cups) can lead to restlessness, dehydration, upset stomach, and frequent urination. More serious symptoms include high blood pressure, vomiting, or worsened symptoms of anxiety or depression.

Is coffee bad for your health? The health benefits of coffee tend to outweigh the negatives. Primarily, the downsides of coffee tend to stem from excessive consumption.

Recommended Intake

The Food and Drug Administration recommends no more than 400 mg of caffeine in a day for healthy adults. This is the equivalent of about 4-5 cups of coffee. For adolescents, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry recommends limiting to 100 mg of caffeine per day, or about 1 cup of coffee.

While the FDA recommends consulting a pediatrician when it comes to caffeine consumption for children, The European Food Safety Authority has calculated that 3 mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight is fine (1 kg = 2.2 pounds).

Can coffee stunt growth? There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that coffee stunts growth. Caffeine can affect how much calcium is absorbed; however, caffeine’s effect on calcium absorption is minimal. 

In short, height mostly depends on genetics.

Caffeine Tolerance

Everyone has a unique response to caffeine. In fact, some may be able to drink more than 5 cups of coffee and experience no adverse effects. They simply have a high tolerance for caffeine. This tolerance depends on:

  • Genetics
  • Bodyweight
  • Metabolism
  • Frequency of consumption

Caffeine’s Lifespan

Caffeine begins to affect our bodies about 20-30 minutes after consumption. Its effects peak about 1 hour after consumption.

Caffeine’s halflife can be a little harder to track. While caffeine’s initial boost is fairly fast-acting, caffeine can remain active in your system for up to 5 hours.

Also, caffeine rebound is worth considering. Caffeine rebound refers to the effects of caffeine wearing off quickly, resulting in feeling potentially more tired than before caffeine consumption. This is more or less a caffeine crash.

When to Limit Intake

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s recommended that you cut back to 200 mg or less.

If you have high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, or arrhythmia, high levels of caffeine can exacerbate these problems. 

Here are a few practical ways to limit caffeine intake:

  • Assess your caffeine intake. Caffeine comes from more than just coffee. Chocolate, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, supplements, and even some pain medicines have caffeine. Read labels and menus carefully to determine how much caffeine you consume daily. This will give you a starting point.
  • Gradually decrease caffeine intake. Don’t try to quit cold turkey. Instead of 3 cups of coffee a day plus a soft drink, go down to 2 cups of coffee and half a soft drink. Once that get comfortable, subtract more caffeine until you hit your daily caffeine target.
  • Substitute energy sources. Most nutritionists agree that healthy foods are the best sources of energy. Incorporate more leafy greens, lean meats, and fruits into your diet. Also, try to get a little bit of exercise every day for an endorphin boost.

Symptoms of Excess Caffeine Intake

Short-term side effects of too much caffeine include:

  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Jitters
  • Irritability
  • Irregular heart rate (heart palpitations)
  • Insomnia

Also, you’ll know your reliance on caffeinated beverages has gotten out of hand if you find that going without them causes withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, and cold-like symptoms.

Though it’s incredibly rare, it is possible to overdose on caffeine. The FDA states that a teaspoon of powdered caffeine is enough to prove lethal. Symptoms of caffeine toxicity include 

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Rapid breathing
  • Seizures

Is there a limit to how much coffee you should drink? The FDA recommends limiting coffee consumption to 4-5 cups a day.

Some Benefits of Coffee

Many of the effects of caffeine can prove beneficial such as increased energy levels, sharper mental focus, and improved mood. But coffee doesn’t stop with these temporary perks.

Health benefits of coffee include lower risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. 

A 2021 review links habitual coffee drinking with a lower risk of Type 2 Diabetes. According to the American Heart Association, coffee can reduce the risk of heart failure and heart disease.

Additionally, coffee is the largest source of antioxidants for most. One rather powerful antioxidant is chlorogenic acid which is known for fighting inflammation (the foundation for a number of chronic illnesses) and free radicals (atoms that damage cells).

One study shows a relationship between coffee and an overall lower mortality rate.

Of course, drinking coffee black is best. Sugar and creamers contribute calories that add up fast.

The right amount of caffeine can be great for you, but the right coffee could be even better! Golden Ratio is a light roast, low acid coffee that would be the perfect addition to your summer coffee lineup. Try it today!


  1. Spilling the Beans: How Much Caffeine is Too Much? | FDA
  2. Pharmacology of Caffeine - Caffeine for the Sustainment of Mental Task Performance - NCBI Bookshelf).
  3. Pure and Highly Concentrated Caffeine | FDA
  4. Beneficial Role of Coffee and Caffeine in Neurodegenerative Diseases: A Minireview - PMC
  5. Coffee and Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: Arguments for a Causal Relationship
  6. Coffee may help reduce risk for heart failure
  7. The potential effects of chlorogenic acid, the main phenolic components in coffee, on health: a comprehensive review of the literature
  8. The relationship of coffee consumption with mortality

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