Ask the Expert

Caffeine Intake: How Much Is Too Much?

By Mar 11, 2011May 13th, 201242 Comments

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Our Ask the Expert series on health continues today as Jen responds to a question about caffeine intake.  She’s giving you the inside information on how to stay awake and ensure that you’re not overdoing it when it comes to how much caffeine you drink.  To learn more about Jen, head over to the forum.  You can also leave your own health related question for her, which she will answer in an upcoming post.

Question: Caffeine.  It is vital to my survival.  How much is too much?

I need to have my coffee in the morning. If I don’t, the headache that I get is enough to send me to bed for a week. Well, not a week, but it is a terrible, debilitating headache.

The reason is that I am addicted to caffeine. Over 90% of Americans are in the same boat as I am. We all need the drug caffeine to not only get our bodies moving in the morning, but also to sustain us throughout the day.

Coffee and caffeine used to be on every one’s no-no list, but over the years there have been many, many studies done on the subject that suggest there are actually health benefits to coffee and caffeine intake.

coffee caffeine

photo credit: wordsaboutthings.wordpress.com

According to a large study done by Harvard University where they looked at 126,000 people over an 18 year period, people who drank one to three cups of coffee a day are up to 19% less likely to contract diabetes. But what was really interesting about this study was that people who drank six or more cups of coffee a day decreased their likelihood even more, men up to 54% and women up to 30%. [source: Kirchheimer]

Other health benefits of caffeine, including sources such as soda, tea and different foods include:

  • Two cups a day reduces your risk of colon cancer 20 percent.
  • Two cups a day causes an 80 percent drop in cirrhosis.
  • Two cups a day prevents gallstone development by 50 percent.
  • It has also shown to be beneficial in asthma, stopping headaches, boosting mood and even preventing cavities.
  • Regular coffee drinkers are 80 percent less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.
caffeine content

photo credit: myfitnessdepot.com

That being said, caffeine can be detrimental to your health. Moderate caffeine intake, meaning 200 to 300 milligrams or two to four cups of brewed coffee a day, is most likely not harmful to anyone (unless you have certain medical conditions and have been told by a doctor to limit or end your caffeine intake). It’s when you get up into the 500 to 600 mg or four to seven cups of coffee a day that you can experience things like:

  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Nausea or other gastrointestinal problems
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Muscle tremors
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety

So now we know how much caffeine is likely to cause us harm. But what is the caffeine content of the things we drink like coffee, soda tea and energy drinks?

Here is a table of the most commonly consumed caffeinated products and their caffeine amounts.

Common Type of Caffeinated Beverage

Amount of Caffeine in mg

Generic coffee, 8oz 95-200
Generic decaffeinated coffee 8oz 2-12
Espresso, 1oz 58-75
Black Tea 8oz 40-120
Green Tea 6oz 26
Cola 35
Diet Cola 47
Mountain Dew regular or diet 54
Red Bull 8.3oz 76
Monster Energy 16oz 160


For a more complete list, check out the information here and here.

This info is not meant to encourage you to start or stop drinking caffeine. It’s here mainly to give you the facts.

I know that I like coffee too much to ever give it up and, if I keep within the recommend amounts, then I am not doing any harm to my body and may actually be providing myself with some benefits.

So go ahead!  Drink caffeine.  Just do it wisely, in moderation and while drinking water.

And if you have a question about your health, then please ask in the SITS forum.

Resource Sites:

Landing page photo credit: cleanherbalenergy.com

About Francesca

Francesca has an extensive background in content marketing, public relations, and social outreach. She oversees all Operations at Sway Group, including our robust metrics capabilities. Prior to joining the online world, Francesca oversaw viticulture and oenology at various wineries in both California and Italy, and managed regulatory affairs and facility approvals at the biotech company, Genentech. Francesca has been featured on CBS Sacramento and Food Blogger Pro’s podcast. She has also hosted an AMA webinar and spoken at Social Media World.


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  • Michelle says:

    Thanks for the info! I am a fellow addict, needing at least some caffeine usually every day to function regularly. Glad to know I’m not harming myself my having a little every day!

  • Jewels says:

    I thought I was crazy I get muscle tremors from midol and a fourth of a monster is enough to make me hurl I used to be completely addicted to dr. Pepper but I had a serious injury in high school. Ruined my neck I didn’t realize what the caffeine was doing to me. No one could figure out how I hurt it then a doc told me to lay off the caffeine I did and it’s helped so much! But I still don’t understand why my body can’t take caffeine? Anyone with answers?

  • Heidi D. says:

    Couldn’t live without it! Unfortunately. How else does one keep up with twins?!?

  • Regina says:

    I tried the Triente iced coffee once…it was simply satisfying for the day, only problem…I couldn’t sleep until after 4am and had to get right back up in an hour. Mind you, I had this drink around noon. So I think think the 31oz coffee though it sounds awesome…was not a good idea UNLESS you are truely going to pull an all nighter! BTW…I stayed to the Venti…they’re not that “potent” 🙂

  • mangiabella says:

    one cup a day 🙂 and occasionally an extra cup in the evening for special occasions 🙂

  • Lady Jennie says:

    I love coffee too and feel pretty guilty about it. I have about 3 mugs a day of fairly strong coffee so I’m not sure how much that ends up being in terms of caffeine intake. I think the worst thing for me is that it makes me want to eat more sugar. hmmm

  • I love coffee and I as well have to have it every day or I don’t function! I have read other articles regarding the benefits of the daily cup of coffee. Some days I’ll mix it up and have a cup of hot tea instead of coffee with honey and milk. All I know is that on those days that I neglect making the pot of coffee I do pay for it later and it’s never pretty! Thanks for sharing!

  • Sandee says:

    Had to give up the stuff several years ago. I became so sensitive to it that I would get nauseous within an hour of consumption. Jittery and downright crazy! Now I drink Mystic Chai Tea every morning. It’s creamy like hot chocolate, not like a tea bag kind of tea. Anyway, I realized that caffeine wasn’t what I needed all along. It was something flavorful and hot in the morning. I have friends that can drink cups of coffee late at night and still go right to sleep. Never understood how certain people can do that while others, like me, can’t even drink one cup no matter what time of day!

  • Ado says:

    I love coffee. Am addicted to it, but I only have one or two cups in the morning. If I give it up I go fetal and it’s baaaad. I don’t like to be addicted to anything so I’ve tried to quit it probably 20 times in my life. I always feel so much better and more energetic when I stop drinking it (after the withdrawal phase that is). When I drink coffee, my energy crashes in the afternoon. When I don’t drink it, I am more balanced, less moody, and have more energy all around. Anyway…good topic.

  • I skip the energy drinks, but do like one to two cups o’ java daily. Though, I can go a day without and not suffer the consequences (woohoo! ’cause sometimes, I just outright forget to pour a cuppa!!). Nice post! :>

  • I drink a lot of coffee daily and do experience the nervousness, insomnia and anxiousness at times. I try to not drink coffee every day of the week, but then I’m just sluggish.

  • Vanessa says:

    I love my coffee. I dont go over 4 cups a day even on extra sleepy days. I also love tea. Most things are okay in moderation. Great post!

  • Jennifer says:

    I love any article that reaffirms a lil’ bit of coffee is a GOOD thing! 🙂 I recently had issues with adrenals/thyroid, and my naturopath recommended Teeccino. Teeccino is a Mediterranean herbal coffee, and I kid you not…I crave it now more than regular java! If you do need to kick the habit 100% for health, I highly recommend giving it a try. 🙂

  • Great to know the pros and cons!

  • Kimmie says:

    wow, this was a really awesome post. I’ll have to rethink my caffein intake a bit.

  • Very interesting! I quit caffeine cause I thought it was harming me but now I am re thinking that idea 😉

  • Ashley says:

    Awesome, awesome article!! It took me forever to track down a chart like that when I was pregnant. I knew how much I could have and you better believe I was getting all I was allowed. haha.

  • Lanita says:

    I love it when studies tell me I can drink coffee and red wine!

  • I don’t drink a lot of things with caffeine these days. Too easy to get to depend on that boost for me, and not so kind to a tight budget. I miss it, especially these days when my youngest hasn’t been sleeping well, but I don’t need the habit right now.

  • Cara says:

    What a perfectly timed article! I’ve been trying to cut back on my caffeine intake as I’m hoping to get pregnant again soon and have a history of miscarriage. I’m cutting it out completely, just to be on the safe side, but I typically drink a cup of coffee in the morning and a cup in the afternoon. (And that’s a decrease, since I also stopped drinking sodas a few months ago!). I’m gradually changing my coffee to decaf. I do love my coffee!

  • Gotta have my coffee! My grandmom lived to be 101 & always had a pot going!

  • Marie Cole says:

    I weaned myself off coffee a long time ago and have never felt better, I do miss the smell though.

  • All my caffeine comes from chocolate:)

  • Courtney says:

    Awesome. Glad to see I’m within the limits and am actually do GOOD for my personal health. I drink around 2 cups a day. And I could probably never give up being a coffee drinker.

  • Lattejunkie says:

    Great article. I have tried to give up coffee a few times but the headaches and mood swings are too much for me to handle. I try to keep to 1 cup of plunger/press coffee and 1 bought latte a day but like Sarah, I could happily drink 5 or 6 somedays.

  • Debra says:

    So are you in fact saying that if I drink 2 cups of coffee a day, that this should help for my headaches?

    • Jen says:

      That is what the research says. I do know for a fact that over the counter medication like Tylenol will help a headache faster if taken with caffeine.

  • Sarah says:

    I try to stick to two cups. Occassionally I will have a third cup. Most days I feel like I could have 5 or 10 cups!

  • E says:

    Great article! I’ve given up Dr. Pepper for lent and its been harder than I thought! Glad to know that not all caffeine is bad.

  • April says:

    Okay I guess I need to back off the caffine…I’m like 6-8 cups a day and maybe a Diet Coke in the afternoon!

  • Great info!! I never was big on caffeine intake until I fell in love with Chai Tea… and the weather makes me want more!! And on top of that? Dr Pepper is another love. This is great to help keep me in check. 🙂

  • Oh, I just love being affirmed. Pouring that second cuppa joe right now. Cheers!

  • I have been suffering with severe anxiety. One thing I finally did was quit drinking regular coffee. I weaned off of it so the headaches wouldn’t be as bad. My anxiety improved greatly. Now I drink decaf. I have done a bad thing though and gotten um, addicted, to Dr Pepper. I try to only have 1 a day, and drink it slow, but I still notice some anxiety with it. At least it is not as much as coffee!

  • Francesca!

    We are on the same wavelength! I wrote a post about caffeine this week as well. I actually wrote about Dr. Oz’s coverage of Energy drink addictions (http://searchingforsustenance.blogspot.com/2011/03/dr-oz-speaks-up-about-energy-drinks.html).

    The one “biggie” that I took away from that show was that many of the energy drinks have even MORE caffeine than they admit to on their labels. When they calculate the caffeine they do not have to calculate the caffeine contained in some of their added ingredients such as kola nut, cocoa, yerba mate and guarana. I could not believe it, but it does make sense since most people tell me they get more energized from these drinks than coffee!

    I just thought I would add that tidbit here, since it was so eye-opening for me!

    Nicole 🙂

    • Jen says:

      That is really eye opening. For me personally, energy drinks are just bad. I can’t drink them because its not only the amount of caffeine but the sugar content as well.

  • Lynda says:

    Awesome article. It’s great to know the benefits to caffeine! If I’m being honest, it’s my favorite drug. 🙂

  • barb g says:

    I also can’t live without it, I get the headaches too if I don’t. It’s funny though, I gave up my beloved pepsi habit & went to diet pepsi because of diabetes and it has more caffeine than regular. Oh well I drink 2 a day and to me it’s worth the risk. If I could drink all I wanted of it it would be more
    like 4 cans a day.

  • Maggie S. says:

    UGH…I hate it when I have all the facts. No, really, thanks; I needed that.

  • Angie says:

    Good info. I’ve often wondered how much is too much since I seem to be fairly sensitive to the effects. I usually have 2 cups of coffee first thing in the morning and that is it for me. I’ve found that any caffeine later in the day makes me jittery and keeps me up at night. Glad to know that my 2 cups are giving me some health benefits too!