I love coffee…and the caffeine that comes with it. But there can be “too much of a good thing.” Coffee helped me make it through graduate school. In fact, I didn’t start drinking coffee until grad school. That’s when I discovered, “Ah, THIS is why people drink coffee!” But I’ve learned the downside of too much caffeine…irritability, jitters, racing heart, and so on. So, I’ve limited myself to about 2-4 cups per day. I’ve heard of people drinking several pots of coffee per day…perhaps 20 cups or more!
The effects of caffeine are well-documented. In small to moderate amounts, it can improve alertness, attention, concentration, work productivity, short-term memory, and induce a mild positive affective state. In small to moderate amounts, caffeine does not seem to have any major deleterious side effects for most people. For people drinking coffee for the positive effects of caffeine, it should be consumed in small amounts over time and consumption should be discontinued in the early afternoon (so as not to interfere with sleep). The benefits of caffeine seem to peek at about 200 milligrams. A typical 8 oz. cup of coffee has about 135 mg. Tolerance to caffeine develops quickly, so that needs to be taken into consideration for coffee drinkers. Hey, this sounds a lot like a drug! Well, caffeine is a drug, it’s just one that has been welcomed into most societies around the world.
Nowadays, people tend to get much more than 200 mg. per day in their coffee (especially if we include other sources such as tea, colas, and chocolate). For example, the main beverage sizes served at Starbuck’s do not even include an 8 ounce option (although it can be requested). A Tall coffee at Starbuck’s is 12 oz. and contains 240 mg of caffeine. Thus, the typical smallest size at Starbuck’s already exceeds the maximum beneficial amount of caffeine. A Grande is 16 oz. and contains 320 mg of caffeine, and a Venti coffee is 20 oz. and contains a whopping 480 mg. of caffeine.
Too much caffeine can start one down a road of side effects and true addiction (including some nasty withdrawal symptoms such as excruciating headaches). I want to make clear that I’m not endorsing caffeine consumption. I like coffee…and chocolate…but we must not lose sight of the fact that caffeine is a drug, and, although it’s mild one, it’s use must be considered carefully and used wisely.