How Much Coffee is Too Much? 

By Jadyn McRitchie

As college students, many of us run on caffeine to make up for the sleep we lost from doing homework and studying, or simply to get a jump start on a long day. 

Unfortunately, replacing sleep with caffeine is not the healthiest alternative. 

How much coffee is recommended? 

Latte art being poured into a mug.

For the typical adult, it is recommended to not exceed four to five cups of coffee per day, or approximately 400 milligrams of caffeine. 

The FDA estimates that dangerous and life-threatening side effects such as seizures can often occur when an individual consumes around 1,200 milligrams of caffeine in less than 24 hours. 

Side Effects 

If you consume too much coffee throughout the day or drink it too late in the day, it can negatively affect your sleep due to caffeine blocking adenosine receptors.

Adenosine is a sleep promoting chemical produced in the brain during our waking hours. Normally, adenosine builds up in the brain the longer we are awake. The more it builds up, the sleepier we become. According to the Sleep Foundation, when caffeine blocks this process we remain “alert and vigilant,” which can cause you to not get as much sleep as you need, causing you to feel tired in the morning. This may cause you to consume large amounts of coffee again, putting you in an endless cycle. 

Other side effects of too much caffeine can include: 

• Headaches 

• Nervousness 

• Irritability 

• Frequent urination/ the inability to control urination

• Fast heartbeat 

• Muscle tremors 

Close up view of coffee beans

Healthier Caffeine Substitutes 

1 – Taking cold showers first thing in the morning can be an alternative to caffeine because the cold water sends electrical impulses to your brain which jolts your system increasing your alertness, clarity and energy levels. It can cause you to release endorphins which reduce muscle soreness, fatigue, inflammation and stress.

2 – Though it may seem counterintuitive since exercise requires expending energy, it can increase your energy levels in the long run. According to Harvard University, body exertion produces more mitochondria inside your muscle cells, and having more mitochondria increases your body’s energy supply. Exercise also boosts oxygen circulation which allows your body to function better and use its energy more efficiently.  

3 – Nutrient-rich foods help boost and maintain your energy levels. Eating a well balanced diet provides calories that are converted to energy, which is used to help your body get through the day. Make sure to include plenty of fruits and vegetables!

4 – Drink your water. Coffee is great, but like most things, too much can be dangerous. Enjoy your cup, but don’t overdo it!

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