How Much Caffeine Is Really in That Cup of Coffee?
If you're like us, you probably can't function as well without a steamy cup of coffee first thing in the morning or an afternoon pick-me-up. Whether you use the Keurig machine at the office or head to your local Starbucks, getting a caffeine fix is easier than ever these days. But how much caffeine is too much? And how do you tell if you’re overdoing it?
According to Food and Drug Administration reports, 80% of American adults drink caffeine every day, averaging about 200mg a day—which is, on average, about two cups of coffee. But because caffeine isn’t considered a nutrient, food manufacturers are not required to include caffeine content on beverage labels. So, it's difficult to know how much you are actually consuming in any one drink.
As long as you’re healthy and you don’t go overboard, coffee is perfectly safe to drink. In fact, coffee contains powerful antioxidants that may help to ward off cancer—and moderate amounts of caffeine have been linked to a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
How Much Caffeine is Too Much?
The USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans define “moderate caffeine intake” as up to 400mg a day. That's about four cups of brewed coffee, eight cups of black tea, three K-cups, or one Starbucks Venti. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists recommends staying within 200mg a day.
To help you calculate how much caffeine you're consuming in a day, here's a handy guide to common caffeinated drinks–complete with calories and sugar.
Starbucks Grande Coffee (16 fl oz)
Caffeine: 330mg; Calories: 0g; Sugar: 0g
Starbucks Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte with Nonfat Milk (16 fl oz)
Caffeine: 150mg; Calories: 260; Sugar: 49g
Starbucks Tall Caffe Mocha with 2% Milk (12 fl oz.)
Caffeine: 95mg; Calories: 230; Sugar: 26g
Stabucks Grande Cold Brew Coffee (16 fl oz)
Caffeine: 200mg; Calories: 4; Sugar: 0g
Starbucks Tall Chai Latte with Nonfat Milk (16 fl oz)
Caffeine: 50mg; Calories: 120; Sugar: 21g
Espresso Shot (1.5-2 fl oz)
Caffeine: 75mg; Calories: 0; Sugar: 0g
K-cup (8 fl oz)
Caffeine: 75-150mg; Calories: 0; Sugar: 0g
Green Tea, Brewed for 3 minutes (8 fl oz)
Caffeine: 35-65mg; Calories: 0; Sugar: 0g
5 Hour Energy Shot (2 fl oz)
Caffeine: 208mg; Calories: 4; Sugar: 0g
Monster Energy (16 fl oz)
Caffeine: 160mg; Calories: 210; Sugar: 54g
Red Bull (8.4 fl oz)
Caffeine: 80mg; Calories: 110; Sugar: 27g
Diet Cola (12 fl oz)
Caffeine: 47mg; Calories: 0; Sugar: 0g
Cola (12 fl oz)
Caffeine: 35mg; Calories: 140; Sugar: 39g
So, what happens if you drink too much coffee? According to Cooking Light Nutritionist Brierley Horton, research is still developing, but we do know that it’s possible to consume toxic levels of caffeine. In the meantime, limit yourself to no more than 400mg a day.
With that said, some people may be more sensitive to caffeine than others—even within safe levels of consumption—so it’s important to pay attention to how it affects you. It takes about 30 to 45 minutes to start feeling the effects of caffeine, and the more you regularly consume it, the higher tolerance you have for its effects. Some people may feel jittery, while others may feel nothing at all.
How to Cut Back on Caffeine
If you find yourself experiencing too many unwanted side effects from caffeine (sweating, shaking, having trouble sleeping), then there are several easy ways to moderate your consumption:
- Incorporate beverages that fall lower on the caffeine scale into your daily routine. Enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning, then switch to a drink with less caffeine, like green tea with a splash of milk, a dash of ginger, and cinnamon.
- Slash caffeine intake in half without sacrificing flavor by mixing together equal amounts of regular coffee and decaf coffee.
- Keep a cup of water next to your coffee mug to prevent mindless sipping.
If you’re on the road, you can keep your intake in check by doing a little research beforehand. Some companies, especially energy drink manufacturers, may opt to include caffeine counts on their labels. Additionally, Starbucks publishes the caffeine content of every drink on their website—find the complete list here.