Caffeine In Coffee
The Wild Foods Guide to Coffee - How much caffeine is too much caffeine?
"Caffeine. The gateway drug."
Caffeine is the beloved, and controversial, ingredient in coffee that gets plenty of attention. And usually it's not good attention. Even those that willingly ingest it often do so thinking of it as a vice.
The health establishment loves to quote whatever new study that has recently come out, usually cautioning us ignorant caffeine addicts of the perils of our daily addiction.
Why thank you for saving us from ourselves...
The fact is, caffeine is good for you. And just like fruit can be good for you until you eat too much of it, so it goes for caffeine.
It's all in the dose.
Some drink coffee exclusively for the caffeine kick. Others drink it because they like the flavor and the buzz ends up a welcomed bonus. Most of us drink it for a combination of the two. If you are like me, you drink it for all the reasons: the flavor, the enjoyment, and most definitely, the stimulation.
I suspect the latter reason is why so many are embracing specialty coffees that come at a premium price (like Wild Coffee).
A Closer Look At Caffeine
Caffeine, in pure form, is a white odorless powder that belongs to a class of organic chemicals called purine alkaloids. It's mechanism is to act as a pesticide against certain insects and to increase the memory of others (cooolio).
A study (1) titled "Caffeine in Floral Nectar Enhances a Pollinator's Memory of Reward," concluded that honeybees were as much as three times more likely to remember a scent after ingesting coffee. This encouraged the bees to return to the plant to pollinate again, increasing the plant's reproductive success.
It could be argued that caffeine has a similar effect on humans; it keeps us coming back for more!
How much caffeine is too much?
Once caffeine passes through the gastrointestinal tract, it can remain in your body for three to six hours. Upon reaching the liver, caffeine is metabolized into three compounds; paraxanthine, theobromine and theophylline.
Caffeine is considered as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA. 10 grams of caffeine a day is considered toxic, but this would take 50-100 cups of coffee to reach.
Caffeine is known to block adenosine, which reduces drowsiness. It also stimulates the autonomic nervous system. The promotion of "alertness" is often associated with combating fatigue and the ability to better focus. These are subjective, different from individual. That said, as a general, rule, the more you ingest caffeine, the less you will notice these effects while the less caffeine you ingest, the more you will notice them when ingesting caffeine.
Like I said before, "It depends."
As most know, caffeine can be overdone. Many studies on caffeine consumption have been done, but they seem to be across the board in their conclusions. You can find just as many studies that assert caffeine is “good” for you and plenty that say it's not. (I think there are more that assert it as good, though.)
When it comes to caffeine intake, like most things in life: It depends.
Here is the Wild Foods’ stance on caffeine: It’s hella good for you in the proper amount… and… like any ingestible ingredient, you should cycle it at times to increase your body’s sensitivity.
So, what’s the right amount of caffeine?
Again: It depends.
It depends on bodyweight and lifestyle factors such as sleep and diet. The Mayo Clinic recommends less than 500 milligrams (mg) a day.
Let’s look at our caffeine chart to see how many cups of coffee this equals (reference: Mayo Clinic):
- 8oz Brewed Coffee - 92-200mg
- 8oz Decaffeinated Coffee - 2-12mg
- 1oz Espresso, restaurant-style - 47-75mg
- 8oz Instant Coffee (gross) - 27-173mg
- 8oz Specialty Coffee (latte/mocha) 63-175mg
As you can see, since a strong cup of coffee averages 150mg of caffeine, you could consume three-ish cups of coffee a day and stay within the Mayo Clinics’ recommendation of less than 500 mg a day.
As far as intake goes, I think the May Clinic’s recommendation is a safe place for most people.
When I’m hovering around this much caffeine intake for an extended period of time, I start running into issues with fatigue and the feeling that I need to drink coffee to help me wake up each morning.
And I don't like either of these.
This is how I know it’s time to wane my intake down over the next few days to a lower daily baseline. After that, I might even go a day or two with no caffeine. Finally, after this down regulation, I’ll start gradually increasing my daily intake until I find myself reaching too much again. And then the cycle repeats itself.
Of course, you should find what works best for you. As with most things relating to the body, pay close attention to how you feel and always be tweaking and gauging. The more you pay attention to what your body is telling you, the better you’ll understand what works best for you.
Here are a list of studies relating to caffeine and coffee intake if you want to do some further study.
- WebMD Caffeine Myths and Facts (Remember, always with a grain of salt… especially with WebMD)
- "Coffee is safe" says Harvard Women’s Health Watch
- Coffee fights heart disease, cancer, alzheimer’s according to study
- Women may reduce risk of Endometrial cancer by a fifth by drinking three to four cups of coffee a day
- Increased coffee intake may reduce risk of type 2 diabetes: Here and Here
- Coffee and Burning Fat: Coffee and effect on thermogenesis after consumption
- Nutrition in coffee