Back when alcohol was out of the picture, I found myself drinking a lot more coffee, especially on the weekends. Now, it is 100% a daily routine. I wake up and make my pot, stop at Starbucks after the gym, feeling drowsy at 3 pm and have another, chocolate covered espresso beans (yum!). I never thought I would be that afternoon coffee or caffeine drinker. I started to ask myself, how much coffee is TOO much coffee?
As you may know, coffee actually has a lot of benefits to it. Not only does it fuel your morning and/or afternoon grogginess, but it actually contains many antioxidants and vitamins. Many people love the focused, energetic feeling they experience after drinking a cup or two, and it's even been said to boost metabolism. But what's the catch to this glorious morning elixir? Caffeine of course.
Now on average, one 8-ounce cup of coffee will contain about 90 mg of caffeine, but its smart to know how much you are consuming in whatever your drink of choice. Caffeine increases brain activity and releases nuerotransmitters such as dopamine, impacting your alertness (if you've ever been curious about the science of coffee and the brain, I would check it out!) But consume too many cups, and it can lead to headaches, restlessness, heartburn and insomnia.
As for any type of substance, every individual and each body type can react to things differently. Some have strong caffeine sensitivities, and others can can have three cups before leaving their kitchen in the morning and chug three more in the afternoon. But on average, consuming three to six cups of an average coffee a day is acceptable, or not exceeding 540 mg of caffeine a day. If exceeding this amount, it can cause sleep issues, anxiety, and even heart palpitations.
Personally, I have discovered that if I consume coffee, soda, or any type of caffeine after 3:00 in the afternoon, it will typically lead to a poor night of sleep. You know yourself best, so if you are worried about your caffeine consumption keep a journal or mentally note side affects for a while and see if there are any trends. Generally, though, if you're below that three cup a day amount you've got nothing to worry about.
For a great article about the different levels of caffeine in popular coffee shop drinks, check out this article by coffescience.org.