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Wellbeing / Health & wellbeing

Caffeine addiction? Manage your coffee intake

Many of us need a coffee to get going in the morning. But what’s the world’s favourite drug doing to us?

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Is it possible that you have a caffeine addiction? If you answer yes to three or more of the following, you may need to manage your coffee intake.

1. Do you drink more than two to three cups of coffee a day?

2. Do you regularly rely on caffeine to boost energy throughout the day?

3. When you miss your daily coffee intake, do you develop a headache?

4. Do you suffer anxiety, mood swings and irritability when you drink too much coffee ?

Caffeine can increase the body’s levels of cortisol which can lead to health consequences ranging from weight gain and moodiness to heart disease and diabetes. It also increases the level of dopamine in your system which acts like an amphetamine. You feel good after taking it, but after it wears off you can feel low.

Similarly, absorption of adenosine can be inhibited, calming the body and making you feel alert in the short run, but it can cause sleep problems. It also injects adrenaline into your system giving you a temporary boost, but possibly leaving you fatigued and depressed later.

"Caffeine can increase the body’s levels of cortisol which can lead to health consequences ranging from weight gain and moodiness to heart disease and diabetes."

The key, of course, is moderation. There is little risk of harm if you have less than 300mg of caffeine a day. If you are worried, stressed or pregnant, reduce that to around 100 to 200mg a day.

Want more articles like this? Check out the health-and-wellbeing section.

Here’s a rough guide of the amount of caffeine in everyday food and drinks.

Instant coffee: 60 to 100mg per cup
Caffeine content depends on how many teaspoons you put in the cup.

Fresh coffee: 80 to 350mg per cup
Caffeine content depends on the type of beans (Robusta beans contain more caffeine than the Arabica variety), the way the coffee is made and how strong the brew is.

Decaffeinated coffee: 2 to 4mg per cup

Tea: 8 to 50mg per cup
Caffeine content depends on how strong the tea is. Green tea delivers around 8mg of caffeine while black tea is more likely to hit the 40+mg mark.

Cola: 35mg per 250ml serve

Cocoa and hot chocolate: 10 to 70mg per serve

Chocolate: 20 to 60mg per 200g bar

Going beyond 300mg per day regularly can lead to chronic toxicity. This usually combines physical addiction with symptoms including anxiety, irritability, mood swings, sleep disturbance, depression and fatigue.

Consume between 300 and 600mg per day, and you will undoubtedly experience some degree of mental and physical addiction. At this level, research shows a 200% increase in the risk of ulcers, disruption of sleep and a possible increase in certain heart disease risk factors.

Take that up to 900mg per day, and you’re definitely a coffee addict. Heart disease risk factors are now significantly increased, as is the risk of stroke, psychological disorders and gastrointestinal disease.

Here are four ways to manage your caffeine intake

1. Alternatives for the 3pm perk-up

Try black or green tea. They contain half the caffeine of coffee and also L-theanine, a natural amino acid that helps you stay alert yet relaxed.

2. Juice first thing

Put juice or fresh water to your system before you add caffeine.

3. Energy drinks don’t give you wings!

Energy drinks contain a large amount of caffeine. Remember, they aren’t sports drinks and they’re not designed to hydrate you when you’re active.

4. Know your limit

Caffeine tolerance varies from individual to individual so work out what works for you and your body.

Has anyone broken their caffeine addiction? Or are you hooked yet happy? Tell us via a comment.

Main Sources: Flip the Switch, Andrew May; Caffeine Blues, Stephen Cherniske; Caffeine, Stress and Your Health: Is Caffeine Your Friend or Your Foe?, Elizabeth Scott, M.S; Caffeine Society, National Geographic, T. R. Reid.

Andrew May

is the CEO of The Performance Clinic and is recognised as a leading performance and productivity expert.

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