By Elizabeth Millard
With your hectic schedule, keeping your energy up is an all-day challenge. That’s why many people turn to caffeine for a pick-me-up.
But as your consumption of coffee, caffeinated sodas and energy drinks increases, you may be picking up health risks, too—especially if you find yourself going over the daily recommended allotment.
Researchers from nonprofit foundation ILSI North America reviewed 740 studies on caffeine. They crunched the numbers to come up with adverse health outcomes related to high caffeine consumption, as well as recommendations for daily use.
Publishing their findings in Food and Chemical Toxicology, the researchers confirmed existing guidelines are likely still safe. That means no more than 400 milligrams (mg) per day for adults, 300 mg for pregnant women, and 2.5 mg for kids and teens.
For adults that’s about four standard cups of coffee. But a couple cups of commercially-available coffee can push you over the limit quicker. In fact, in many cases, just one cup—albeit a larger size—can get you close to that max. For instance, a venti (20 ounces) dark roast from Starbucks clicks in at 340 mg, and a medium roast at 410mg. And blondes definitely have more buzz—that venti comes in at 475 mg.
And if you get a tall medium roast on your way to work and during your lunch run? Well, you’re already 70 mg over your daily limit.
It’s not just coffee that can give you a caffeine rush: A 20-ounce Mountain Dew has 91 mg, and a 16-ounce can of Monster or Rockstar energy drinks will set you back 160 mg. (Tally up your daily consumption with the caffeine chart from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.)
What Happens If You Drink Too Much Caffeine?
Caffeine can affect the cardiovascular system, bone health, gastrointestinal system, sleep quality, and central nervous system. Researchers in the recent study also looked at behavioral changes like depression and anxiety.
Related: Why Coffee Is Good For Your Liver
When you have too much—particularly on a consistent basis—it can lead to a wide spectrum of symptoms, the researchers note. These can include headache, nausea, vomiting, fever, tremors, hyperventilation, dizziness, anxiety, tinnitus, and agitation—and those are on the “milder end of the spectrum,” they write.
More severe effects might be abdominal pain, altered consciousness, rigidity, seizures, muscle breakdown, and irregular heartbeat. In 14 of the studies under review, some subjects had even died as a result of exposure to caffeine.
So if you’re coming close to the daily max—and especially if you’re blowing past it—you may want to consider dialing back. Find out if you’re addicted to caffeine—and how to wean off it.