how much caffeine is too much?



It’s not uncommon for many, myself included, to drink 1, 2, or even 5 cups of coffee daily to keep us half-way functional. Of course, our interest is not so much the coffee, per se, but more so on its caffeine content. And sometimes it gets us wondering, how much caffeine is too much?

Before getting to the big answer, let’s first get the “it depends” out of the way. The effects of caffeine are different for each person. Some might feel jolted and jittery from a single cup of coffee while others will feel nothing from drinking three cups. It’s no shocker then, that caffeine intake should first depend on your personal tolerance levels to it. That being said, no doubt there is a general daily maximum that you want to avoid surpassing regularly.

Sure, some people might still get away with consuming more, but in most cases, the research has associated adverse effects like general toxicity, CVD risks, diuresis, bone calcium imbalances, and behavioral effects when passing this maximum on a regular basis. Fortunately, this maximum does seem to be well below the estimated average adult caffeine intake.


It’s estimated that caffeine users on average consume 180 milligrams of caffeine per day, or about two cups of coffee. The purported maximum where there are no associated adverse effects sits at 400 milligrams, or a little more than 4 cups. Now, not all coffees are created equal. Some might have less caffeine while others might have more.

So, to make sure that you stay under 400 milligrams, you first have to figure out the caffeine content of the coffee you regularly drink. Or you can also rely on caffeine pills for tighter management or any other caffeine sources. Bear in mind, though, there are two potentially at-risk populations that should consume less:

One is reproductive-aged women, where increases of miscarriage incidence and abnormal fetal development have been associated with caffeine consumption. Based on the data, less than 300 milligrams of caffeine per day is generally safe for this population. The other at-risk population is children, which means your mom was right for not letting you drink coffee until you’re older.

Now the research is a bit shaky here since the research methodologies itself were shaky. There have been SOME consistent data of aversive behavioral effects in children associated with high caffeine consumption. To be cautious, a generally safe maximum for children is about 2.5 milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight per day but more research is needed to be sure. As for single-dose toxicity, 15 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of bodyweight is considered toxic, or roughly 1200 milligrams for the average, 180-pound male.

Lethality is rated at 150 milligrams per kilogram, or 12 grams for the average male. There has been, however, one death case reported after ingesting only 6.5 grams of caffeine, but also another case where a patient survived after consuming 24 grams. And for you bros or broettes wondering, according to the ISSN position stand, 3 to 6 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of bodyweight, or about 250 to 500 milligrams, is the range where performance enhancing effects are observed.

Although the upper range is higher than the recommended 400 milligrams, do note that you can occasionally go past the max without any undue effects. Just don’t do it all the time. That about wraps it up! End of the day, moderation is the name of the game. If you’re on your fourth Starbucks run at 2pm, you might want to reconsider it… along with the last 2 trips.



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