For many Americans, coffee is an essential part of our morning routine. What allows coffee to give us that get-up-and-go every day? Caffeine.
There is a lot of conflicting evidence out there about caffeine, and whether or not it can be a beneficial part of our lives or a detriment. As with just about anything in our diets, much of the way to address caffeine is to find your own unique balance and use common sense with moderation.
But where do you begin? We have the answers to some of your top questions about coffee and caffeine to better understand how they both work.
7 Mind Blowing Facts about Caffeine:
Your Coffee and Caffeine Questions, Answered!
Does decaf mean it’s “caffeine-free”?
Although switching from full-power coffee to decaffeinated is a great way to lower your caffeine intake, it is important to know that decaf and caffeine-free are not one and the same. So how much caffeine is in coffee? Regular coffee usually contains between 95-200mg of caffeine (in comparison a can of soda contains about 30-35mg, a cup of green tea around 30-50mg), and a cup of decaf coffee contains somewhere between 8-14mg. It is nearly impossible to remove all of the naturally occurring caffeine in coffee beans, so some still hangs around after the decaffeination process.
If you want to go truly caffeine-free, it’s better to switch to herbal tea instead.
How long does caffeine stay in my body?
The short answer? A while! If you generally have a cup of caffeinated coffee in the morning, half of the drug is usually out of your system in about 3-5 hours. However, the remaining amount can hang around in your body for anywhere from 8-14 hours depending on your personal sensitivity.
If you’re used to having a cup to get you through the afternoon slump you may be inadvertently creating your own sleep problems. It’s best to cut yourself off from caffeine as early as possible in the day.
How much caffeine is too much, and what is a safe dosage of caffeine?
According to the Mayo Clinic, no more than 400mg of caffeine a day is recommended for adults. (Children should avoid caffeine all together.) On the high end, you’re probably okay if you max out at around 2-3 cups per day, especially if you’re balancing those cups of coffee with plenty of water. It’s also best to avoid mixing caffeine (a stimulant) with alcohol (a depressant).
Believe it or not, water may even be more effective with helping you wake up in the morning than coffee!
Darker roasts of coffee contain more caffeine than lighter roasts, right? They always taste so much stronger!
Actually, the exact opposite is true. Darker coffee is roasted for longer, causing more of the caffeine to burn off. The tang of acidity in dark roast coffee often makes people think it has more of a kick, but in reality it is just different flavor profile. Lighter roasts have a smoother, gentler taste as a result of shorter roasting times, which in turn allows them to retain more caffeine.
Why does a cup of to-go coffee from one place give me the jitters, but a cup from another business not do anything at all?
Not all coffees contain the same amount of caffeine across the board, especially when it comes to buying brewed coffee from different businesses. For example, a cup of coffee from Starbucks contains almost twice the amount of caffeine as a cup from McDonald’s, and a cup from a craft coffee shop might contain even more. This variance can be caused by a number of factors, depending on processing, type of beans, sourcing, roasting, company standards, etc.
How do I know if I need to cut back on caffeine?
If you regularly surpass 4 cups of coffee a day, have trouble sleeping, feel anxiety or nervousness, get headaches without your regular daily dosage, or feel an overall dependency on caffeine, it may be time to start cutting back. You don’t have to cut coffee out of your life entirely, but moderation and balance is important in long-term health and wellness.
How do I break my caffeine addiction?
Caffeine has addictive qualities, for sure. Just like the dopamine hit we feel from white sugar, caffeine triggers the same pleasure-centers of the brain. And just like with sugar (and any other addictive drug), we get to a point where we need more and more to feel the same stimulation.
Going from drinking 5 cups of coffee a day to drinking 0 cups can cause some adverse reactions that you will probably not enjoy, such as sluggishness, severe headaches, anxiety, lack of concentration, and depression. These withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks, which can cause big problems in your day-to-day routine let alone job performance.
A better way to break your addiction to caffeine is to taper off slowly. Begin cutting back just 1 cup off your normal daily intake, and continue on for the first week. After that, start replacing one cup of full-strength coffee with decaf. Continue for another week. From there, make each cup you drink half full-strength and half decaf. After a little time you’ll start feeling much better, and gradually work your way out of dependency.
As with any type of diet or lifestyle change, cutting back on caffeine is easier when you think of it as changing a habit. It will take some patience and practice, but the first step is being aware of your intake and going from there. Coffee is much better when it’s a part of your life as something enjoyable, not something your body requires just to get by!
[Credit: Huffington Post Healthy Living Editors. “10 Surprising Facts about Caffeine.” Shape.] [Credit: Mayo Clinic Staff. “Caffeine: How Much is Too Much?” Mayo Clinic.]