Caffeine side effects: is too much caffeine bad for you?

January 5, 2021 6 mins read
Caffeine side effects: is too much caffeine bad for you?

Coffee lovers, listen up, because it’s time we talk about caffeine side effects and whether your favourite brew is really all that bad for you.

Caffeine is the most popular stimulant used around the world. No morning is complete without a cup of coffee. Coffee is there for you when you need to wake up, when you need a boost of energy through the day and when you just want something delicious. You can also get your fix from energy drinks, various fizzy drinks and even chocolate, especially the dark variety.

But how does the caffeine in your beloved coffee, energy drink, green tea or dark chocolate affect your body and the quality of your sleep?

What does caffeine do to your body?

Caffeine stimulates your nervous system. It raises your cortisol and adrenaline levels when consumed, and it gives you a boost of energy.

People metabolise caffeine at different rates. If you have a fast metabolism, your body processes caffeine quickly. And if you are a slow metaboliser, you will break down caffeine a lot slower and will feel the effects for longer. A slow metaboliser is more likely to feel anxious or jittery from caffeine.

Your body can become accustomed to the effects of caffeine. Unless you take a break from consuming it every few days, weeks, or months, you will need to increase your dosage to get the same effects. That is why many fitness enthusiasts and athletes who use caffeine as a performance-enhancing substance will schedule in caffeine breaks or only take it when they really need a boost in performance.

Is caffeine good or bad for you?

Caffeine is neither good nor bad. The truth is that it depends on your tolerance, your mental health, your genetics, your body weight and how much you consume.

For the sleep-deprived individual, caffeine from a good cup of coffee in the morning can counteract many of the side effects of not getting enough sleep like feeling tired and struggling to focus and concentrate during the day.

An athlete or fitness fanatic who doesn’t become too jittery when consuming caffeine can significantly benefit from consuming it before exercise. Caffeine is a performance-enhancing drug. It can help you exercise harder and for longer and increase fat oxidation if taken before you exercise.

If you need a cognitive boost, such as when preparing for a test or an important presentation, caffeine can be a good option and help you take on the challenges.

On the other hand, a woman who is pregnant, someone with adrenal fatigue or someone who has anxiety should rather avoid caffeine.

Caffeine can make you feel jittery and anxious. But if you pair it with 200 mg of L-theanine, it can reduce or eliminate the feelings of jitteriness you get and also potentially enhance some of the benefits of consuming caffeine like increased alertness and focus. So, once again, it depends.

If the love of your life is coffee, it can be hard to break up, but perhaps you just need to spend less time with this old friend, take a little break or experiment with adding L-theanine to see if doing so eliminates some of the side effects you might be experiencing.

Plus, there is always decaf if it is the taste you are after.

6 Caffeine side effects

Of course, there is a point where caffeine definitely becomes a problem, and that is when you consume too much. Here are the side effects you could experience if you consume too much caffeine:

1. Anxiety

Caffeine can cause anxiety due to the rise in cortisol and adrenaline. Some people can tolerate a certain amount of caffeine per day without side effects, while others need to abstain completely.

2. Insomnia

It is well-known that if you want to stay up late because you need to study or meet a deadline, caffeine can help. It can make you feel awake and alert, which is not what you want late at night on a typical day as caffeine can cause sleep insomnia. That is why you should avoid caffeine at least six hours before going to bed.

3. Fatigue

It is odd to think that your go-to for waking up can also cause tiredness and fatigue. Caffeine might give you a boost of energy at first, but you can expect a crash in energy levels a few hours later depending on how quickly your body processes caffeine.

4. Addiction

Caffeine can be addictive. Just ask anyone who cannot get through one day without their caffeine fix. If you regularly consume caffeine, you can experience bad withdrawal symptoms like irritability, anxiety, feeling depressed, headaches and low energy levels.

Withdrawal symptoms should go away within a few days but can be very unpleasant.

5. Digestion problems

Caffeine can cause digestive problems like heartburn and diarrhoea. It has a diuretic and laxative effect. A lot of people rely on their morning cup of coffee to get things going, but too much caffeine can upset the system. If you have a condition like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Chrohn’s disease, it can cause inflammation and flare-up symptoms.

6. Death

In rare cases, too much caffeine can lead to death. Consuming too much caffeine can actually kill you, but you would need to consume around 10g. A cup of coffee has between 100mg to 200mg of caffeine.

Energy drinks will give you between 50mg and 300mg of caffeine, depending on the brand and volume. You would need to drink between 50 and 100 cups of coffee in a row or 30 to 200 energy drinks. Be wary of the caffeine content of caffeine supplements and many diet pills as well. Just 1 tbsp of caffeine powder can be lethal.

Ways to cut down on caffeine

If you want to reduce your caffeine consumption to avoid some of the potential side effects, here are a few tips that might help:

  • Switch to decaf drinks like water, decaf coffee, herbal teas and sleep teas.
  • Gradually reduce your caffeine consumption from sources like coffee, green tea and black tea to avoid severe side effects.
  • Avoid any caffeine supplements if you are already consuming caffeinated coffee, green tea, or chocolate regularly.
  • Eliminate or reduce your consumption of energy drinks and sugary drinks that contain caffeine.

Under the right circumstances, when taken strategically, caffeine can improve your performance, both mentally and physically. It can make you feel like a superhuman. But if you experience side effects like feeling jittery, a racing heart, an upset digestive system, or insomnia; or if your addiction is out of control, you will feel more super bad than superhuman.

You don’t have to break up with coffee. You just have to become aware of how much you can tolerate without experiencing the negative side effects and maybe switch to decaf after you’ve had one or two cups of regular coffee early in the day.

Caffeine can make you feel anxious and jittery, or it could make you feel alert, awake and unstoppable. It truly depends on you as an individual.