As a working mom with two kids, caffeine (in pretty much any form) helps me achieve my daily goals. On the flip side, prioritizing sleep is a year-round combat especially with kids in the equation. It’s not rocket science to know that I’m a better, more productive, and more approachable human after a solid night’s rest.
Anyone who knows me also can attest that I’m even more approachable and productive after a solid cup of coffee! But like everything balance and moderation is key. With March being Nutrition Month and the U.S celebrating Caffeine Awareness Month, it’s the perfect time to reflect on your cup of morning Joe, bottle of soda, or can of energy drink and understand a little more about our old friend caffeine.
Health Canada, along with other leading Health Authorities, suggests that up to 400 mg of caffeine daily is considered a moderate and safe amount of caffeine for the general population of healthy adults. And, while 400 mg sounds like a free pass for coffee lovers, caffeine is not for everyone and tolerance may vary from person to person. Some people may be able to enjoy a shot of espresso after dinner and sleep like a baby, while others may experience sleep sensitivity if caffeine is consumed after lunchtime. Like many dietary constituents, the personal challenge is to get the facts so you can understand what works best for you.
Being caffeine-smart starts with knowing where caffeine can be found, and how much is present in foods and beverages. Caffeine has been consumed for centuries from sources like coffee, tea and chocolate. In more modern times, it’s commonplace in products like sodas and energy drinks. Regardless of whether caffeine is naturally occurring or an added ingredient, its effects are identical.
What’s important to know is that not all products contain the same levels of caffeine - especially when it comes to naturally occurring sources. For instance, coffee brewed at home is generally about 95 mg of caffeine per 236 ml (just under a cup), whereas the same volume of drip coffee purchased at a premium coffee chain could contain up to twice the caffeine, around 180 mg. – New trendy cold brewed coffees pack a punch at 150 mg per 354 ml. This variation is largely due to the type of coffee bean, grind, water temperature, and steeping time.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database, independent company websites
Health Canada suggests that up to 400 mg of caffeine daily is considered a safe amount for healthy adults
Another example is dark chocolate which can also be sneaky with about 70 mg of caffeine in an 85 g bar. The caffeine content of other beverages is more commonly labeled when compared to coffee and tea products, with the majority of soft drink and energy drink companies labelling this information on their products for Canadian consumers . For instance, most major energy drinks contain between 75-100 mg of caffeine per 236 ml – roughly the same as that found in coffee, and a 591 ml bottle of Diet Coke contains 78 mg of caffeine.
Experiencing caffeine’s effects is both learned and personal. Caffeine is enjoyed for its positive attributes affecting mood, motor behavior, vigilance, and cognitive performance. Most people learn quickly that drinking too much caffeine may result in undesired effects like jitteriness or that consuming caffeine too close to bedtime can affect the time it takes to get to sleep and the total amount of sleep achieved. Science says that on average caffeine takes 4-5 hours for the body to clear half of what was consumed. This timeframe can act as a good starting point to self-assess how an afternoon tea, coffee, soda or energy drink might affect your sleep on a given night.
All in all, caffeine is caffeine is caffeine - despite whether it’s consumed from coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, chocolate or other formats. Be caffeine-smart by learning how much caffeine is in the products you consume so you know how much is right for you!
By Becki Holmes, Registered Dietitian and Founder of Foodwit – a consulting firm with a focus on scientific and regulatory services for food businesses.
To learn more about caffeine, click here to watch a video from Food Insight.