In a world that runs on coffee and where energy drinks and gum seem to be the new norm, caffeine has become the sacred good that many of us consume daily. Whether it's to survive those early mornings, breathe new life into those dull afternoons or get through those late nights, caffeine has become our faithful companion.
But how much do you really know about this miraculous substance? In this blog, we dive deeper into the world of caffeine and discover how it affects our bodies and minds.
Caffeine: What is it anyway?
Caffeine is a natural substance found in plants such as coffee beans, cocoa, tea leaves, guarana berries and the cola nut. It is added to foods, energy drinks, dietary supplements for weight loss and athletic performance, as well as medications and cosmetics. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and increases alertness while reducing drowsiness.¹
How does the body process caffeine?
When you ingest caffeine through the gastrointestinal tract, it and is fully absorbed by your body. The stimulating effects usually occur between 15 and 30 minutes after ingestion and can last for several hours.¹ But did you know that when you chew caffeine gum, the caffeine is absorbed even faster through the mucous membranes in your mouth? Within 10 minutes, 100% of the caffeine has already been absorbed.
The duration of effect of caffeine varies considerably in adults and depends on several factors, including age, body weight, pregnancy status, medication use and liver health. Generally, it takes about four hours for the body to process half of the caffeine ingested, but this can range from two to eight hours.¹
Caffeine's kickstart: what happens to your body?
Caffeine is the magic molecule that many of us rely on to get going in the morning and maintain our productivity throughout the day. But what actually happens in your body when you ingest a dose of caffeine? When consuming at least 75 mg of caffeine in adults, the following happens:
- Alertness: Caffeine helps stay alert. It supports sharpness and responsiveness. ²
- Concentration: Caffeine is good for concentration. It helps you maintain good concentration. ²
- Endurance: Caffeine helps increase endurance performance. It helps you exercise longer and contributes to physical endurance performance. ²
- Exercise: Caffeine helps reduce perceived exertion (RPE) during sports . Helps reduce feelings of fatigue during exercise. ²
How many mg of caffeine is in coffee?
You probably drink it daily, but really have no idea: "How much caffeine is in coffee?" Well, it depends on the type of coffee you drink and the size of your cup. On average, a standard cup of coffee (100 - 150 ml) contains somewhere between 40 and 200 mg of caffeine. But here comes the interesting and also rather logical part: the stronger the coffee, the more caffeine you will find. Espresso, for example, tends to contain much more caffeine per ml than regular filter coffee. So, when you throw in that double espresso shot to start the day, know that you are seriously shaking yourself up!
How much caffeine do we consume?
Now that we know how much caffeine is in coffee, let's consider the total amount of caffeine we ingest per day. If you catch yourself drinking a few cups of coffee, an energy drink here and there, and maybe a piece of chocolate (yes, chocolate also contains caffeine), you can quickly ingest a fair amount of caffeine. Experts suggest that an average adult can safely consume up to about 400 mg of caffeine per day. That's about the equivalent of four cups of coffee. But be warned: caffeine can cause insomnia, nervousness and a pounding heart in some people. So, take it in moderation and listen to your body. ¹
In most studies covered by the EFSA Food Consumption Database, coffee was the main source of caffeine for adults, accounting for 40% to 94% of total intake. In Ireland and the United Kingdom, tea was the main source, accounting for 59% and 57% of total caffeine intake, respectively. ¹
How much caffeine is safe to consume?
Based on available data, EFSA's Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) reached the following conclusions:
- For adults: It is safe to consume up to 400 mg of caffeine per day, which is approximately 5.7 mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight per day. This applies to healthy adults in general, with the exception of pregnant women.
- For pregnant and nursing women: It is safe to consume up to 200 mg of caffeine per day, spread throughout the day, without concern for fetal health.
- For children: A safe daily intake of 3 mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight is suggested for habitual use in children and adolescents.¹
How much caffeine is in the most common products containing caffeine?
Coffee is perhaps the most popular source of caffeine, but it is certainly not the only one. Let's look at some other everyday products and their caffeine content:
- Tea: Black tea contains about 4-7 mg of caffeine per 240 ml, while green tea contains slightly less, about 2-5 mg. So if you want a little less caffeine, you can always switch to tea.
- Energy gum: There are several types of energy gum on the market, ranging from 8 to 80 mg per gum.
- Energy drinks: These drinks contain an average of 80 mg of caffeine per can. But beware, they often also contain a lot of sugar and other stimulants, so use them in moderation.
- Soft drinks: Coke and other soft drinks usually contain less caffeine than coffee, about 3 to 4 mg per 350 ml. But as with energy drinks, watch your sugar intake.
- Chocolate: A bar of dark chocolate can contain 12 mg of caffeine, while milk chocolate usually contains less. So, a piece of chocolate can be a subtle caffeine shot, in addition to a delicious treat.¹
Graph 1. Amount of caffeine in different products ¹
What are the risks?
Caffeine can be a great stimulant, but we need to be wise about how we use it. Caffeine chewing gum, such as First Energy Gum, can give you peace of mind. With each gum, you know exactly what you're taking in - a tidy 40 mg of caffeine. No surprises, just pure energy.
So, there you have it. Caffeine is our secret weapon against drowsiness, but we must use it in moderation. It is not only in coffee, but also in tea, energy drinks, soda and even chocolate. So, enjoy your caffeine, but make sure you don't overdo it. After all, you don't want to end up like a bouncing Duracell rabbit!