Where would you be without coffee in the morning? Probably nodding off and pretending you’re still in bed. Or maybe you’re the grouch everyone avoids until you’ve gotten your caffeine fix.
Caffeine gives you that boost of wakefulness and energy in the morning, especially when you just can’t seem to shake off drowsiness. And sometimes after you’ve had one too many shots of espresso, you get the jitters, and it feels like you could (and just might) run around all day.
The FDA recommends that adults consume no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, which equates to about 5 regular cups of coffee, or 4 grande cappuccinos at Starbucks. Maybe you don’t drink that much coffee, but that benchmark isn’t as hard to exceed as you might think.
You’re probably aware that you can find plenty of caffeine in coffee, tea, soft drinks, and energy drinks. But you might not even think about how much caffeine is in coffee-flavored foods (like coffee ice cream), certain over-the-counter pain relievers and weight control medications, and even chocolate. Pretty soon, it all adds up and you can exceed the limit without even realizing it.
But your fifth cup of coffee alone will rarely create lethal doses of caffeine in your system. Fatal conditions can occur when you introduce large amounts of caffeine into your body in a very short amount of time. Caffeine makes your heart pump faster, waking you up in the process as blood circulates, but when you have too much caffeine in your bloodstream, the heart overstimulates, creating an arrhythmia – or abnormal beating of the heart – which in turn can lead to cardiac arrest, if conditions persist.
It’s the newer products that are the real culprits here. The brand Chameleon Cold-Brew — which markets itself as “bold on buzz and easy on the stomach”, as well as organic — makes a coffee concentrate that has the caffeine equivalent of approximately 22 cups of coffee in their large-sized bottles. In just one serving, you’re getting the equivalent of roughly two cups of coffee. And those servings aren’t very big at all — only four fluid ounces. It can easily be achieved in single shot, especially if the taste is as good as they say it is.
But why stop there, when there are products even worse on the market today: things like pure caffeine powder. Caffeine powder is unregulated and readily available online. Many people have fallen into the habit of taking these before a workout, and in these scenarios, their heart is being stimulated from both the caffeine powder and the workout. With two teaspoons of caffeine powder, you are well over the daily recommended limit of caffeine, ingesting the amount equivalent to roughly 52 cups of coffee, instantly. Layered on top of exercise, your heart will begin beating fast enough to cause potentially irreparable damage.
So how likely are you to die from drinking a coffee? Not likely. You can have your third coffee today in peace. That said, just because caffeine is unregulated and legal doesn’t mean that in excess it can’t be harmful. Just remember to take it in moderation.
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