With school back in session, it’s the perfect time for a refresher course in caffeine.
1-How Caffeine Works
Caffeine works by blocking adenosine. When adenosine connects with its receptor (picture a fancy chair), it sends signals to make us sleepy. Since caffeine is similar in shape to adenosine, caffeine can take adenosine’s spot, preventing adenosine from sending those sleepy signals.
2-Natural Sources of Caffeine
Did you know chocolate has naturally occurring caffeine in it? Hershey’s Special Dark Bars contain 20 mg caffeine per 1.45-ounce bar. There are over 20 species of plants that contain natural amounts of caffeine. The most popular include Theobroma cacao (cocoa), guayusa, Camellia sinensis (tea), Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora Robusta (coffee), yerba mate and guarana.
3-Unnatural Sources of Caffeine
If you’re watching your caffeine intake, it’s not just the energy drinks and coffee you have to think about. Caffeine is added to medication like Excedrin and food like ice cream, jerky, granola bars, waffles, peanut butter, gum, candy and more. These caffeine amounts are not negligible. For example, Jelly Belly Extreme Sports Beans contain 50 mg caffeine per 1 ounce packet. Steem Caffeinated Peanut Butter contains 75 mg caffeine per tablespoon. Wired Waffles contain a whopping 200 mg caffeine per waffle.
[Source: Caffeine Informer’s Caffeine Database – https://www.caffeineinformer.com/caffeine-in-candy ]
4-The Biggest Consumers of Caffeine
When it comes to coffee consumption around the world, the U.S. is ranked 22. The top three countries that consume the most coffee are Finland, Norway and the Netherlands. When it comes to overall caffeine consumption (from all sources), people in Sweden, Denmark and Norway consume around 400 mg caffeine per person per day! That’s more than double the average caffeine consumption in the U.S., which is around 168 mg per person per day.
In the U.S., 85 percent of the population consumes at least one caffeinated beverage per day. People between the ages of 50-64 consume the most caffeine (~226 mg per day). Less than 10 percent of all caffeine consumers get their caffeine from energy drinks. Teens and young adults (ages 13-24) are the biggest group of energy drink consumers, but carbonated soft drinks are the biggest source of caffeine for 13-17-year-olds; coffee is the biggest source of caffeine for 18-24-year-olds.
[Source: Caffeine Consumption in the USA (Part I and Part II) – https://greeneyedguide.com/2014/01/29/caffeine-consumption-in-the-usa-energy-drinks-in-the-news/ ]
Caffeine is not recommended for children under 12 years old. For those 4-12 years old, an occasional caffeinated beverage or chocolate treat will likely pose no concern, but caffeine should not be a daily part of a child’s diet. People between 13-18 years old should continue to limit caffeine due to the importance of sleep, brain development, inexperience with caffeine, and possible unknown medical conditions. If a child between 13-18 is permitted to consume caffeine, it should be no more than 100 mg caffeine per day. Healthy adults over the age of 18 can have up to 400 mg caffeine per day.
[Source: Caffeine Safe Limits – https://www.caffeineinformer.com/caffeine-safe-limits ]
6-How Fast Caffeine Is Metabolized
Caffeine has a half-life of four to six hours. If you consume Sparkling Avitae (which has 90 mg caffeine) at 3 p.m., 45 mg caffeine will still be in your system at 7 p.m. that night. That may not seem like a lot of caffeine to some people, but it’s roughly the same amount of caffeine in iced tea.
Every person metabolizes caffeine at slightly different rates, but some factors speed up caffeine metabolism. For example, smoking cigarettes and taking birth control can speed up caffeine’s half-life. On the other hand, working out, drinking water and taking a cold shower do not make your body metabolize caffeine faster.
7-How Long Caffeine Takes to Kick In
Almost everything you eat has to get to the small intestine before it can be absorbed. Not caffeine. Caffeine, alcohol and aspirin get absorbed through the stomach. Even with this “fast pass,” caffeine still takes about 20 minutes to kick in.
8-How Caffeine Gets Absorbed
According to the FDA, the size of a caffeine molecule is too large to be inhaled. Companies selling “breathable caffeine” have to include in fine print that caffeine is actually swallowed. When caffeine is in capsule or pill form, 90 percent is absorbed. For gum, only 77 percent is absorbed. With caffeinated beverages like Avitae, 99 percent of the caffeine is absorbed.
[Source: Caffeine Absorption – https://www.caffeineinformer.com/caffeine-absorption ]
9-Caffeine Side Effects
Even though moderate doses of caffeine can be healthy, there are some side effects to watch out for. Side effects include insomnia, agitation, shaking hands, chest pain, dizziness and headache. These side effects can be a sign you’ve had too much caffeine or that you’re sensitive to caffeine and need to reduce your intake.
There are several benefits to consuming caffeine on a regular basis. Benefits include improved memory, increased stamina during exercise, increased focus and concentration, decreased risk of depression and suicide, reduced risk of kidney stones, improved reaction time and logical reasoning, and reduced chronic inflammation. Of course, all these benefits hold true only if you keep intakes under 400 mg caffeine per day.