You’re bonking during your beach volleyball game, so you grab a Red Bull. You’re snoozing in the sand rather than splashing in the waves, so you sip on a 44-ounce Coke. You’re having a hard time concentrating at work, so you order out for a grande Shot-in-the-Dark—you even use it as an excuse to indulge in a Snickers bar.
Any which way you get it, your goal is to inject your body with a little caffeine. Some of us can’t live without the stuff (I have to get up and make coffee before I go out to meet someone for coffee), while others avoid it like the anxiety-inducing plague. Every few months or so, a new study comes out either lauding or lambasting it; lucky for you, your Weekly has sifted through the research, and now has this cheat-sheet on your favorite jitter-juice.
Caffeine is a bitter substance that occurs naturally in a variety of plants, including tea leaves, kola nuts and coffee and cocoa beans, although it can also be produced synthetically. According to the National Library of Medicine, caffeine has many effects on the body’s metabolism, including stimulating the central nervous system. This means that, in most people, the c-word can increase alertness, enhance performance and give you a boost of energy—however, in others, it can lead to restlessness, anxiety, irritability, headaches, abnormal heart rhythms, diarrhea, muscle tremors and more. Most problems only develop if you consume too much. The average person is fine with the amount found in two to four cups of coffee.
But while the FDA requires that food and beverage companies include caffeine’s presence in the list of ingredients, it doesn’t require that they list the amount, so it can be difficult to determine just how much you’re getting. According to the Mayo Clinic, an eight-ounce cup of brewed coffee has 135 milligrams of caffeine. Eight ounces of instant has 95 milligrams. A single shot of espresso (about one ounce) has 30-50 milligrams—a surprise, for all you folks who think espresso will perk you up faster. Another surprise is that eight ounces of decaf actually still has five milligrams, but that amount is basically negligible unless you have a health condition. Black tea has 40-70 milligrams, while green tea has 25-40 milligrams. Decaf black tea has four milligrams. Your typical 12-ounce caffeinated soda ranges anywhere from 22 milligrams for a Barq’s Root Beer to 55 milligrams for a Mountain Dew. A Coke has 34 milligrams, while a Diet Coke has 45. In terms of food, chocolate has up to 10 milligrams per ounce, and the darker the chocolate, the higher the caffeine content.
If you have to get your daily fix of any of these products, you’re not alone. The Mayo Clinic also points out that nine out of 10 Americans consume some type of caffeine regularly, making it the most popular behavior-altering drug. This drug is basically safe, but it’s best to stay within the 200-300 milligram parameters in order to keep your sanity and a nice, steady heartbeat. Caffeine can interfere with some medications, so make sure to discuss it with your doctor. It should also be avoided by pregnant women—thus, if you’re planning to have a baby, be sure to wean yourself off it ASAP in order to avoid withdrawal.
Finally, be careful, because caffeine is a diuretic (it will make you pee a lot), so make sure you drink lots of extra water, juice, herbal tea, etc. in order to prevent dehydration in this scorching weather.