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Published on February 22, 2022

several cups of coffee

Caffeine: How Much is Too Much?

Bitter but beneficial, especially when you’re tired. That’s a great way to summarize caffeine, which may be the world’s most widely used drug.

Coffee, tea and energy drinks – along with soda pop – all offer this booster to our breakfasts, lunches and in some cases, our working nights as well.

Knowing the nutrition facts on how much is too much is important.

Understanding Caffeine Content in All Drinks

So how much caffeine is in the one you reach for at the c-store or order at the coffee shop?

Cheryl Rude, Avera Clinical Dietitian Coordinator at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center, encourages all things in moderation, including caffeine, no matter where you get it from.

She notes that the highest amount recommended for adults is 400 mg per day, and most Americans do not exceed this amount. However, some people do, while others might be more sensitive to its effects.

"No matter how you get it – whether from a latte or a can of pop – it adds up,” Rude said. “Too much can cause jitters, trouble getting to sleep or remaining asleep and headaches."

She said all these might mean you need to cut back and include other drinks, like the healthiest one, water.

Caffeine Can Cause More than Jitters

Rude added that extremely large amounts of caffeine can cause abnormal heart rhythms or lead to a rapid heartbeat.

"Children and adolescents should limit their consumption of caffeine even more than adults and opt for beverages such as water or milk,” she said. Issues with normal physical development can occur with kids using too much caffeine.

“Young adults should remember: our bodies continue to develop until approximately age 26, so too much caffeine can again be an issue,” Rude said.

Keeping an eye on how much you ingest is never a bad idea, Rude said. She also mentioned the common misconception on serving sizes.

“You can look at a chart like the one below and think that your drink of choice isn’t too bad,” she said. “The same rule applies for soda. If you drink a 20-ounce bottle of a higher-caffeine choice, you could be blasting past a modest amount of this stimulant.”

Most coffee shops serve larger-than-8 ounce sized drinks, and caffeine can add up fast.

Caffeine Amounts in Common Beverages

The following chart spells out the amounts in many common drinks. Common in many foods and drinks, caffeine is a drug, and it’s usually measured in milligrams. Most professionals encourage these simple limits:

  • Adults: 400 milligrams a day
  • Teens: 100 milligrams a day
  • Younger kids: none

With those ideas in mind, here’s a look at the levels of caffeine in some common drinks:

Drink Ounces Caffeine (milligrams)
Brewed coffee 8 100-200
Espresso 1 47-75
Latte 8 65-175
Black tea 8 14-70
Green tea 8 24-45
Iced tea 8 5-40
Soda 12 0-55*
Energy drink 8 70-207**

* The brand of soda makes a big difference in terms of caffeine content. Many brands of cola have higher amounts of caffeine; some sodas have none.

** The same rules apply for energy drinks, with the high-end brands packing 200-207 milligrams of caffeine into small two-fluid ounce servings. Other brands of energy drinks can offer 75-80 milligrams of caffeine in each 8-ounce serving.

In all cases, make sure to read the label if you’re trying to gauge caffeine content in your diet.

Learn more about nutrition and health.

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