Caffeine

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Caffeine is naturally found in the leaves, beans, seeds, and fruits of many plants. It’s also added to some foods and drinks and some pain relievers such as headache medicine. Caffeine is considered a drug. It works by exciting your nervous system which may make you feel more awake and alert. Having too much caffeine isn’t healthy, and caffeine can be addictive. Although caffeine isn’t stored in our bodies, the effects can be felt for up to 6 hours.

What are some sources of caffeine?

Common sources of caffeine include coffee, tea, caffeinated soda, energy drinks, chocolate, some over the counter medicines, and some prescription medications. Teens usually get caffeine by drinking soda and energy drinks. Sodas such as Pepsi®, Coca-Cola®, Sunkist®, and Mountain Dew® and popular energy drinks such as Redbull®, Full Throttle®, and Monster® contain caffeine. Some companies such as Pepsi® and Coca-Cola® also make soda that doesn’t have caffeine in it. Look for the word(s) “decaffeinated” or “caffeine free” on the can or bottle. Sprite® and Fresca® are two types of soda that don’t contain any caffeine.

Caffeine is also found in some dietary supplements, diet pills, energy shots such as 5 Hour Energy®, and caffeine caplets such as NoDoz®.

An energy drink is just like drinking coffee or soda, right?

Not necessarily. Most energy drinks have high levels of caffeine in addition to other added vitamins, minerals, and/or chemicals that could have an impact on the effect of the caffeine and on your overall health.

How much should I have?

It’s recommended by medical professionals that kids and teens limit or avoid caffeine, in part because the amount of caffeine that’s safe for teens to have in a day hasn’t been determined. A moderate amount of caffeine (300 milligrams or less per day) is considered safe for adults. Teens who are having more than 300 milligrams a day should try to cut down on the amount of caffeine they are having.

What are the side effects with caffeine?

The effect caffeine has on a person depends on how sensitive that person is to it. Sensitivity is affected by body weight, the amount of caffeine a person has, and how often they have it. Some teens who are more sensitive to caffeine will feel stronger effects with smaller amounts than others who are less sensitive to it.

Having too much caffeine can cause side effects like “the jitters”, restlessness, anxiety, insomnia (trouble sleeping), headaches, high blood pressure and a fast heart rate. Caffeine is a diuretic, which means that it will make you have to urinate (pee) more often. It can be dehydrating if you are in the heat or working out because unlike sports drinks (such as Gatorade®), caffeinated drinks do not replace the minerals that you lose when you sweat. Caffeine can cause certain medical conditions, such as heart problems, to become worse. Although it is uncommon, extremely high intake of caffeine from energy drinks has been linked to some deaths in teenagers. If you have caffeine in combination with some medications used for ADHD, asthma, and certain heart conditions, the side effects (such as feeling like you have the jitters) can be more noticeable and uncomfortable. It’s important that you ask your health care provider if you should avoid caffeine.

In addition, caffeine can be especially harmful when mixed with alcohol. This is because the caffeine can give a person who has been drinking a false sense of alertness, causing them to feel as though they have the ability to do potentially dangerous things like drive. It is very important not to mix alcohol and caffeinated beverages.

How can I lower the amount of caffeine I have every day?

If you think you’re having too much caffeine and would like to stop, the best way to do so is to cut back slowly. Stopping too fast can lead to headaches, fatigue or lack of energy, and irritability or crankiness for a few days.

The amount of caffeine you take in can be lowered by having “caffeine-free” or “decaffeinated” foods and drinks instead of the caffeinated ones. Cutting back on the amount of caffeine you are having may make you feel tired at first, but your energy levels will return to normal in a few days.

The following table lists how much caffeine is in some popular drinks and chocolate products.

*For coffee and tea products, the actual caffeine content can vary depending on the brewing method, the type of plant and the brand.
Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration and National Soft Drink Association

Coffee: Typical Milligrams of Caffeine:
Brewed, drip method
(8fl. oz. cup)
95
Caramel Frappuccino®, Tall (12fl. oz.) 70
Espresso
(1fl. oz. serving)
64
Instant
(8fl. oz. cup)
63
Brewed, percolator
(8fl. oz. cup)
60
Decaffeinated, brewed
(8fl. oz. cup)
2
Tea: Typical Milligrams of Caffeine:
Black tea bag (8fl. oz. cup) 50
Iced tea (8fl. oz. glass) 25
Soda: Typical Milligrams of Caffeine:
Coca-Cola® (12fl. oz.) 35
Pepsi® (12fl. oz.) 38
Sunkist® (12fl. oz.) 41
Mountain Dew® (12fl. oz.) 54
Energy Drinks: Typical Milligrams of Caffeine:
Monster® (8fl. oz.) 86
Full Throttle® (8fl. oz.) 80
Red Bull® (8fl. oz.) 77
Rockstar® (8fl. oz.) 79
Chocolate Product: Typical Milligrams of Caffeine:
Dark Chocolate (1 oz.) 12-24
Milk Chocolate (1 oz.) 6
Chocolate Milk (8fl. oz.) 2
Chocolate Syrup (2 tb.) 2
Although caffeine may give you an energy boost, it might cause you to feel irritable and more tired when it wears off. It’s important to think about the positive and negative effects of caffeine and talk to your health care provider to make sure it’s safe for you to have caffeine-containing drinks, foods, and medications.