Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health

What is good about caffeine?

Anyone who uses caffeine has a lot of ideas about why it is good! It is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant, which is why it gets you going. You can feel more alert, more focused, and higher-energy after that first cup or two of coffee in the morning, or your afternoon pick-me-up of a soft drink. The research agrees that cognitive performance and endurance can improve with caffeine consumption.

The same effects of increased heart rate and energy lead to increased metabolism, which may help explain caffeine’s possible benefits on weight control. Other possible benefits of regular caffeine consumption include lower risk for diabetes and certain cancers.

Why does “caffeine” not count as a super nutrient in Lark?

First, caffeine is not an essential nutrient and there are no health risks linked to not having any. In addition, what happens when your heart rate increases and you are super alert? There may be some unwanted side effects[1].

  • Jitters and anxiety.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Muscle tremors
  • Frequent or uncontrolled urination
  • Upset stomach
  • Spikes in blood pressure (short-lived, but a concern especially if you have hypertension or high blood pressure)[2]

Caffeine is a known trigger for heartburn. There is also evidence that too much caffeine may cause migraines in some people.

Finally, caffeine often comes in some high-calorie, low-nutrient foods and beverages. While black coffee and unsweetened tea are neutral or even healthy, flavored coffee drinks, sweetened tea, sugary soft drinks, energy drinks, and chocolate ice cream are pretty high in calories and low in essential nutrients.

By the way, though caffeine is a diuretic (induces urination), it does not have a strong enough effect, in most circumstances, to cause dehydration if you are drinking normal amounts in liquid such as coffee or tea.

Sources of caffeine

These are some sources of caffeine and the amount they often have in milligrams (mg) [3].

  • 8 ounces of coffee (90 to 160 mg)
  • 20-ounce bottle of cola (60 to 110 mg)
  • 8 ounces of an energy drink (30 to 160 mg)
  • 8 ounces of mocha or latte (60 to 120 mg)
  • 1 ounce of an energy shot (40 to 100 mg)
  • 1 ounce of espresso (50 to 60 mg)
  • 8 ounces of black or green tea (25 to 50 mg)
  • 1 ounce of dark chocolate (20 mg)
  • Half-cup of coffee-flavored ice cream or frozen yogurt (20 mg)
  • 8 ounces of hot cocoa (10 mg)

Tips for healthier caffeine use

  • It takes at least 6 hours for caffeine to completely leave the body, so having caffeine within 6 hours of bedtime is likely to interfere with sleep.
  • Having more than 400 mg of caffeine a day (about 4 cups of coffee) can trigger migraines.
  • Doctors may suggest limiting caffeine consumption to no more than 200 mg of caffeine a day (about 2 cups of coffee) if you have high blood pressure.
  • While black coffee and unsweetened tea are nearly calorie-free, many caffeinated beverages and foods have a significant amount of calories, especially from sugar. Watch for extra calories in caffeinated beverages, such as mocha, flavored lattes, sweet tea, soft drinks, and energy drinks.
  • Caffeinated soft drinks and energy drinks have “caffeine” listed in the ingredients list.
  • The caffeine content varies widely between brands, so one brand of coffee may be far higher in caffeine than another, or one brand of energy drinks may be higher than another.
  • Late-night desserts, such as dark chocolate and coffee-flavored ice cream, can sneak caffeine into your evening and keep you up if you are not aware. 
  • Herbal tea and decaffeinated tea and coffee can give you the comfort and/or taste of coffee and tea without the effects of caffeine.
  • Most coffee shops and brands have decaf versions of the same or similar products.