Spilling the Beans on Caffeine Health

UT Health Austin registered dietitian addresses common questions around caffeine health

Reviewed by: Carla Cos, RDN, LD, CDCES
Written by: Kaylee Fang

Warm coffee in a green ceramic mug.

In recent years, caffeine has become a topic of widespread interest and debate in discussions surrounding health and wellness. As one of the most widely consumed psychoactive substances globally, it’s natural for you to have questions and concerns about its impact on your well-being.

Carla Cos, RDN, LD, CDCES, a registered dietitian and member of UT Health Austin’s Integrated Behavioral Health care team, addresses common questions around caffeine health.

How much caffeine is consider healthy to consume?

Moderate caffeine consumption is considered healthy. The FDA recommends limiting caffeine intake to less than 400 milligrams (mg) a day.

To determine the caffeine content of your preferred beverage, refer to these estimates:

  • 8 oz cup of coffee contains 80 to 100 mg of caffeine
  • 8 oz energy drink contains 85 to 250 mg of caffeine
  • 8 oz serving of green or black tea contains 30 to 50 mg of caffeine
  • 8 oz serving of soft drink contains 30 to 40 mg of caffeine

Caffeine content may vary based on processing and brewing time. Caffeine can remain in your system for approximately 10 to 12 hours. The effects of caffeine reach peak levels within 30 to 60 minutes depending on your age, weight, lifestyle, and other unique individual factors. “Older adults may metabolize caffeine slower than younger adults,” shares Cos. “Pregnant persons may also metabolize caffeine slower, and it can last up to 15 hours in the body.”

Your body’s response to caffeine consumption can vary and impact the onset of adverse effects.

Find out how you can maintain a healthy and balanced caffeine intake.

<br>Can caffeine help alleviate the effects of alcohol?

Caffeine doesn’t impact alcohol metabolism. “Instead, prioritizing water and electrolytes is more beneficial to alleviate alcohol effects,” notes Cos.

Alcohol and caffeine can increase heart rate and blood pressure, potentially leading to concerns for certain individuals who are at higher risk. “It’s important to consult with your healthcare provider if you intend to consume higher amounts of caffeine than usual,” encourages Cos.

Does caffeine aid in weight loss?

Caffeine intake may lead to slight weight loss. Caffeine causes temporary appetite suppression, helping to reduce calorie intake. However, caffeinated beverages are often mixed with added sugars and calories that likely offset any potential weight loss benefits. “Keep in mind the added sugar content in these beverages,” advises Cos. “Flavored coffee drinks, chai lattes, sweet tea, and sodas are all high-sugar drinks with caffeine.”

Maximize the benefits of your daily cup of joe by switching up your sweetener. “Instead of adding sugar or flavored syrups, try naturally derived low-calorie sweetener or a dash of cinnamon for flavor,” suggests Cos. “Mix in regular milk or plant-based milk instead of a flavored creamer to ensure a healthy and balanced caffeine intake.”

Does caffeine cause difficulty sleeping?

In large doses, caffeine can impact your sleep cycle by reducing the duration of both deep sleep and total sleep. “Caffeine blocks the production of adenosine, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep,” says Cos. “This can lead to a challenging cycle of increased caffeine intake the following day due to lack of sleep quantity. Avoid caffeine within 8 to 10 hours before bedtime to maintain optimal sleep quality and quantity.”

Does caffeine lead to dehydration?

Caffeine induces mild diuresis, resulting in increased urine production. “The fluid from caffeinated beverages typically counteracts any excessive fluid loss through urination, which doesn’t lead to dehydration,” explains Cos. “Frequent coffee drinkers may experience fewer diuretic effects due to their tolerance to caffeine.”

What are some healthier alternatives to caffeine for boosting energy?

While caffeine provides a quick energy boost, there are alternative ways to enhance alertness. Morning light exposure is important for awakening the senses. “Step outside to get sunlight and fresh air, or find a well-lit area to start your day,” recommends Cos.

Maintaining a nutritious diet also helps you stay energized throughout the day. “Drinking plenty of water improves brain function,” explains Cos. “Eat small, low sugar-meals or snacks to fuel your energy levels.”

Incorporating exercise and taking short active breaks are additional healthy alternatives you can implement into your daily routine. “Physical activity promotes blood circulation that keeps your body moving,” notes Cos. “If you’ve been sedentary for prolonged periods, try standing up and stretching.”

A brief 20-minute nap can also leave you feeling refreshed. “Limit your nap to 20 minutes to prevent grogginess and feeling more tired than before you closed your eyes,” suggests Cos.

Depending on your specific healthcare needs, a dietitian may be a part of your healthcare journey at UT Health Austin.

To request an appointment with UT Health Austin, call 1-833-UT-CARES (1-833-882-2737) or visit here.

About UT Health Austin

UT Health Austin is the clinical practice of the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin. We collaborate with our colleagues at the Dell Medical School and The University of Texas at Austin to utilize the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment techniques, allowing us to provide patients with an unparalleled quality of care. Our experienced healthcare professionals deliver personalized, whole-person care of uncompromising quality and treat each patient as an individual with unique circumstances, priorities, and beliefs. Working directly with you, your care team creates an individualized care plan to help you reach the goals that matter most to you — in the care room and beyond. For more information, call us at 1-833-UT-CARES or request an appointment here.