Is there anything you can do when you’ve gone overboard on coffee and got the jitters? We asked a dietitian.
If coffee makes your world go round, chances are, you’ve experienced that uncomfortable feeling when you’ve had one too many. In small, sensible portions, a little caffeine can pique your spirits, make you feel energised, and give you that sought after buzz that helps with concentration. When you overdo it, however, the story isn’t so pleasant… So, is there anything you can do when you’ve had one too many brews?
How much is too much?
Let’s start with the basics: caffeine is classed as a stimulant drug, so there is a cap to how much you should be having. For a healthy adult (who is not pregnant or breastfeeding), that cap is 400 milligrams of caffeine per day. What’s more, you should have no more than 200 milligrams on a single occasion. Note that this is just a guide – you might have a lower threshold based on your size, weight and general health, and whether you consume caffeine on the reg or not.
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A standard latte contains around 110 milligrams of caffeine per cup (250 millilitres). Percolated coffee packs far more, with up to 240 milligrams in the same quantity, while instant can range from 80-120 milligrams and decaf around 5 milligrams. Tea can also contain up to 105 milligrams per 250 millilitres.
Don’t forget that caffeine is not only found in your delicious cuppa. You’ll also find it in chocolate (spoiler alert: dark choc can contain almost five times the caffeine of milk) and anything that’s coffee or chocolate flavoured (think: cakes, biscuits, ice cream). Cola and energy drinks contain caffeine, too, as do some protein powders.
What to do when you’ve overdone it on the coffee front
Now for the serious stuff. If you’ve gone overboard and are shaking or throwing up, feel confused or as if your heart is beating super fast or erratically – call an ambulance, stat, because medical treatment is quickly needed.
Other signs you might’ve had too much caffeine are frequent trips to the loo, dehydration and difficulty falling asleep. You might also feel anxious, short-tempered or restless, and start to experience headaches. Ugh.
Unfortunately, when you’re in this predicament, there’s not a whole lot you can do. It’s simply a waiting game while your body processes the caffeine and the effects wear off. Note the side effects of consuming caffeine can last up to 12 hours, so it could take a while…
When it comes to food, there’s no magic bullet for speeding up the process. I’d simply encourage a healthy meal if you’re hungry, and perhaps some gentle movement to take your mind off the discomfort. What’s important is that you don’t reach for more coffee (that will only leave you feeling more lethargic in the long run), but instead, sip on water to stay hydrated.
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practicing dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.