News & Media

02 October 2019

One cup, two cups, three cups, four … how much caffeine can we handle?

Most of us love a cuppa. A cuppa tea, a cuppa coffee, a cuppa hot milo on a rainy day. There’s nothing much better than that morning ‘pick-me-up’ or the caffeine hit when you hit that afternoon slump.

But have you ever wondered how much caffeine your body can actually handle? Or what happens if you consume just that tad too much?

We’ve asked our dietitian, Anna Scobie, a coupla questions about our beloved cuppa.

What great coffee looks like

What is caffeine and how much can we have?

Caffeine acts as a stimulant — it can make us feel more alert and switched on. The main benefits of caffeine are reduced fatigue and increased alertness and cognitive performance, particularly for simple tasks.

Caffeine affects everyone differently – it all depends on our gender, weight, age and general health. We don’t really have a ‘safe’ limit for caffeine, but most people can tolerate 300-400mg a day (3-4 espresso shots) without any negative side effects.

Pregnant women have a lower threshold of 200mg a day, or the equivalent of 2 espresso shots. This is because the body can’t break down caffeine quickly (slower metabolism), and caffeine can pass via the placenta to the foetus.

Young children (<12 years) shouldn’t have any caffeinated beverages, while teens aged 12-18 years should limit their consumption to 100mg (1 regular latte) a day.

What can happen if I have too much caffeine?

Older studies suggest more than 500-600mg a day (5-6 espresso shots) can cause restlessness, increased anxiety and irritability, higher blood pressure, cardiovascular symptoms and insomnia. It should be noted most of these effects will wear off over time.

Can caffeine contribute to weight gain?

Energy drinks that contain caffeine tend to be very high in sugar. Similarly, if we regularly add sugar to our cuppas and consume multiple throughout the day, we might notice weight gain over time, and potentially increase our risk of developing diabetes.

TOP TIP: Ditch the energy drinks (water is best) and try adding a sweetener to your cuppa instead. Getting used to the new taste will take time – roughly 6-8 weeks – but it can be done!


Can I have caffeine withdrawal?

The side effects of caffeine withdrawal are hotly debated. Most research is observational and doesn’t directly investigate the effects of caffeine intake. However, it’s thought that almost anyone can have caffeine withdrawal if they regularly consume caffeine and then stop suddenly, even if they’re only having 2 cups a day.

Common side effects of caffeine withdrawal can include headaches, tiredness and irritability.

If you want to reduce your caffeine intake, but don’t want the withdrawal symptoms, here’s what you can do to minimise the effects:

  • Slowly decrease your caffeine intake by replacing caffeinated beverages with half-strength or decaf versions.
  • Stay hydrated with non-caffeinated beverages. Always choose water first! And if you’re after a bit more flavour, try a soda water or herbal/caffeine-free teas.
  • Do your best to have 8-9 hours of sleep each and every night so you’re not as tired!
  • Maintain your energy levels throughout the day with regular low-GI meals and snacks. We recommend veggies, fruits, yoghurt, popcorn, seeded biscuits and breads.
  • Try to move your body daily, aiming for about 30 minutes of physical activity throughout the day. If you want to know just how much exercise you should be doing, click here.

I want to know more. Well, read up!