On days when you’re tired or need that extra boost, coffee can be a gift sent from heaven. But on days when you’re feeling exhausted, you may load up on too much cups, experiencing unpleasant side effects that could be signs you’re drinking too much coffee. Caffeine can keep you alert, improve your memory, and even boost your workouts, but too much of the stuff can cause both physiological and psychological problems.
“How much coffee is too much really depends on you,” say Lindsay Langford, MS, RD, CSSD and Sigornie Pfefferle, MS, RD of St. Vincent’s Sports Performance over email. “Our typical daily intake can dictate how much you can handle, but there does seem to be an upper limit, and if you overshoot that amount you’re likely going to experience some unpleasant side effects.”
Excess caffeine consumption can also result in overstimulation of the nervous system and electrical activity of the heart, although there are some more common, everyday side effects from lesser amounts of the stimulant. Experts recommend consuming no more than four cups of brewed coffee a day, though every person is different.
If you suspect you may be loading up on too much coffee, watch out for these seven signs you may be having a caffeine overload.
If you feel like your heart is racing or pounding uncontrollably, it may be a sign you’ve had too many cups of joe. “Caffeine is a stimulant that acts upon the central nervous system and can increase one’s heart rate,” says Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, M.D., M.S. over email. “Those that drink too much caffeine may start to experience palpitations.”
Many of us have experienced the coffee jitters, whether it’s shakiness, tremors, or restlessness. “Caffeine may trigger the release of certain hormones like adrenaline, which may make one feel restless and even have tremors,” says Okeke-Igbokwe.
If you find your bladder constantly needs emptying, you mean have overdone the java. “Caffeine may act as a mild diuretic and stimulate frequent urination in some individuals,” says Okeke-Igbokwe.
“Caffeine may stimulate the gastrointestinal tract leading to stomach upset, nausea, and even diarrhea,” says Okeke-Igbokwe. Coffee is acidic, which can cause abdominal cramping and irritate the lining of the stomach.
If you find that your mind is racing and you’re feeling a bit stressed or nervous, it may be a result of excess coffee. Coffee can increase existing anxiety, and it can even cause anxiety in people who don’t normally experience it.
Since coffee is highly acidic, it can cause heartburn in many people, likely from the caffeine as well as other compounds present in the drink. Experts recommend only having one three-to-four ounce cup of coffee to cut down on heartburn symptoms.
Trouble sleeping at night is a common sign of too much coffee intake, even if you drink your coffee in the morning, as caffeine can stay in the body for many hours. Drinking your coffee earlier in the day and cutting down on the number of cups can help you sleep better at night.
You don’t have to give up coffee completely (probably) to feel less of its effects, though — try having one less cup a day and going from there. You might be surprised how much different you feel.
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