Caffeine’s Effects and Recommendations

In the month of March, people across Canada purchased coffee in droves in hopes of winning the 1 in 6 prizes posted from Tim Horton’s “Roll up the Rim” contest. (Most of the prizes being a free coffee!) This concept of buying coffee to win coffee inspired me for this month’s hot topic –caffeine.

Like most individuals, I wake up in the morning and without even thinking I have added the water to the coffee machine and I am carefully measuring out the number of scoops to make the perfect pot of coffee. After the first sip, I am sighing with relief knowing I will make it through the day. I began to question what it is about coffee that “pumps” me up for the day. After a little digging I discovered, not surprisingly, caffeine is a mild stimulant, it helps delay drowsiness and speeds up reaction time. But why? Well, it blocks an important neurotransmitter, adenosine, in the brain responsible for slowing down nerve impulses.

Imagine the Yellowhead highway free of traffic lights, construction and road blocks and you have the effects of caffeine on your brain.

Sounds like utopia; however, like the highway, our brains need moments to slow down – how else do you expect to turn left or at night calm down enough to fall asleep?
This brings me to the next point of how much caffeine is recommended. Health Canada suggests we limit our caffeine intake to no more than 400mg/day. Initially this sounds like plenty, but the more you look into how much caffeine is in what we eat and drink, you quickly learn, 400mg/day translates to approximately 3 cups of brewed coffee! I’m not speaking of 3 venti’s from Starbucks or 3 extra large coffees from Tim Horton’s – both which are 4 cups of brewed coffee each, I’m suggesting 3 – 250mL (the equivalent to 1cup) cups of coffee per day.
Health Canada Caffeine recommendations:

Age Caffeine
4 – 6 year olds 45mg/day
7 – 9 year olds 62.5mg/day
10 – 12 year olds 85mg /day
>13 year olds 2.5mg/kg/day
Women planning to become pregnant, are pregnant or are breastfeeding <300mg/day
Adults <400mg/day

Women planning to become pregnant,are pregnant or are breastfeeding………..<300mg/day

Once I processed the recommendations I quickly measured my cup at home and discovered it holds 2 cups alone, and this was only my first cup of coffee of the day. I typically drive through Tim’s on my way to work and grab another medium coffee for the commute – almost another 2 cups. No wonder I have the jitters when I get to work. It’s not likely from the traffic but the effect of too much coffee! Other symptoms can include insomnia, headaches and irritability.

While I won’t be getting rid of my commute coffee anytime soon (I still want to win one of the non-coffee prizes!), I’ve decided to switch my morning cup for decaf.

What tips do you have for cutting back on caffeine?