Just How Much Coffee Is Too Much?

Last Update: April 19, 2023

There’s nothing wrong with swinging by your local cafe on the way to work, or enjoying a sweating iced coffee in the afternoon. But if your habit spikes up to four, five, or six cups of joe every day, your coffee habit could be seriously hurting your health.

More than 28 cups per week—that’s 4 cups per day—is generally considered “heavy” caffeine use. That’s when things get problematic. Once you get over that 4-cup threshold, your risk of death increases by 56 percent. (The generally accepted toxic level of caffeine is 10 g, which translates to about 75 cups of coffee in a few hours.)

Of course, you’d have to be pretty much mainlining Starbucks to see those kind of consequences. But that doesn’t mean your casual consumption isn’t working against you.  Check out our list of common caffeine side effects—if you notice any of the symptoms, it might be time to switch to decaf.

1. The Coffee jitters

Let’s get real—part of the reason we drink coffee is to feel energized and alert, but too much can make you feel anxious, shakey, and even restless. Scientists still don’t know exactly how caffeine causes these jitters, but think it has something to do with the body’s production of dopamine.

2. Running to the bathroom

Coffee has a mild diuretic effect, meaning your morning Starbucks run might make you have to pee. One too many cups of joe can also cause the other kind of digestive distress, too. According to USC researchers, coffee stimulates muscle contractions in the large intestine and causes your body to release bile—both of which could explain your need to go.

3. Insomnia and caffeine

Your coffee habit could be what’s keeping you up at night. Caffeine inhibits the way adenosine, a molecule that helps your body go to sleep, works in the body.

4. Symptoms of caffeine withdrawal

If running out of coffee beans causes a full-on headache, and you find yourself absolutely unable to keep your eyes open, it might be time to consider whether you have a caffeine addiction.  Instead of relying on java to kickstart your day, try cutting back and swapping in other less-caffeinated drinks.

5. Caffeine intoxication

If you have any of these symptoms, it’s time to take a step back and take a serious look at your caffeine habit. Caffeine intoxication is actually technically a psychiatric disorder, and can cause restlessness, nervousness, excitement, a flushed face, muscle twitching, a rambling pattern of speech, cardiac arrhythmia, and physical signs of agitation like pacing of wringing your hands. At extremely high doses, it can even cause sudden death.

And that’s not to say that coffee is bad for you. Actually, this drink is an incredible source of antioxidants, and can even keep Type 2 diabetes at bay. The key here—as with anything—is moderation.

Photo credit: Paul Delmont

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Annalise Mantz

Annalise is a foodie, Brussels sprouts lover, grammar nerd, and political pet aficionado.

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