Caffeine Nation

Every morning many Canadians across the country wake up and immediately head straight for their coffee maker to brew the perfect cup of coffee or drop in to their favorite local coffee shop to purchase their coffee beverage of choice. Coffee holds a dear place in the heart of many Canadians not only because of the comforting feeling of that warm cup of joe but because of the caffeine that is found inside that cup to help them wake up and kick-start their day. Although coffee is the main source of caffeine for the average Canadian adult, there are also many other foods and beverages such as tea, cola, energy drinks and chocolate which also contain significant amounts of caffeine and contribute to your daily caffeine intake.

What is caffeine and what does it do?

Caffeine is a stimulant which, in small amounts, can result in some positive effects for healthy adults, however in large quantities can also be harmful to your health. The stimulant effect of caffeine can help to enhance brain function, increase alertness and help with concentration…all good things! Caffeine works its “magic” by blocking the action of a brain neurotransmitter, adenosine, which is responsible for slowing your brain down and making you feel sleepy. However, if taken in too large quantities, caffeine can have very negative effects such as headaches, sleeplessness, high blood pressure, increased irritability, anxiety and stress which, as a result, can increase risks of heart disease when taken in excess of recommended amounts.

How much caffeine is a safe amount?

Health Canada Recommends that healthy adults consume no more than 400mg of caffeine per day- that is about three 8oz sized cups of regular home brewed coffee. Unfortunately that does not mean three extra large size coffees! As you will see in the following section, many of the drinks that Canadians consume on a daily basis, multiple times per day, will add up to much more than this recommended amount.

Health Canada Recommendations:

Age Group Maximum CaffeineIntake   Recommendation
4-6 years old 45mg/day
7-9 years old 62.5mg/day
10-12 years old 85mg/day
13 years and older 2.5mg/kg/day
Pregnant/breastfeeding women or those trying to   become pregnant 300mg/day
Healthy Adult 400mg/day


Caffeine content of different common beverages:

Beverage Size Caffeine Content (mg)
Regular coffee shop coffee 12oz 95-260
16oz 115-330
20oz 140-415
Coffee shop late 12oz 75
16oz 150
20oz 150
Coffee shop Americano 12oz 150
16oz 225
20oz 330
Regular home brewed coffee 1 cup (8oz) 108
Regular black tea 1 cup (8oz) 42
Regular green tea 1 cup (8oz) 25
Regular herbal tea 1 cup (8oz) 0
Coffee shop hot chocolate 12oz 15
16oz 17
20oz 20
Energy Drink 1 can (16oz) 142-160
Energy Shot 1 “shot” (2oz) 200
Cola or Diet Cola Pop 1 can (120z) 34-45


What does this all mean?

The intention of this post is not to try to convince you to stop your coffee or caffeine habit (I’m not a crazy person!) but simply make you aware of the amount of caffeine that is in some of your favourite drinks in comparison to the healthy daily recommended amount. As I previously mentioned coffee does have multiple health benefits and can absolutely be a part of a healthy lifestyle…in moderation. Listen to your doctors recommendations when it comes to your coffee and caffeine intake. It is also important to consider what you put into your coffee. Those large coffees with lots of cream and sugar can definitely add up in terms of calories, fat and sugar and don’t even get me started on those sugary specialty drinks! That will be another post for another time though.

If you do find that you are consistently consuming more than the recommended amount of caffeine in your day, here are a few tips to help you cut back:

  • Cut back slowly– caffeine withdrawal is a very real thing and can cause headaches, drowsiness and irritability if you cut out too much caffeine too soon. If you normally have 6 cups of coffee throughout the day cut down to 4 for one week, then cut down to 3 the next week, then 2 the last week to lessen these uncomfortable symptoms.
  • Get more shuteye- Most Canadians are not getting enough sleep which is why they rely on caffeinated beverages to help keep them going throughout the day. Turn off your light 30-60min earlier than normal to help you feel more rested and avoid needing to turn to coffee to keep you awake.
  • Exercise!- Physical activity can naturally help to give you that same boost in mood and energy level that caffeine does. Try to squeeze in a short workout before work to wake  yourself up or head to the gym after work for a quick pick-me-up before going home.
  • Find a different non-caffeinated drink to replace it– The habit of having a warm comforting cup of coffee will be hard to cut out completely so replace that cup of coffee with a decaffeinated tea or coffee instead so that you still have the same feeling without the caffeine.
  • Stay hydrated– drink lots of water throughout the day to help lessen the symptoms of withdrawal.
Read more about Nutrition.

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