Could you be drinking too much coffee?

June 18, 2019 4 min read

Could you be drinking too much coffee?

Most people are familiar with the saying, “Everything In Moderation”, but just about all of us have a vice, or two, that we can’t help but indulge in. If you love to cycle, chances are you love your coffee too. It’s a great way to kick-start your morning ride, especially if you roll straight out of bed and into the saddle at the crack of dawn. Once you’re out on the road there’s no better place to cycle to than your favourite café for another cup of coffee. 

While some evidence suggests that drinking coffee can actually make you ride faster, like everything, there is a limit to how much coffee is a good thing. 

How much is enough?

The upper limit is six cups of coffee as defined by a study posted in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in March 2019. 

Prior to this study, the benchmark was set to 400 milligrams (so that translates to between two-to-four cups, containing 220–250 grams of coffee each.) 

The six-cup study was undertaken by the University of South Australia and took on data from as many as 347,000 people, aged 37 to 73 years old. What they were looking for was patterns or links between coffee and heart disease, and in particular if a non-coffee-loving gene in some people accelerated the effects of heart disease or made the immune. 

While the study didn’t find any link between the effects of drinking coffee and the gene, they did find strong evidence that once people (gene or non) started drinking more than six cups of coffee, their risk of heart disease increased significantly, by as much as 22%. Even drinking decaf in excess of six cups a day raised the risk of cardiovascular disease (although only by 7%) where as people who didn’t drink any coffee showed an 11% increased chance of heart disease compared to those who drank one-to-two cups of coffee. 

Why is this important?

Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death worldwide.

National Health Survey posted that the prevalence of heart disease in Australian in 2017-18 was one person in every twenty. We really don’t want t be increasing that number. 

The verdict.

Two-to-four cups of coffee a day should do you (that’s a standard cup with one shot of coffee and 200 to 250ml of water), which factors in around 95mg of caffeine per cup. If you drink a little more, think about where you can limit your intake or switch to decaf. 

If you are drinking a lot more, check in with your lifestyle choices. Are you drinking coffee to get more done (stress), reduce the amount of sleep you need (stress) or keep your brain switched on longer (stress)? If so, it sounds like you need to spend more time on the bike! Cycling is proven to reduce stress, keep you active and increase your brain activity and growth. 

How too much coffee is bad for you?

It’s worth paying attention to how you feel after drinking caffeine. If you notice that you have a number of these symptoms, especially if your coffee intake is high, consider checking with your doctor about the benefits of making a coffee change. 

  • High blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Cause tremors or small shakes, particularly in your hands and fingers
  • Irritability
  • Upset stomach
  • Nervousness

Too much caffeine can also cause the arteries to stiffen, which, coupled with high blood pressure, is a big risk factor for heart disease.

How to get down to a healthy java limit.

There’s no need to go thirsty, there are plenty of drinks you can have that will keep your social ride rolling. If you need some incentive to cut back on your coffee intake try some of the following: 

  • Drink decaf
  • Mix up your liquid intake to include non-caffeinated drinks like juice, milk, water, smoothies, and any variety of tea.
  • Drink smaller cups. Some commercial coffee venues offer really massive cup sizes, and they inject more shots of caffeine to ensure the taste is there.
  • If you want more coffee taste go for black, no sugar. 

Keep an eye on your coffee health

In the same way that every person has different rates for the absorption and effect of alcohol, coffee will affect everyone differently too. 

Some factors that can impact your level of caffeine tolerance include:

  • The amount of coffee you drink regularly
  • Your gender (typically women can handle more coffee than men)
  • Your weight
  • Any previous or current anxiety problems
  • Some medications including theophylline and norfloxacin. 

If you jump on the bike to beat an inactive lifestyle, help prevent type 2 diabetes or keep the weight off, give yourself a massive pat on the back, and also keep your caffeinated drinks to a level that you can enjoy, without overdoing it. 

Keeping active, reducing stress and eating a well balanced diet is great for combating cardiovascular disease, as is drinking a safe amount of coffee as part of your well balanced diet. 

Cycling before coffee with friends? That’s freedom! 


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