What Is Caffeine?
Caffeine is a drug found naturally in the leaves and seeds of many plants. It's also made artificially and added to some foods and drinks. Caffeine (pronounced: ka-FEEN) is a drug because it stimulates the central nervous system, causing increased alertness. Caffeine gives most people a temporary energy boost and improves mood.
Caffeine is in tea, coffee, chocolate, many soft drinks, and pain relievers and other over-the-counter medicines and supplements. In its natural form, caffeine tastes very bitter. But most caffeinated drinks are processed enough to hide the bitter taste.
Teens get most of their caffeine from soft drinks, coffee drinks, and energy drinks. You may feel the effects of caffeine for up to 6 hours.
What Does Caffeine Do?
Caffeine can help you feel alert and focused. But it also can cause anxiety, stomach upset, headaches, and the jitters. Caffeine can make it hard to sleep. How someone reacts to caffeine depends on a person’s age, weight, gender, and caffeine sensitivity.
Caffeine sensitivity is the amount of caffeine that will cause symptoms. This varies from person to person. But people who regularly have a lot of caffeine become less sensitive to it. This means they need more caffeine to get the same effects.
Caffeine increases heart rate, blood pressure, and stress hormones. People with some medical conditions should avoid caffeine. Talk to you doctor about your caffeine consumption if you have high blood pressure or heart problems, are taking medicines or over-the-counter supplements, or are dealing with stress or anxiety.
How Much Caffeine Can Someone Have?
Caffeine is safe if you don’t get too much. Experts recommend teens get no more than 100 mg of caffeine a day (about 1 cup of coffee or 2 caffeinated sodas).
But even smaller amounts of daily caffeine can make someone dependent on it. This means that if you quit caffeine suddenly, you’ll have caffeine withdrawal symptoms like headaches, trouble concentrating, and feeling tired and irritable.
How Can I Cut Back on Caffeine?
If you're taking in too much caffeine, you may want to cut back. To avoid caffeine withdrawal, try cutting back slowly.
Replace caffeinated sodas and coffee with drinks without caffeine, like water, decaffeinated coffee, caffeine-free sodas, and caffeine-free teas.
Keep track of how many caffeinated drinks you have each day. Then, substitute one of these daily drinks with a decaf or caffeine-free alternative.
After a week or so, swap out another of your daily caffeine drinks with a decaf or caffeine-free option.
Do this for as many weeks as it takes to bring your daily caffeine intake to one caffeine drink a day, or even less.
As you cut back on caffeine, you may find yourself feeling tired. Be sure you get enough sleep, and boost your energy with exercise. As your body adjusts to less caffeine, your energy levels should return to normal in a few days.