how much coffee is too much

Good Coffee = Happiness


I love good coffee. One of my favourite things to do is sit in a café sipping a perfectly poured piccolo. When traveling, I always make a point of finding the best baristas in every city I visit. I could spend days in places like San Francisco and Vancouver just visiting cafes and sampling coffee. When I traveled Mexico and Costa Rica, I really got into drinking strong espresso first thing in the morning on the way to the gym (and then having a few more espressos as the day went on because it was just so good and fresh there).

I’m super picky about my coffee so I have invested in a good machine and most days I make my own. Sometimes I also add espresso shots to smoothies or protein balls for an extra kick.

So, like you, I love my coffee and really good coffee makes me happy.



Espresso (Thrive Juice Co., Saskatoon, Canada)

 How Much Coffee Is Too Much?


Coffee not only makes us feel happy but it also has many health benefits including:

  • Helping with fat burning during exercise
  • Increasing endurance during exercise
  • Increasing wakefulness and focus
  • Reducing risk of heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and some cancers
  • Providing you with a good dose of antioxidants.


So if coffee is good for you – how much coffee can you drink everyday? The answer is – it depends. It depends on things like:

  • How your body handles coffee
  • How stressed out you are
  • How much caffeine you get from other sources during the day
  • What you put in your coffee.


Let’s look at each of these to help you decide how much coffee you should have.


1. How your body handles coffee


Some people, largely due to genetics, process and clear caffeine from their system faster than others. If you are a “fast metabolizer” you probably just get a boost for a few hours and don’t notice any negative effects from having coffee. If you are a “slow metabolizer” you may notice that you feel more jittery, anxious or have trouble sleeping when you drink coffee.

Whether you are a fast or slow metabolizer of caffeine will impact on how you feel after drinking coffee and, therefore, how much you can drink.

Your genes also influence whether you get all those health benefits associated with coffee. For example, whether you have certain genes will impact on whether you get the preventative benefits of coffee against heart disease and Parkinson’s.


2. How stressed out you are


Caffeine can increase cortisol and that’s why a lot of health experts will tell you to avoid it. There’s some truth to this – especially if you are running yourself into the ground everyday and you’ve got some extra belly fat (which is associated with too much cortisol).

I like to take a middle ground when it comes to caffeine and coffee intake. Often a woman who is feeling overwhelmed and stressed out won’t feel like she has much pleasure in her life. I always say – if having a coffee is the one small source of pleasure or relief in your day then by all means – have your coffee.

If you are already stressed out, I don’t want you to stress out even more about having a cup of coffee.

But take it easy on the caffeine. If you are having more than three cups of coffee each day, you might want to pull back and try drinking some green, white or herbal tea instead (white tea has even less caffeine than green, herbal tea has none).

Avoid caffeine later in the day when it’s time for you to start unwinding and save your daily cup for when you need it the most. Try to choose a good quality coffee and sip it mindfully. Make it a treat and it might even help you to de-stress.


Piccolo Latte (Crazy Good, Napier NZ)


3. How much caffeine you get during the day


It’s not about how much coffee is too much but how much caffeine is too much.


Caffeine consumption can be classified as follows:

Low – 200 mg/day

Moderate – 200-400 mg/day

High – 400+ mg/day.


Here’s an estimate of how much caffeine is in your favourite beverage (keeping in mind that there can be a lot of variation caused by types of coffee beans, brewing time, water temperature, etc):

Brewed Coffee (Tall) – 145-200 mg

Espresso – 75 (single) -150 (double) mg

Black Tea – 50-75 mg

Green Tea – 50 mg

White Tea – 15-25 mg

Red Bull – 80 mg


As a general rule, it’s probably a good idea to try not to have more than 400 mg of caffeine regardless of whether you are a fast or slow metabolizer. If you are super stressed out or a slow metabolizer, you may want to keep your consumption in the moderate 200 mg range.

If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, some experts recommend that you keep caffeine intake under 200 mg. However, you should be aware that there are studies suggesting that consuming 200 mg or more is associated with a higher miscarriage rate, and other studies have found that two cups of coffee per day could affect heart development of your baby. Personally, I’d probably stick to green or white tea for caffeine during pregnancy and possibly the occasional cup of organic coffee (ie. one or two per week) just for a treat.


4. What you put in your coffee


Obviously, sugar in your coffee is a problem (and that includes all those high calorie, decadent Starbucks coffees). Most of you know that.

What many women fail to consider is the amount of milk they consume if they drink a couple cups of coffee everyday.

If you use full fat milk and prefer big lattes, you could be taking in over 150 calories per cup of coffee. Multiply that by three cups, and you’ve got an extra 450 calories just from your coffee.

Unfortunately, low fat milk isn’t much better. I often find that women who drink milky coffees have a hard time keeping their daily sugar intake in a good range. One cup of milk, regardless of whether it’s high or low fat, has about 12 g of naturally occurring sugar.

Too much milk can also be a problem for women suffering from conditions caused by too much estrogen. I’ve written about how dairy can be problematic for some women if you aren’t sure.



Should You Quit Drinking Coffee Completely?


I’ve never told a client to quit coffee completely. Extreme measures often backfire because you can’t sustain them in the long run and you miss out on things that are pleasurable – often for no good reason.

If you are worried about it, use caffeine moderately and strategically. Keep your intake between 200-400 mg per day. Keep it under 200 mg if you know you are a slow metabolizer and don’t drink it too late in the day.

If you want to boost your exercise session, have coffee about 30 minutes before training. Or save your coffee for that time of day when you need a mental boost – before a big meeting or when you need to do some writing.

If calories/milk is your issue, ask for a piccolo – which is a small latte (also sometimes called a cortado). You’ll get about 60 ml of milk instead of a whole cup. Most good baristas know how to make them and, if not, just ask for a latte in a smaller cup.



Piccolo Latte (Chantal’s, Napier NZ)


Finally, if you’ve got your period, you may want to avoid coffee altogether. I find I can get away with about a single shot of espresso but anything more gives me cramps within an hour or two. That’s because caffeine has a vasoconstricting effect that can produce pelvic pain (and headaches too).

There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there and that’s because we are all different genetically and because certain lifestyle factors will also influence how quickly we clear caffeine from our body.

Remember, like everything with nutrition, it’s about figuring out what works for you. Use common sense. Pull back your coffee and caffeine intake if you need to but don’t stress out if you enjoy your daily cup of coffee just because some nutrition guru said it’s bad for you.

Life’s too short not to drink good coffee.


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