Raise your coffee cup if you kick start your day with a jolt of java. You’re not alone. Researchers say approximately 80% of Americans have a caffeine habit, with coffee being the most commonly consumed form.

March is Caffeine Awareness Month. It’s a great time to put down that coffee cup, candy bar or soda and think about how much caffeine you consume in a day and whether it’s having unfavorable effects on your health.

Covert Caffeine

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t require manufacturers to list the amount of caffeine in their products on nutrition labels. That means you don’t always know when you’re getting that added — and possibly unwanted — boost.

  • Decaf coffee. You read that right. To earn “decaf” status, 97% of the caffeine must be removed from the beans. As for the remaining 3%, it’s up for grabs. Studies show the amount of caffeine found in decaf coffee can range from 5 mg to 32 mg.
  • Ice cream and yogurt. If these sweet treats have chocolate, coffee, java or mocha flavoring, you can bet they contain some amount of caffeine, some as many as 60 mg.
  • Protein bars. Some bars have as much caffeine as a can of soda or small specialty coffee.
  • We all know traditional colas go head-to-head with coffee when it comes to caffeine levels. But, non-cola sodas such as Sunkist Orange Soda and Mountain Dew and many popular energy drinks are loaded with caffeine, too.
  • Pain relievers. Check the label. Caffeine is often an ingredient in pain relievers.

Your Body on Caffeine

When you consume caffeine, your body reacts in several ways.

  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased heart rate
  • Tightened muscles

When you consume caffeine during the day, you increase the chance that you’ll have a tough time sleeping at night. Caffeine affects your brain nerves in a way that makes it difficult for you to get a good night’s sleep. It works like this: If your 3 p.m. beverage has 200 mg of caffeine, by 9 p.m., you still have 100 mg of caffeine in your body.

A Safe Amount

Recommended Daily Amount of CaffeineIf giving up caffeine isn’t part of your plan right now, that’s OK. The recommended daily amount is 400 mg, which translates into:

  • 2 energy drinks
  • 5 cups of coffee
  • 10 cans of soda

The Center for Science in the Public Interest publishes a chart of caffeine-containing foods and drinks.

When you start tracking how much caffeine you actually consume in a day, you might be surprised. Use the information as your wake up call to cut back or find other ways to keep your body energized. Lifting weights, walking, running and other aerobic-type workouts can boost your energy level just as much as caffeine, if not more.

If you’re looking to hang up your caffeine habit and lift your energy level naturally, explore our fitness classes.