Are You Drinking too Much Coffee?

For many, coffee is more than just an occasional beverage—it’s a daily staple. For some, it’s practically a way of life. With Americans drinking an average of two cups per day, the "coffee culture" is alive and well in homes and workplaces, as well as the countless cafes devoted to delivering our java fixes.

And that’s not always a bad thing. Coffee is best known for its "pick-me-up" effect, as its caffeine content stimulates the brain, making us feel more alert and providing an energy boost—which is why it’s such a popular way to start the morning and to rebound from a mid-afternoon slump.

Coffee also delivers some essential nutrients, like potassium, manganese, magnesium and vitamins B5, B2 and B3. Early studies have also shown that coffee could help in reducing the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Java may also help tthe body burn fat more effectively, aiding in weight loss. As an added bonus, registered dietitian Summer Yule points out that coffee has been shown to boost athletic performance.

Even with all of those key benefits, coffee is best consumed in moderation, as drinking too much can have some less than pleasant effects.

Signs That You’re Drinking too Much Coffee


If you’re consuming more coffee than your body can handle, the most common side effects include feeling jittery, anxious or nauseous, notes Yule. You may also have difficulty falling asleep at night.

Toby Amidor, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., F.A.N.D., a nutrition expert and author of "The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook," points out that excess coffee consumption can also lead to:

  • Headaches

  • Irregular heartbeats,  agitation and ringing in the ear

  • Restlessness or insomnia

  • Upset stomach

  • Increased heart rate or

  • Faster breathing rate.

If you are worried about any of these symptoms, see your healthcare provider.

But coffee may be just one of the culprits, Yule points out: "These are signs that you should consider cutting back on caffeine from all sources in your diet, not just coffee," she says. "Though coffee is a major source of caffeine for many people, don't forget that soda, energy drinks, chocolate and tea may also contribute to caffeine intake."

What’s a Safe Amount of Coffee?

The Food and Drug Administration recommends that healthy adults limit their caffeine intake to 400 milligrams per day, which is roughly the equivalent of four or five cups of coffee. This guideline is for healthy adults who are not pregnant or breastfeeding.

"It is important to keep in mind that some people are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than others," Yule warns. "Those who are more sensitive may be better off keeping their caffeine intake even lower than the recommended level."

Even if you stay within the recommended 400 milligram limit of caffeine, Amidor also cautions that, depending on how it’s prepared, coffee can also drive up daily intake of calories and sugar. Those who are looking to lose or maintain weight should be mindful of added calories from cream, sugar and dairy substitutes in their cup of Joe.

As coffee is an addictive substance, you may notice some withdrawal symptoms if you abruptly stop or reduce your intake after a long period of drinking it regularly. Some of the most common signs include headache, fatigue, lack of focus, jittery or anxious feelings, irritability and depression, among others.

To alleviate caffeine withdrawal symptoms, try gradually cutting back your consumption rather than shocking the body with total elimination. Or, start by combining half decaf with half regular coffee and reduce the regular portion over time. Incorporating natural energy-boosters into your day, such as exercise, mindful meditation and nutrient-rich meals, will also help to make the transition easier.

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Member Comments

I love to drink coffee, but I limit my coffee drinking to when I'm at work. I very seldom drink it at home. Report
Okay! Thank you! Report
love coffee but I limit it to 16 ounces a day~ Report
I purposely make my coffee weak to avoid a "coffee gut". I drink a lot, but doubt I ever go over the 400 mg allotment simply because it is weak. I do drink it black except my last cup I add flavored cream if I have on hand. Report
I drink 3 cups of coffee a day, including night, just sip here and there, never gulp it all down, black. Been drinking coffee since age 5. No problem, I’m in my 70’s. Why make a big deal about it now, just because an article deadline pops up? Report
I only have one cup of decaf per day and that w/o sugar. Report
I'm finding I now drink more coffee than tea. Report
Yes, coffee is addictive. I had a lot of problems getting off it a few years ago. Report
Good to know. Report
Thanks Report
Do not drink coffee. Report
I find I am down to just 1 coffee a day, having for years drank at least 2 every day. Report
No more...its healthier without it Report
I started drinking coffee with my then-boyfriend. 6 weeks later I had 6 cysts in my breasts. I stopped cold turkey immediately - my mother had breast cancer twice, so for myself I feel it;s not IF, but WHEN. It took 6 years for the cysts to dissolve, but since then my mammograms have been trouble-free. Still being careful, though. Report


About The Author

Melissa Rudy
Melissa Rudy
A lifelong Cincinnatian, Melissa earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from University of Cincinnati before breaking into online writing in 2000. As a Digital Journalist for SparkPeople, she enjoys helping others meet their wellness goals by writing about all aspects of healthy living. An avid runner and group fitness addict, Melissa lives in Loveland with her guitarist husband and three feisty daughters.