National Coffee Day


Happy National Coffee Day! To non-coffee lovers this is an ordinary day, but to those who live, breathe and drink coffee, this is a glorious occasion that gives us all the excuse to drink twice as much coffee than usual.

In light of this wonderful day, I’m going to shed some light on a few things that you should probably know about your coffee habit.

A healthy daily dose of caffeine can be very different depending on who you are.

When doctors talk about moderate caffeine use, they talk about somewhere in the range of 300 to 400 milligrams. Most coffee drinkers tend to be in that range. Beyond that: 300 milligrams to one person might be perfect, but it might send another one through the roof. It varies so much, depending on your size, if you’re a smoker, if you have a genetic predisposition to metabolize caffeine slowly. It would be foolish to say X is the perfect amount or X is too much.

There’s no standard amount of caffeine in each cup of coffee—even within the same brand.

Starbucks gives an approximation of 20 milligrams per ounce. One 16-ounce cup of Starbucks puts you at about 320 milligrams of caffeine. One 16-ounce cup of Starbucks is for many Americans a good daily dose of caffeine.

Caffeinated beverage manufacturers are not required by the Food and Drug Administration to label how much caffeine is contained in their product.

If you market a product as a food or a supplement, they still don’t have a requirement that you label the amount of the quantity of caffeine in the product. There are some voluntary labeling initiatives underway: The American Beverage Association has recommended bottlers do that, but you can still find energy drinks that don’t tell you how much caffeine is in them.

Your grandparents probably drank twice as much coffee as you do.

They were taking twice as many beans, meaning they were actually drinking more caffeine, too. We like to think of ourselves as a supercaffeinated culture, but our grandparents were more caffeinated than we were. I think one of the reasons is counterintuitive: We make a much bigger deal out of coffee than they did. We think of ourselves as coffee lovers. For their generation, it was just like, yeah, gimme a cup of coffee.

Pro athletes everywhere depend on caffeine—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“I used to race bikes, and we used to drink a strong cup of coffee back then before a race. When I work out, I still like to be somewhat caffeinated. I think it helps me work out more vigorously, and I think a lot of people do. The ethics of it are really fascinating; it’s definitely complex. What’s changed in the past 30 years, since I was racing bikes seriously, is that you have much more specificity now in how people are able to take caffeine. You can quantify your dose, and there are products like gels that can help give the athlete caffeine in very specific doses.”

Mixing caffeine and alcohol hasn’t been proven to be inherently unhealthy. But the resulting behaviors can be dangerous, potentially even fatal.

“From a health perspective, being stimulated could allow you to drink more than you might otherwise. You might otherwise pass out sooner. There’s still research going on in that area, for what it’s worth. I haven’t seen that there’s some synergistic effect that’s going to blow your brain apart when you mix caffeine and alcohol. Still, not a great idea.”

Caffeine could be way better for us—and also way worse—than we know.

“This is the question I got all the time: What’s the verdict? Is it good or is it bad? If I had a simple answer, it would have been a five-page book. It can be more effective than I had any idea, in terms of improving your alertness, your cognition, your athletic ability. It can have stronger more acute effects on sleep and anxiety than I’d imagined. It can be terrific. I think it’s important that everybody recognize how much is good for them, what it does for them when they take it, what they feel like when they don’t take it, and experiment.”

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