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A military teen’s take on caffeine

Teens may be consuming more caffeine than they (or you) know. Learn from one military teen’s perspective about sources of caffeine and how teens can avoid consuming too much.

Coffee, energy drinks, energy shots, soda—we’re surrounded by these products, and many are marketed specifically to teens. Their advertisements make caffeine seem a harmless and effective boost to help teens meet the demands of school and after-school activities. Three of four U.S. children and young adults now consume some form of caffeine every day.

Teens shouldn’t consume more than 100mg of caffeine (roughly the amount in an average small cup of coffee) per day. That’s enough caffeine to give you energy and help you stay alert. But too much caffeine can be a serious problem. Signs that you’ve had too much caffeine can be jitters, nervousness, increased heart rate, and an upset stomach. For more about the symptoms of too much caffeine, read FDA’s article.

Many drinks and foods that contain caffeine don’t clearly say so on the label. Energy drinks, for example, can contain lots of different forms of caffeine, such as guarana, green tea extract, and yerba mate. Although you might see these listed on the label, you still might not see the total amount of caffeine listed. Energy drinks don’t have to report how much caffeine is in them. So think twice about how many of them you drink, and learn more from HPRC’s article about energy drinks.

And for athletes: Don’t use energy drinks to replace sports drinks for extra energy. The same goes for other beverages with caffeine: sodas, coffee, and tea. Sports drinks are for hydrating and replacing electrolytes and other nutrients lost while exercising. Water is best in most cases!

Just because something contains caffeine doesn’t mean you have to completely eliminate it. Be aware of all the different sources of caffeine and try not to overdo it. And be sure to watch HPRC’s “Caffeine & Teens” video for more from a teenager’s perspective.

Based on a blog by HPRC intern Diana Smith. Diana is a military teen and high-school sophomore who is interested in science and enjoys drawing in her downtime. 

FDA’s warning on caffeine powder

FDA issues a warning about caffeine powder and advises consumers to avoid powdered pure caffeine.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning consumers about powdered pure caffeine, particularly as sold in bulk on the Internet. At least one death has been associated with the use of such products, and FDA advises consumers about the potency of powdered pure caffeine. See FDA’s Consumer Advice, which includes information about how to report an adverse event.

According to this consumer resource from FDA, you should limit your caffeine intake to just 100–200 mg per day (about 5–10 ounces of coffee). Taking large doses of caffeine—roughly 400–500 mg—at one time can result in a serious condition known as “caffeine intoxication.” Some symptoms of caffeine intoxication are minor and include nausea, vomiting, agitation, nervousness, or headache. Other symptoms can be more life-threatening, such as rapid heartbeat, electrolyte imbalance, very high blood sugar, or high levels of acid in the blood, which can cause seizures. See the OPSS FAQ to help you avoid hidden sources of caffeine. 

What’s in your energy drink?

Learn how to spot potentially problematic ingredients in energy drinks.

Do you really know what’s in your energy drink? HPRC put together a new resource that points out some common ingredients found in energy drinks. Our ingredient label includes some hidden sources of caffeine and other ingredients that can have stimulant effects on your body. It also highlights other information that you might see on a label, including warnings. So check out the energy drinks infosheet, and then go to Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) for more information about how to choose dietary supplements safely.

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FDA to examine adding caffeine to foods

HPRC Fitness Arena: Family & Relationships
The FDA is investigating the recent trend of caffeine added to many food products and its possible effect on children and adolescents.

The trend of adding caffeine to new food products has led the FDA to take another look at caffeine regulations. In particular, they have decided to look into caffeine being added to foods, as reported in this Consumer Update. The FDA approved the addition of caffeine to colas (specifically) in the 1950s, but the addition of caffeine to foods and beverages popular with children and adolescents, such as waffles, chewing gum, and energy drinks, has prompted them to take a fresh look at the possible impact of caffeine on children and adolescents’ health.

Currently, the FDA has not set a safe amount of daily caffeine consumption for children. Medical professionals discourage any caffeine consumption and state that children and teens should take in no more than 100 mg of caffeine per day. To put that in perspective, an eight-ounce cup of coffee typically contains about 100 mg (or more), and the most popular caffeine-containing sodas contain around 30 to 55 mg in a 12-ounce can (a 12-ounce soda cannot contain more than 68 mg of caffeine). Not knowing how much caffeine and other stimulants are contained in the drinks and foods children eat is a concern. In the meantime, for a better understanding of the effects of caffeine, read this article from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Green coffee beans—health or hype?

Weight-loss supplements with green coffee beans have been popular lately, but some products have more in them than just coffee beans. Get the facts about ingredients and always read product labels carefully.

It can be tough figuring out the truth about the health benefits of many natural products. One product that’s getting a lot of attention these days is green coffee beans. As a Warfighter looking for ways to optimize your performance or perhaps drop some weight quickly, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the marketing hype and claims, especially if it’s an appealing message. Make sure you get the facts.

Green coffee beans are the raw, unroasted seeds or “beans” of the Coffea plant. They contain a chemical called chlorogenic acid (CA) that supposedly offers some health benefits. Roasting reduces the amount of CA in coffee beans; as a result, green coffee beans contain more CA than the roasted beans you use for your morning coffee. Some research suggests that CA might prevent heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure, and help with weight loss. But it’s important to note that most of this research is preliminary, and there just isn’t enough evidence to say that CA will definitely help with any of these health conditions.

Although no serious side effects have been reported from green coffee beans in their natural form, some dietary supplement products containing green coffee beans have been found to contain undeclared drugs, insects, and mold. Of the 126 products containing green coffee beans ranked by the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, 40 have been assigned a rating of “1” or “2,” which indicates there are serious concerns about their safety and effectiveness. None have a rating in NMCD’s green zone, which suggests that there are some concerns about them all. Note also that green coffee beans are not always the only active ingredient, so be sure to check the product label.

It’s also important to note that green coffee beans contain caffeine. Side effects of consuming too much caffeine are all too familiar—difficulty sleeping, rapid or irregular heartbeat, nervousness, nausea, and vomiting. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, or those who have been diagnosed with certain medical conditions (including anxiety, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, high blood pressure, or osteoporosis) should check with their doctor before consuming green coffee beans. For more information on caffeine, read the OPSS FAQ on caffeine.

Caffeine in supplements – how much?

Some of the most popular dietary supplements sold on military bases may give inaccurate—or no—information about caffeine content on their labels.

A Military Times article reports on a recent study of more than 30 of the most popular dietary supplements (in capsule form) sold on military bases analyzed to determine their caffeine content. Of the 20 supplements that listed caffeine as an ingredient on their labels, six did not specify the amount. These same six contained high amounts of caffeine (210-310 mg per serving)—three or more times the amount permitted by law in soft drinks. Five others revealed significantly different amounts—some more, some less—than the quantity stated on the product label.

Consuming too much caffeine can result in health issues. And if you don’t know how much is in the supplement you’re taking, it could be easy to overdo it if you also drink coffee or energy drinks. Visit the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQ on caffeine for additional information.

Air Force studying caffeinated drinks

Air Force conducting study on 12 bases on the use of caffeinated drinks.

The Air Force is conducting a study on the use of energy drinks among active-duty Air Force personnel and civilians. According to the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), Monster Energy was the top-selling cold beverage last year in the AAFES worldwide, and due to continuing concerns about the effects of energy drink consumption, the Air Force has started its own survey that targets 12 bases in Europe and the U.S. For the complete story, read the article in Stars and Stripes.

Caffeine and performance—limit your intake for best performance.

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Caffeine shouldn't be a replacement for sleep, and too much degrades your physical performance.

Caffeine in moderate doses can boost both physical and cognitive performance. It can help maintain alertness when you are doing long boring activities such as highway driving. It is especially effective for enhancing alertness and mental performance when individuals are sleep deprived. However, if you can, it is better to get the sleep your body needs. The suggested level of intake for enhancing cognitive performance is relatively low—one or two cups of coffee or one or two energy drinks (about 80-200 mg of caffeine). Larger doses can cause side effects (e.g. nervousness, irritability, shakiness, and trouble sleeping). It is very important not to consume large amounts of caffeine before trying to sleep. Blood levels of caffeine peak at about 60 minutes and are maintained for approximately two to three hours. Thus, although each person is different, another dose after four hours may confer additional benefits for activities of long duration or when alertness must be maintained.

The bottom line is, more caffeine will not improve performance—and may actually degrade it due to various negative side effects at higher doses.

Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) has now been launched to answer many of your questions about Dietary Supplements. Visit the OPSS section of HPRC’s website now to learn more!

What are hidden sources of caffeine?

HPRC Fitness Arena:
The labels on products often don’t mention caffeine content, so you have to know what ingredients contribute caffeine where you may not expect it.

We know about colas, coffee, tea, and chocolate, but caffeine can also be found in some over-the-counter drugs and herbal dietary supplement products. Energy drinks contain caffeine, and some also contain guarana, a plant with high amounts of caffeine. Yerba mate, green tea extract, and kola nuts are also sources of caffeine, and can be found in weight-loss and performance-enhancing dietary supplements. Be sure to read labels for hidden sources of caffeine.

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What you eat affects how you sleep.

HPRC Fitness Arena:
If you have trouble sleeping, think about tweaking your diet for a better night's sleep.

Sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, but in general, most healthy adults need at least eight hours of sleep each night to function at their best. Food fuels our way through the day (can give you the necessary energy to pull you through the day), but did you know that food also has an effect on how we sleep? Watch what you eat in the course of a day – particularly in the hours before you go to bed – if you want to optimize your sleep at night. We give you some tips below on the best foods to eat to help you sleep soundly, and those to avoid if you have trouble resting at night.

Foods to avoid before bed:

  • Caffeine: Caffeine can cause sleep disturbances even many hours after drinking it. Some people find there’s a cut-off time for their bodies – caffeine before that time won’t affect their sleep, but anything after, say, 2:00 p.m. can cause problems with their sleep. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, and chocolate, among other foods.
  • Alcohol: Some people think of alcohol as a nightcap to help you sleep better. While it may help you get to sleep faster, it also reduces sleep quality by waking you up later, in the middle of the night. A glass of wine before bed should be fine; several stiff drinks are not.
  • Big or heavy meals: Fatty food takes time to digest and may keep you from getting to sleep. Spicy and acidic foods at night often cause stomach problems and/or heartburn. Try having an earlier dinner and avoid heavy, rich foods within two hours of when you’ll be going to bed.
  • Liquids: Caffeinated drinks act as diuretics, resulting in frequent nighttime trips to the bathroom, and drinking too much water or other liquids close to bedtime also increases your trips to the bathroom in the night.
  • Sugar: Anything too sugary, like many desserts or nighttime snacks are, can interfere with your sleep.

    Best foods before bed:

    • Bananas: Bananas contain large amounts of tryptophan, which triggers the release of melatonin and serotonin in our brains, helping us relax.
    • Dairy: Dairy is also a good source of tryptophan, especially combined with some carbohydrates, like oatmeal. A warm glass of milk or a small bowl of oatmeal should help you sleep.
    • Turkey: Another good source of tryptophan. Think of the post-Thanksgiving turkey slump many of us experience! Combined with whole-wheat bread in a small sandwich, this is a recipe for a deep, relaxing sleep.

    Quality sleep is essential to our health. To start sleeping soundly, try some simple modifications to your diet and see if it helps you.

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