|Summary: How does caffeine work? Caffeine shows up in many unexpected places, so be careful or you could end up missing out on important sleep.|
If you’re like many people all over the world then you start your day with a steaming mug of coffee to get you on point. But it’s not really the coffee itself you’re after – although a good cup of coffee is a wonderful thing.
It’s the 3,7-dihydro-1,3,7-trimethyl-1H-purine-2,6,-dione OR 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine – the chemical compound known as caffeine – and it’s probably the most popular and widely used drug in the world.
Caffeine has been used both recreationally and medicinally since before recorded history, it’s stimulant properties curing a variety of ailments. It wasn’t until 1819 when a doctor by the name of Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge was handed a box of Arabian mocha beans by the world famous German poet and baron Johann Wolfgang von Goethe that the crystalline compound we know today as caffeine was isolated.
But how exactly does caffeine work?
Once you ingest your Starbucks grande, quad, ristretto, nonfat, dry cappuccino, (Starbucks actually offers a book on ordering, but I didn’t read it) and it hits your small intestine you’ve got about 15 minutes of slush time before the 80-150 mg of caffeine starts to get to work on your central nervous system. Multiple cups will add to the stimulant effect since it takes about five to six hours before it totally clears your body.
Does that mean you can overdose?
Well, as a matter of fact, yes. While most people don’t kill themselves with caffeine (it would take about 10 grams = 80 or more cups in rapid succession), excessive intake of caffine can lead to several psychiatric disorders including caffeine-induced anxiety disorder and of course, sleep disorders. To put it bluntly, a stimulant is a stimulant: take too much you get twitchy and sleepless. You may want to hold off on that 4pm double espresso pick-me-up if you want to catch your requisite eight hours of zzz’s.
But it’s not just the coffee you’ve got to watch. Caffeine shows up in lots of unexpected places and in some pretty hefty quantities. Eight ounces of black tea has got 45 mg. of caffeine as opposed to your regular run of the mill coffee’s 60. Dark chocolate, touted lately for it’s anti-oxidant qualities has 20 mg per ounce. Considering the number of people who consider chocolate dessert this could cause definite sleep problems. Oh, and speaking of dessert, eight ounces of Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Fudge Frozen Yogurt packs a giant 85 mg of caffeine. It may taste like a treat, but don’t hand it to your kids after dinner while they’re watching the latest Disney flick unless you’re hoping to get them to sleep late on Christmas morning.
There are also a few ingenious ways our caffeine loving friends have managed to slip the stuff into other common product, but rather than keep it under raps they proudly display it on their packaging. Favorites among computer programmers everywhere are Jolt Gum, Krank2O, “pick-me-up” drinks like Red Bull and Venom, and of course the old stand bys Vivarin and No-Doz. The great thing about these is that if your tummy just can’t take another Vendi wet latte (I swear, this is a valid Starbucks order) or you’re just sick to death of paying $6 for a coffee, you can turn to any of the above for a change of scenery. But how does the caffeination stack up? Will you still get the same kick? In some cases, a better one. Two pieces of Jolt Gum (available in peppermint and spearmint), or six Penguin Mints (available in chocolate, cinnamon, peppermint, and peppermint light) is the equivalent of drinking two cups of coffee and leaves your breath minty fresh. Sick of drinking or, for that matter, tasting anything at all? Vivarin to the rescue. One tablet has a whopping 200 mg of caffeine. One thing that is important to remember though is that some of these delivery systems seem pretty benign and as a result you could end up taking in a whole lot more caffeine than you intended to. So don’t just go popping those mints for fresher breath. There’s a place in everyone’s life for Tic Tacs.
Vivarin (1 tablet) 200 mg
Double Espresso 45-100 mg
Brewed Coffee 60-120 mg
Jolt Gum (2 pieces) 100 mg
Penguin Mints (6 pieces) 100 mg
No Doz (1 tablet) 100 mg
Red Bull (Regular or Sugar Free) 80 mg
Instant Coffee 70 mg
Decaf Coffee 1-5 mg
Black Tea 45 mg
Green Tea 20 mg
White Tea 15 mg
Coke 34 mg
Pepsi 38 mg
Barq’s Root Beer 22 mg
Sprite 0 mg
Chocolate Milk 4 mg
Dark Chocolate 20 mg
Milk Chocolate 6 mg
Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Fudge Frozen Yogurt 85 mg