SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) – Did you have caffeine today? Be that as tea, coffee, energy drinks, or something else? If you answered yes, then you’d be one of the 80% of all Americans who consume some kind of caffeine every day.

Caffeine is an alkaloid in plants, like tea leaves, coffee and cocoa beans, guarana berries, and the kola nut. Humans have ingested caffeine throughout history in some form or another, i.e., sodas, baked treats, ice creams, and soft candy (even some cosmetics and medicines have caffeine).

If it’s in everything, is it safe? The short answer is yes, and it doesn’t matter whether that caffeine is natural or synthetic; it drives the same response in our body by stimulating our adrenaline and causing us to go into “fight-or-flight” mode. Caffeine doesn’t provide energy. Instead, it’s the adrenaline that wakes us up.

What you need to be cautious of are the other ingredients in your drinks or food that also “enhance” that alert feeling. For instance, an energy drink contains four ounces of sugar, several B vitamins and a proprietary “energy blend” of taurine and other ingredients often found in drinks like Monster Energy, Red Bull and 5-Hour Energy. However, the interaction between caffeine and these other ingredients still needs to be addressed. 

No matter the caffeine, drink it slowly 

One of the differences between coffee and energy drinks is how quickly a person will drink that caffeinated beverage. Often, coffee will be sipped, slowly dispersing the caffeine safely throughout the body. However, energy drinkers tend to drink theirs quickly, not giving the body enough of a chance to work through all the caffeine in a safe manner. Negative side effects of too much caffeine are: 

  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Jitters
  • Upset stomach

There is no evidence caffeine harms pregnant women

A study by the EFSA found no adverse effects for pregnant women or their fetuses when drinking up to 200mg of caffeine every day. There’s also no concern for lactating women for up to 200mg of habitual caffeine consumption. 

Caffeine doesn’t work immediately

It takes a while for caffeine to metabolize in the body, about 30 to 45 minutes to absorb 99% of the caffeine (for some, it could be as little as 15 minutes). Once it’s in your system, though, it can take up to five to six hours to lower its effects, and sometimes the caffeine will stay even longer in your system.

You’re really only supposed to have 400mg of caffeine per day

400mg is safe for healthy adults. That’s about five and a half mainstream energy drinks per day, four regularly brewed eight-ounce coffees, two and a half coffee house coffees, eight cups of green tea, or a little less than two 5-Hour Energy shots. However, pregnant women are suggested to consume half that. 

Caffeine comes in various forms and is a staple in many American diets. In small doses, it’s safe, especially if consumed slowly, so stay aware as you drink.