Caffeine Content of Foods and Effects in the Body

Caffeine naturally occurs in many beverages and foods such as coffee, tea, chocolate, etc.  If you are one of the many people who rely on caffeine’s stimulant to get yourself moving in the morning, you may have wondered how much is too much.  To start, let’s take a look at what caffeine does in your body.  Caffiene stimulates the central nervous system and stimulates the heart, dilates blood vessels, relaxes the bronchials, increases gastic acid production and slightly boosts metabolic rate (not enough to lead to a significant weight loss).

A dose of just 100-200 mg can lead to the following side effects;


  • Increased alertness and wakefulness
  • Faster and clearer flow of thought
  • Increased focus
  • Better general body coordination


  • Restlessness
  • Loss of fine motor control
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness

A higher dose of more than 500-600 mg per day can lead to more unpleasant side effects:

  • Insomnia / Restlessness
  • Agitation / Nervousness / Irritability
  • Upset stomach
  • Tremors
  • Rapid Breathing or Rapid Heartbeat

Everyone responds to caffeine a little differently.  Some people are very sensitive and notice the side effects with very little caffeine (this is especially true for people who consume very little caffeine), while some people seem to naturally have a higher tolerance for it or have built up their tolerance.

There are several circumstances where limiting/ avoiding caffeine is also important:

  • During Pregnancy (or when trying to conceive): According to the March of Dimes, it is recommended that women drink no more than 200 mg per day.  Some studies have found that higher levels of caffeine can contribute to fertility problems or miscarriages.  Caffeine may also decrease blood flow to the baby which can cause harm.
  • When Breastfeeding:  It is recommended to drink no more than 2-3 cups of coffee per day as some caffeine does get into the breast milk and can make the baby irritable or have difficulty sleeping
  • When having difficulty sleeping:  Caffeine can lead to insomnia and interrupt sleep patterns.  Caffeine’s half life is 3 ½ – 4 hours, so it does remain in your system for up to 8 hours.  If you want a cup of coffee or tea and are having difficulty sleeping, it would be to your benefit to try decaf or only have caffeine in the morning.
  • When you take medications that interact with caffeine: Some antibiotics, herbal supplements and medications that open the bronchial airways may interact with caffeine.  Talk with your doctor to see if caffeine affects any medications you are taking.

The Following is a chart with the average caffeine content of many beverages and foods.

Beverage Portion size Caffeine
Espresso (restaurant-style) 1 oz (30 ml) 40-75 mg
Starbucks Espresso 1 oz 75 mg
Decaf Espresso (restaurant-style) 1 oz 0-15 mg
Generic Brewed Coffee 8 oz (240 ml) 95-200 mg
Mcdonald’s Coffee 8 oz 50 mg
Starbucks Pike Place Coffee 8 oz 165 mg
Dunkin Donuts Coffee 8 oz 103 mg
Generic Instant Coffee 8 oz 27-173 mg
Generic Decaf  (Brewed or Instant) 8 oz 2-12 mg
Starbucks Pike place decaf 8 oz 12.5 mg
Starbucks Latte 8 oz 75 mg
Starbucks Frappuccino (average) 9.5 oz 115 mg
McDonald’s Mocha Frappe 8 oz 62.5 mg
Black Tea 8 oz 14-61 mg
Black Tea (Decaf) 8 oz 0-12 mg
Greet Tea 8 oz 24-40 mg
Brewed tea 8 oz 48 mg
Generic instant Iced Tea 8 oz 26-36 mg
Lipton Brisk Lemon Iced Tea 8 oz 5-7 mg
AriZona Iced Tea (lemon) 8 oz 11 mg
Snapple (lemon, peach, raspberry) 8 oz 21 mg
Nestea 8 oz 17 mg
Soft Drinks
7UP, Sprite, A & W Root Beer 12 oz 0 mg
Barq’s Root Beer 12 oz 18-22 mg
Coca-Cola (Classic and Zero) 12 oz 30-35 mg
Diet Coke 12 oz 38-47 mg
Pepsi 12 oz 32-39 mg
Pepsi One 12 oz 54 mg
Diet Pepsi 12 oz 27-37 mg
Dr Pepper 12 oz 36-42 mg
Mountain Dew 12 oz 46-55 mg
Jolt Cola 12 oz 72 mg
Energy Drinks
Vault (Regular and Sugar Free) 8 oz 47 mg
AMP (Regular and Sugar Free) 8 oz 72-74 mg
Red Bull (Regular and Sugar Free) 8.3 oz 80 mg
Rockstar Energy Drink 8 oz 80 mg
Monster Energy 8 oz 80 mg
5- Hour Energy 2 oz 207 mg
Chocolate Beverages
Hot Cocoa 1 envelope 8-12 mg
Chocolate milk 8 oz 5-8 mg
Chocolate Chips 1 Cup 104 mg
Hershey’s Kisses 9 pieces 9 mg
Dark chocolate-coated Coffee Beans 28 pieces 336 mg
Coffe Ice Creams (Starbucks, Ben & Jerry’s, Haagen-Daz) 1 Cup 50-84 gm
Excedrin, Extra Strength 2 tablets 130 mg
Vivarin 1 tablet 200 mg
NoDoz, Maximum Strength 1 tablet 200 mg

The bottom line, you can you continue to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning without worrying about your caffeine consumption.  However, as with anything else with nutrition, moderation is always the best policy.