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“Tina, how much coffee or energy drink should we drink?”
“How many hours should we wait before we drink another cup of coffee or bottle of energy drink?”
“How much caffeine intake each day is considered safe?”
It is not unusual for my law school classmates, and even colleagues, to ‘bombard’ me with these questions.
A number of them think that it’s always easy for me to complete my law school readings or work assignments simply because I’m a nurse by profession. They believe that nurses are great in staying up late and can tolerate a gallon of caffeine in our system.
Seriously, because I am a nurse?
At the outset, being a nurse, doctor, or a health professional is beside the point. Researches on safe caffeine intake and limits are actually evolving over time.
But more importantly, my being a health care professional does not always mean I know better.
I would always respond to these questions based on my own [painful] experience and learnings — not because I am a know-all-nurse.
Law school taught me the hard way.
One night, while I was preparing for my criminal law recitation for the next day, I found myself calling Mama and Papa for help.
My heart rate was so fast and I felt as if my heart’s going to jump out my rib cage.
I was having serious palpitations.
That day, I drank my second cup of coffee and one large bottle of energy drink.
The next thing I knew, I skipped my Criminal Law class the next day to get myself checked by our family doctor. Good thing, with divine intervention, our prosecutor-professor gave us a free cut.
This incident was a wake up call for me. While I’d love to infuse my body intravenously with caffeine, it couldn’t be more obvious that my system can only take in as much.
I knew it was bad to binge on caffeine. However, given all the tasks I needed to accomplish back then (at work and law school), I was left with no choice.
Or so I thought…
So, how much caffeine is safe to drink each day?
Everyday Caffeine Limit
While caffeine is considered by health professionals as an anti-oxidant, and thus good for your health, studies reveal that caffeine intake of 400 to 600 milligrams “are not associated with adverse effects for most people.” Meanwhile, some studies tell that our maximum intake should not go beyond 400 milligrams each day.
Just to be on the “safer” side, I prefer to abide by the 400-milligram caffeine limit.
Caffeine content varies depending on the beverage you ingest. But to give you an idea, an average 237-ml coffee cup contains roughly 95 milligrams of caffeine.
So, following the 400-milligram caffeine limit per day, you should consume only up to 4 cups of coffee a day.
If you’re into colas, the recommended caffeine intake limit should not be more than 10 cans of cola. As for energy drinks, 400 milligrams of caffeine is the same as having two (2) “energy shot” drinks.
Bad things happen when you drink more than enough
Caffeine is a “feel good” substance. The reason why I (and, perhaps, the rest of you) love it, is because it makes me more attentive, alert, and energized.
It is so good that you don’t feel like stopping from drinking or consuming it any time soon.
Been there, done that.
Like those who consume more than our human bodies can tolerate, I also experienced most of these symptoms in my early years of law-school-coffee-binging:
- stomach upset (I get this A LOT.);
- vomiting; and
- increased heart rate and breathing rate (Remember my wake-up call incident I stated above?)
- muscle tremors; and
But the majority of us, law students and coffee junkies, turn from coffee enthusiasts to ADDICTS. Addiction is one of the chronic caffeine-related symptoms that a caffeine-dependent law student faces.
Regulate, look for alternatives
For law students or professionals who drink coffee or energy drinks like water, I’m so sorry to be the bearer of this bad news. But for all it’s worth, it’s relieving to know that caffeine intake per se is not bad for our health.
It’s EXCESSIVE CAFFEINE intake that is.
Nonetheless, it won’t hurt if law students would look for other alternatives to increase their endurance, and keep themselves energized and motivated in law school without resorting to coffee-binging or caffeine-dependence. There are other ways that they could try like regular exercise, getting enough sleep, and establishing a reliable and consistent bedtime routine.
Right after my “palpitation incident” happened, I vowed to live healthier as a law student in the days to come. Though it wasn’t easy at all, I did my best to cut down my caffeine intake to just 2-3 cups of coffee (4 cups during exam weeks) or one bottle of energy drink each day. I also corrected my erratic sleep-wake cycle.
These alternatives did not just keep my cardiovascular health safe, they also made me more focused and productive throughout the day.
Caffeine dependence may be difficult to deal with at first, but you can sure cut down your intake to minimum and safe levels. What I thought before as impossible because of my status as a working law student, was actually doable.
It just needs patience, determination, and discipline.
I did it.
So can you.
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