If you’re like us, you probably rely on caffeine to wake up in the morning and keep going all afternoon and evening.
Caffeine is a natural stimulant, and is one of the most commonly used ingredients worldwide.
In this article, we’ll examine the benefits of caffeine, how it works, how much you should take, and the best sources to keep you going all day long!
The Benefits of Caffeine
First, let’s talk about how caffeine can benefit your health:
Caffeine can improve your brain function and mood.
- Improve your short-term recall, reaction time, and alertness
- Lower your risk of depression
- Reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
Caffeine can boost your metabolism.
Caffeine can enhance your exercise performance.
Caffeine can protect against diabetes and heart disease.
- Lower your risk of heart disease by 16-18%
- Lower your risk of stroke by 14-20%
- Lower your risk of diabetes by up to 30%
Additional benefits of caffeine include:
- Reducing the risk of liver damage
- Improving your gut health
- Reducing the risk of liver cancer and colorectal cancer
How Caffeine Works
When you consume caffeine, it’s quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. Then, it travels to your liver to get broken down into compounds that affect various organs in your body.
That said, caffeine primarily affects your brain. It blocks the effects of adenosine, which is the neurotransmitter responsible for making you feel tired. Normally, your adenosine levels rise throughout the day and make you increasingly more tired.
Caffeine helps you stay alert by connecting to those receptors without activating them, leading to less fatigue. It can also increase your blood adrenaline levels, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
That combination stimulates your brain, promoting a state of focus and alertness. Most people feel these effects quickly—the caffeine from a cup of coffee reaches your bloodstream in about 20 minutes, and you get the full effects about an hour after consuming it.
Recommended Caffeine Dosages
The USDA and EFSA agree that a daily intake of 400 mg is a safe amount of caffeine—that’s typically two to four cups of coffee each day.
It’s worth noting that high doses of caffeine have caused fatal overdoses, leading most experts to recommend not consuming more than 200 mg in a single dose.
Experts also recommend that pregnant women limit their daily intake of caffeine to 200 mg or less.
Best Source for Your Caffeine
Caffeine is naturally found in a variety of substances and added to a variety of food and drinks. Let’s look at the best sources that you can get your caffeine from:
Related: Caffeine and Zinc: The Dynamic Duo
An obvious source of caffeine is coffee. Coffee beans provide a natural source of caffeine, and the drink is popular worldwide for its stimulating effects, improving mood, alertness, and energy levels.
While caffeine levels vary between different coffees, a typical eight-ounce cup will contain around 100 mg of caffeine.
Decaf coffee also contains caffeine; however, the levels are drastically less than regular coffee. A cup of decaf coffee typically contains anywhere from 1-50 mg of caffeine.
Like coffee, green tea is a natural source of caffeine. In addition to caffeine, green tea contains amino acids that can have a stress-reducing effect.
The combination of caffeine and theanine in green tea promotes improved cognition and brain function and can reduce anxiety.
An eight-ounce cup of green tea has between 30 and 50 mg of caffeine—about half the amount of a cup of coffee.
If you love tea but green tea doesn’t provide you with the caffeine you need to keep going, look no further than black tea. It has a much higher caffeine content than other types of tea.
Black tea can contain upwards of 80 mg of caffeine — approximately the same as a single cup of coffee — and comes with the health benefits of tea leaves.
Cocoa Beans and Chocolate
Cocoa beans also naturally contain caffeine. All chocolate contains some caffeine, but the amount depends on how much cocoa it contains.
- 100% cocoa chocolate contains about 240 mg of caffeine (about 2.5 cups of coffee).
- 55% cocoa chocolate (bittersweet chocolate) contains about 124 mg of caffeine.
- 33% cocoa chocolate (milk chocolate) contains about 45 mg of caffeine (about one cup of black tea).
Cocoa also contains other compounds, like methylxanthines, which have additional health benefits.
These compounds (including caffeine) have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that also provide some health benefits, which is great news for chocolate lovers!
Guarana, native to the Amazon rainforests in Brazil, naturally contains caffeine. It’s known for its stimulant and antioxidant properties.
The guarana plant can provide increased energy and protection against obesity, high blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome.
It’s not uncommon to find guarana extract as an additive in energy drinks, herbal supplements, soft drinks, and energy bars.
Yerba tea, made from the naturally-growing Ilex paraguariensis tree, is an extremely popular drink in South America.
Yerba mate is a great natural source of caffeine, and experts have praised it for being heart-friendly and providing numerous health benefits with its antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.
These sweet, carbonated drinks are marketed to boost energy levels, alertness, and mood. However, because they are sold as food supplements, they are exempt from testing by the FDA.
Therefore, it’s challenging to determine the caffeine content—one study found that the caffeine in energy drinks ranges anywhere from 50-505 mg.
In addition to caffeine, many energy drinks also contain the amino acid taurine that’s found naturally in the brain and has antioxidant properties.
Looking for a better caffeine alternative than energy drinks? Check out Breinfuel—A healthier way to boost your energy!
Matcha, made from green tea leaves, is a finely ground powder. It has a unique growth process — matcha grows in the shade for around a month before harvest, where the veins and stems get removed.
Matcha also contains EGCG (a unique polyphenol) that can help support weight loss and improve metabolism.
The powder contains approximately 30-40 mg of caffeine in each serving, offering a cleaner, less jittery caffeine hit for those who are sensitive to its effects.
The energy you get from matcha is longer-lasting and more energizing because it contains an amino acid called L-theanine (like green tea), which slows the release of caffeine in your body that can sometimes induce a calming effect.
Not only is matcha a great source of caffeine, it’s also pretty tasty! Additional benefits of matcha include:
- Reducing body fat and increasing energy
- Reducing chronic disease and cancer risks
- Improving mental focus and clarity
Similar to coffee, kombucha is a great, tasty drink that can get you the caffeine you need. Its refreshing, invigorating fizziness can boost your energy, improve your mood, and even help your gut health.
Kombucha is a type fermented beverage that’s made with a mixture of yeast, bacteria, tea, and sugar. This infusion is only called kombucha once you add a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, resulting in a delicious, energizing drink.
Also similar to coffee, kombucha comes in various flavors and types — the drink can be vinegary if it uses a stronger culture, or it can be light, bubbly, and refreshing when made with a weaker culture.
You can buy or make kombucha made from many different teas, meaning that the caffeine levels vary drastically. Typically, kombucha will contain around 10-30 mg per cup.
Other than the energy boost you can get from kombucha, it has various other health benefits, including improving brain and gut health.
A source of caffeine you might not think of is the kola nut, which is native to West Africa. It’s a staple food of the area, prized for its health, economic, and cultural significance — it’s common among all socioeconomic and religious groups in West Africa.
At one time, kola nut was the main ingredient used to flavor commercial sodas, including Coca-Cola. Its use for boosting energy and focus dates back to the 1800s. The kola nut comes from the kola tree, offering an excellent and natural source of caffeine.
In addition to using the kola nut as a food or drink additive, you can also eat it dried or fresh to get your dose of caffeine.
The kola nut has numerous health benefits; however, if you plan to start getting your caffeine from it, it’s best to get it from other sources than sodas, which are associated with negative health consequences like weight gain.
Chewing gum, typically made from tree sap, isn’t a natural source of caffeine; however, many manufacturers include caffeine in their recipes, making caffeinated chewing gum popular among people looking for a quick energy boost.
In addition, some studies have shown that you can absorb caffeine much more quickly in chewing gum than in other forms — this is likely due to how the buccal mucosa cells in our inner cheeks absorb substances.
Chewing gum that contains caffeine may also help increase your attention span and alertness. Depending on the brand, it can contain various amounts of caffeine. For example, the popular brand RunGum contains 25 mg of caffeine in each piece.
Foods With Added Coffee
You can find a plethora of food that contains coffee and caffeine. For example, coffee-flavored bagels, ice cream, and tiramisu are common foods that can give you an energy boost.
Tiramisu is a traditional Italian dessert that’s coffee flavored and made with rum and espresso. Tiramisu and other foods that contain coffee are common sources of caffeine.
However, the amount of caffeine that these foods contain drastically varying amounts of caffeine depending on how many coffee beans get used in the recipe.
Foods With Added Chocolate
We mentioned that cocoa beans and chocolate contain natural caffeine — almost every chocolate-flavored and chocolate-containing drink and foods naturally contains caffeine.
Similar to coffee-flavored foods, the amount of caffeine they contain depends widely on how much cocoa the food or drink contains.
For example, a Grande hot chocolate from Starbucks contains 25 mg of caffeine.
However, this doesn’t mean that every chocolate product contains caffeine — common brands like Nestle and Swiss Miss make hot chocolate mixes that contain zero caffeine.
Breinfuel is a great alternative to energy drinks. With caffeine from green tea extract, natural caffeine from unroasted coffee beans, and green coffee bean extract, it’s never been easier (or tastier) to get your daily dose of caffeine, vitamin C, and vitamin E.
Related: How Breinful Fuels You
Breinful takes the best of coffee and green tea to provide an energy boost full of caffeine, antioxidants, and other brain-boosting ingredients.
What’s your favorite flavor? Get the Breinful you need to keep going all day in peach mango, mixed berry, citrus, and fruit punch! Or try them all with our variety pack!
The Best Sources of Caffeine: Takeaway
Coffee is the first thing most of us think about each morning. Some of us even have a slight obsession with our daily cup of joe.
However, you might wonder about other sources of caffeine, and that’s why we put together this list of caffeinated foods and drinks.
And while it might be challenging to think about waking up without your fresh cup of coffee, you might want to try one of these other sources of caffeine — who knows; you might find your new favorite pick-me-up.
So if you want to try a new source of caffeine, mixing up your regular cup of coffee with one of these options can be an excellent way to boost your energy. While coffee is in our blood, throwing some other caffeine sources into the mix can help provide you with more energy, focus, and various health benefits.