I was recently diagnosed with an irregular heart beat, which has made me focus on my own health and lifestyle.  I am now taking the correct medication and feeling much better, but the consultant advised me not to drink any caffeine.  As I had a problem with this in the past, it made complete sense and so I researched this subject in more detail.

The European Food Standards Agency (FSA) recommends that adults limit their caffeine intake to 400mg per day.  This equates to 5 single espressos.

The NHS and the European FSA currently quote the following levels of caffeine:

1 mug of filter coffee                     140mg

1 mug of instant coffee                  100mg

1 can of energy drink                     80mg

1 standard espresso                       80mg

1 mug of tea                                  75mg

1 can of cola                                  30-40mg

50g bar of plain chocolate              less than 25mg

50g bar of milk chocolate               less than 10mg

1 mug of decaffeinated coffee        5mg

1 mug of decaffeinated tea            0-5mg

Painkillers may also contain caffeine.  Many high street cafes serve espresso with higher levels of caffeine than quoted here, and some serve double shots unless requested.

The effects of caffeine, along with the amounts you can drink, are very personal.   Side effects may include headaches, nervousness, irritability, anxiety, insomnia or an upset stomach.

The NHS website also states that a high intake of caffeine over stimulates the central nervous system, which can increase your heart rate, cause palpitations or increase your blood pressure.

If you are concerned about the amount of caffeine you are drinking, it is important to change your habits gradually.  Sometimes replace a cup of your favourite drink with a decaffeinated version or herbal tea.  These are now widely available, or try still water instead.

As a Personal Trainer I would not ask you to cut a favourite food or drink out of your daily life.  I believe this causes you to crave it more. Moderation and variety in eating and drinking is more important.

You decide the amount of caffeine you can tolerate each day.  If you reduce your intake, it may be useful to keep a diary, or ask someone you trust to monitor the changes in your general health, sleep patterns and personality.

Best wishes

Jane Ardley

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