When You’ve Had Too Much Caffeine

Yes, It's Possible to Overdose on Caffeine

Coffee can be good for you – in moderation. If you’ve had too much, here’s how to curb the worst effects.

Runners love their coffee – and for good reason. There are many ways in which a pre-run cup can make you a better runner: improving reaction time, boosting mood and making exercise feel easier.

There’s even evidence it can speed certain runners up (though it may slow others down). Still, you can have too much of a good thing.

Perhaps you feel your heart racing out of control during an easy jog, when you realise that triple shot of espresso was maybe a mistake. Your hands shake as you wipe sweat off your face.

You’re officially buzzed – and not in a good way.

The good news is that mild caffeine over-indulgences (like an extra cup of coffee or two) are not dangerous, says Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at the NYU Langone Medical Center.

Still, feeling like your heart is thumping to a dubstep beat isn’t pleasant.

Which brings us to the bad news: you’re going to be feeling like this for a while.

“Four to six hours is the general rule of thumb for how long it takes caffeine to wear off,” says Heller.

However, there’s a range in how people metabolise the stimulant. Your weight, genetics and tolerance will determine how edgy you feel and for how long. Unfortunately, there’s not a ton you can do to speed up that process, says Heller.

Adam Splaver, a cardiologist, suggests hydrating well to flush the caffeine out of your system. Exercise may also help, since it will torch excess energy while speeding up your metabolism – so continue that run.

If you start to feel yourself panicking, Heller recommends taking a deep breath and reminding yourself that the situation is chemically induced and temporary, since caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant.

“It affects the body chemistry in ways that make us launch into fight or flight mode,” she says, so freaking out only makes the situation worse.

Want to make sure you never experience this horrible state of being again?

Try to limit your caffeine intake to 400 milligrams a day, says Heller. Most brewed coffee has anywhere from 80 to 200 milligrams.

“There’s a lot of variation depending on how it’s made and what type of coffee it is,” she explains.

Two or three cups is fine, but going over that is asking for trouble.

And if you start feeling nauseous, faint or dizzy, you may be tottering on the edge of a true overdose. While rare, overdoses can be serious, especially if you have a known heart condition or high blood pressure.

“[An overdose] can cause heart rhythm disturbances, vasoconstriction, heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure in certain populations,” says Splaver.

If you think you’ve truly overdosed, you should head to the emergency room – just don’t blame your barista for over-serving you.

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