Caffeine has been a topic of this blog previously as part of a conversation about the safety energy drinks for teens. Caffeine is back in the news again, declared illegal in bulk quantities sold directly to consumers by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). It is believed that this move by the FDA is the final step in a series, in attempts to more closely regulate powdered caffeine following the death of a young girl in Ohio in 2014. Generally, results show that 85% of the U.S. population consumes at least one caffeinated beverage per day, mean intake 165 mg/d, making it the most popular drug in the United States. Beyond the typical coffee, tea, and soft drinks it has become a popular dietary supplement to boost energy, improve attention and focus, and athletic performance. Research is mixed on the impact of caffeine on athletic performance, but the general belief is that caffeine can improve endurance and focus. A quick search of the Internet yields a long list of caffeine dietary supplement options that emphasize the benefits, but neglect the potential dangers of overdosing.

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant found in several plants and used in a variety of products. According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation the most common plants, seeds, beans and nuts containing caffeine include coffea arabica (coffee), camelia sinensis (tea), cola acuminate (tea and soft drinks), Theobroma cacao (cocoa and chocolate) and paulinia cupana (snack bars and energy drinks). The Mayo Clinic states consuming up to 400 mg of caffeine per day seems to be safe for adults, adolescents should generally limit their consumption to 100 mg or less. 400 mg is equal to four cups of brewed coffee, 10 cola soft drinks and two “energy shot” drinks. Caffeine is addictive and can lead to withdrawal symptoms after prolonged use including headache, tiredness, anxiety and tension, and muscle pains.

When reviewing the ingredients list of your dietary supplements they may contain caffeine, even if caffeine is not directly listed among the ingredients. It may be listed as:

  • 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine
  • Guaranine/Guarana
  • Kola nut
  • Mateine
  • Methyltheobromine
  • Theine
  • Trimethylxanthine
  • Yaupon Holly
  • Yerba mate

According to the Journal of Education and Nutrition Behavior (2016), 44.6% of adolescents consume caffeine between one and six times per week, 11.4% consume caffeine every day. Participants primarily consumed caffeine with intention of staying alert, but admitted that it is convenient to access in available soft drinks. While research results remain mixed in many areas, researchers are better attempting to understand the impact of caffeine on adolescents by investigating its impact on sleep, anxiety and depression, high-risk behaviors and cardiovascular response.

Caffeine is a popular dietary supplement for athletes because it is believed to increase stamina and physical endurance, lower perceived exertion and decrease muscle pain. The growing body of research shows mixed results, but the most recent results seem to favor the positive impact of caffeine. The International Society of Sports Nutrition states, the use of caffeine capsules appears most effective in supporting improved endurance during athletic performance, supporting caffeine supplementation.

The list of available caffeine dietary supplement products is extremely long, so long, sites such as will rank their top 10. Most often these products are in powdered form, not capsules, making it extremely difficult to dose it properly and increasing the likelihood of over consumption. Caffeine as a dietary supplement is regulated by the FDA, but the FDA does not set an “allowable amount” for caffeine as compared to other substances. Additionally, total caffeine is not currently required to be stated on the label (think energy drinks)

In the end, adolescents should limit their total daily caffeine consumption to 100 mg or less. Use of caffeine supplementation for adolescent athletes should be discouraged, considering the high potential for over consumption of caffeine. Most adolescents will consume the allowable amount of caffeine as part of their usual diet, especially if they consume at least one cup of brewed coffee daily. A cup of coffee typically contains 150 – 200 mg, leaving little room for the incidental consumption that occurs throughout the day. Finally, the potential negative side effects as the result of over consumption, including heart palpitations and jitters outweigh the potential positives.

Disclaimer: The content contained in this blog is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, athletic trainer, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.