No, despite our name, we’re a caffeine tracker. But if you came here looking for one, this post may point you in the right direction. What you’ll find here is a caffeine infographic with the approximate amount of caffeine in common caffeine-containing foods and beverages, a look at some of the available apps for tracking caffeine intake, and a simple printable pdf daily caffeine tracker sheet. However, we might post more in the future about caffeine and coffee, as we enjoy writing about both health and yummy beverages.
So, you came to a website called CaffeineJournal.com, expecting to find an actual Caffeine Journal here? We’re genuinely sorry for your disappointment (and, it seems, know how to apologize without actually apologizing.)
But, so that this website lives up (just a bit) to its name, we include this post about caffeine intake and tracking.
Are you up at night? Are you getting the jitters, is your heart pounding? Maybe you have a caffeine issue! Is caffeine addictive? Are you considering the Folgers Crystal IV Drip? Hmmm…maybe you do have a coffee addiction (though, of course, you’re off the hook if you use only freshly ground monkey-picked organic coffee in your IV.)1
If you do, it might be beneficial to look at reducing your intake or (*gasp*) possibly even eliminating it. And if you’re like me and have a Nespresso in your bedroom, you might need to look at the question of whether you have a caffeine addiction. My rationalization is that I’m trying to “make my bedroom like a B&B.” Excuses, excuses!
Let’s take a look at many things caffeine related here, but let’s start with an infographic because you love them. You know you do.
Possible Benefits of Caffeine
You want to hear of the benefits of caffeine because it helps you feel OK about that pot of coffee you drink every morning or those triple-shot beverages you drink throughout the day. But research has suggested that caffeine does have some positive effects. Caffeine may:
- Improve physical performance 2
- Improve cognitive performance
- Prevent diabetes (the effect here is from the coffee vs the caffeine.)
- Prevent neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
Note that the word here is may. The studies cited above are only a small sampling of the vast literature on the subject. Some of the studies you’ll find seem contradictory. And caffeine is not a treatment for any condition. When I worked in healthcare, I knew plenty of coffee drinkers who had diabetes or dementia. Still, it’s good to know that my daily dose may be doing something worthwhile for my health.
Possible Harmful Effects of Caffeine
Despite the potential benefits to cognitive and physical performance, caffeine also has some potential harmful side effects:
- Insomnia: It is is a well-known drawback of caffeine (though sometimes an advantage when I pulled those late-night cram sessions as a student.) But, like most things, it doesn’t appear to affect everyone equally. Anecdotally, I’ve heard reports of people who could nap after consuming an energy drink. A study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine suggested that caffeine, even six hours before going to bed, could contribute to insomnia, a good argument for not imbibing later in the day.
- Anxiety: Racing heart, jitters, racing thoughts. Too much coffee: Racing heart, jitters, racing thoughts. I’ve had days where I had these symptoms? Was I anxious, or did I just have too much coffee? One interesting study in Psychiatry Research suggests that people who score higher on anxiety scales are also more sensitive to caffeine intake. If you’re anxious, try to reduce or eliminate caffeine for a significant amount of time and see if it makes a difference; likely it will.
- Headaches: Caffeine headaches go two ways: withdrawal is the typical reason for a caffeine headache. If you’ve ever tried going cold-turkey when you’re an avid coffee drinker, you know for a fact that caffeine is addictive. The proof is in the headache. But many conventional headache medicines, like Excedrin, contain caffeine. Caffeine is both a vasoconstrictor — meaning that it narrows your blood vessels — and an anti-inflammatory. Between constricting blood flow just a bit and fighting inflammation, some caffeine can actually fight headaches.
- Digestive issues: If you shop at novelty stores, you’ve likely seen the “Coffee Makes Me Poop” mug. If you’re a coffee drinker, you know this to be true. This laxative effect can be a benefit of coffee. But if you have IBS, heartburn, or other digestive issues, coffee can be a problem. Its acidity can contribute to heartburn and reflux; people with IBS and other digestive problems don’t need something that irritates their stomach lining further.
So what if I need to reduce, eliminate, or manage my caffeine intake?
Trying to look up studies, I couldn’t find the “one true right way” to quit caffeine. It’s really up to you and your quitting style. Here are your options:
Quitting Caffeine Gradually
My best quitting style is this: gradual. Start reducing your consumption by replacing food and beverages containing caffeine with those free from caffeine. Keep doing this progressively until you’ve either reduced your caffeine intake to a level you can tolerate, or eliminated it entirely. Start using half-caf coffee, or water down that Americano a little bit more. Then progress to decaf. Or, if you genuinely hate drinking decaf coffee, find other delicious warm beverages to replace your coffee. Just make sure they don’t, themselves, contain caffeine. Pretty soon, you’ll have less caffeine in your blood system instead of not enough blood in your caffeine system.
If you’re having withdrawal symptoms during this time — headaches, for instance — make less severe cuts in your caffeine consumption and prolong the duration of your quitting plan.
Most of the time you know your typical behavior. You know you drink ten cups so maybe you start with reducing to nine.
But if you’re really nit-picky and like to track everything or if you don’t’ know how much caffeine you’re taking in, tracking your caffeine intake, either via an app or the “old-fashioned” way on a piece of paper, might be helpful.
Quitting Caffeine Cold-Turkey
For some people, the gradual reduction strategy will just lead to slipping in that extra cup. “Oh, just one more right now won’t hurt…” If this is you, cold-turkey might be the best approach.
Of course, if you’re a heavy consumer of caffeine, you’ll likely encounter withdrawal symptoms with this approach. However, your time to zero caffeine will be much shorter. Kind of like ripping off a band-aid: the pain will be more intense, but it won’t last as long.
While I don’t know of any ways to entirely prevent caffeine withdrawal when you’ve decided to go cold-turkey, some things may help to mitigate the suffering. If you’re getting headaches, some medications may help. But be careful, some medicines used to fight headaches have caffeine themselves. Acetaminophen is generally safe to use. However, check the safety with your doctor if you have liver issues or drink alcohol. And developing good sleep habits can help.
Caffeine Tracking (or Quitting) Apps
If you want to know how much caffeine you take in during an average day, there’s, of course, an app for that. I’m an avid user of MyFitnessPal, but I think it’s unfortunate that, with all of the nutrition information MyFitnessPal tracks, it doesn’t track caffeine. However, sometimes foods sneak caffeine in on you; frequently, you won’t find on the label how many milligrams of caffeine they contain.
Several apps on GooglePlay or the iOs App Store can help you keep track. Here are some of my favorites (perhaps I’ll review them individually at another time):
Caffeine Tracking by RECaf (iOS only, with an Apple Watch app):
RECaf is one of my favorites among caffeine tracking apps; it integrates nicely with HealthKit, has an Apple Watch app. But, it turns out that it comes with a price tag. You can try it for fourteen days free, but then it’s $4.99/year after that.
It’s pretty thorough: you can choose from plenty of categories from coffee to food to medications, and then you’ll find several choices within each category. If you can’t find what you want, you’re able to enter outside information about your caffeinated food or beverage.
The dosages of caffeine on some of the items in the app differ a bit from some of the data that I have encountered. One cup of coffee, however, likely does not equal another. I’m willing to bet that my Nespresso differs from my Keurig differs from my Americano brewed with my Espresso machine.
Caffeine App (iOS)
Caffeine App is another good premium caffeine tracking app. By premium, I mean that it’s not free. However, the cost is only $3.99 on the App Store. It doesn’t seem to offer as many built-in choices for food, drinks, and medications, but it also gives you a “sleep level” notification: when it thinks you are “sleep ready,” due to your lack of caffeine intake over time.
Caffeine Addiction Calendar is for those who want to quit, versus managing, caffeine. I love it because its bright interface looks like someone designed it who’d had a bit too much caffeine themselves.
It makes this list mostly because I love it; it’s not truly a caffeine tracker; it’s more just a fun motivational tool. Enter your start date, and it awards you with badges for different caffeine recovery milestones. Need motivation? It will give you an inspirational quote. Need reasons to quit? It will remind you of the adverse effects of caffeine. Panicking? It will reward you with calming puppy pictures.
This is a “cold turkey” approach app, but it might be fun on those days when you’re tempted just to have that lovely quadruple shot in the morning, only this one time.
Like Caffeine Addiction Calendar, Quit Caffeine is geared toward stopping. I don’t have an Android phone, so I haven’t been able to test this one. But it appears to have a fun interface that reminds you of money saved, mg avoided, as well as the time it may take you to recover as you as you get more blood in your caffeine system.
Caffeine Tracker is a basic caffeine tracker app. Its present selections, however, are beverage-oriented — you won’t find medications or food in here — and, as it’s a free app, you’ll find plenty of ads.
Of course, you can always add additional items here not included in the app, but it just tracks today’s total of caffeine. It doesn’t track history, nor are there any charts comparing one day’s caffeine intake to another.
I also couldn’t find any options to link it with the caffeine intake stats in HealthKit — most of the caffeine tracker apps you’ll find on iOS include that option.
But if what you want is just your total milligrams for the day, this app might work for you.
This Caffeine Tracker differs from the caffeine tracking app mentioned above. This one includes some preset beverages and the ability to add your own. It also includes a nice graph to see your caffeine levels at different times. Its price? .99.
Water and Coffee — which is an app about precisely what its name implies — currently has a five-star rating on the App Store, which, I think, is purely for its simplicity. You can add 8oz water at a time or 1 cup of coffee at a time. Just two simple choices in a world of decision paralysis. It tracks your intake of these two beverages and calculates your total caffeine during the day. You won’t find any fancy beverage choices here. Just water and coffee. That’s it.
Tracking Your Caffeine Intake With Pen and Paper
If you’re low-tech, you can, of course, just use pen and paper to track your caffeine intake. Just make a daily sheet and keep track of the amount of caffeine-containing food and beverages you take it and the amount of caffeine each one has, then total it up at the end of the day.
Tracking your moods, sleep, and any physical symptoms along with it can give you some insight into how your caffeine intake may be affecting you physically and mentally. If you keep a written log, save those daily sheets, and look back at them over time to identify any patterns in quality of sleep, headaches, or anxiety.
While I enjoy my morning cup (OK, cups) of coffee too much to entirely give up caffeine, I am working on decreasing my intake. Maybe that first step is moving the Nespresso out of the bedroom.
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- Footnote for the too-serious: do not ever give yourself a coffee IV. Just like you would never inject yourself with household disinfectants.
- Though caffeine intake when you’re not training may lessen the benefits when you’re ready to train.