Back in the day when I was writing for the Chicago Tribune, I would guzzle down a Red Bull in the afternoon just to keep my head up — and that’s after several shots of espresso in the morning, mind you. The long stressful hours often made it hard to get enough sleep and the Red Bull would keep me afloat for the rest of the workday.
“How can you drink that stuff,” my coworkers would say, gasping and grimacing as though I was drinking pure liquid caffeine. And as they said this, they stood with their Grande Starbucks coffee cups filled to the brim.
As it turns, they were the ones really gulping down the stuff. According to CSPI’s Nutrition Action Healthletter (the best consumer nutrition source out there), a Grande Starbucks drip coffee has 330 mg. of caffeine. That’s like drinking seven Diet Cokes (45 mg. each). Or like having four Red Bulls (80 mg. each).
Even your home brew can really pack the caffeine — a 16 oz. cup brewed from Starbucks store-bought grounds can have 260 mg. of caffeine.
Espresso is a lightweight by comparison. Each shot has only around 75 mg. Because the grounds are exposed to water for a short amount of time (when the hot steam pushes through), the resulting liquid has much less caffeine. Drip coffee, on the other hand, allows the grounds much more contact with water, resulting in a higher caffeine content.
What surprised me about the Nutrition Action article is how food companies are now stuffing caffeine into all sorts of food products, from gum (Jolt Gum has 60 mg.) to sunflower seeds (Sumseeds sunflower seeds packs 140 mg. into a small package!) to beer (Bud Extra beer has 55 mg.).
Why all the fuss? By consuming several of these products a day, you could easily reach pretty high levels of caffeine and become addicted, causing a bunch of problems.
As an alternative, when you’re feeling sleepy at work, take a short walk outside to perk up and switch to green tea. If you’re reluctant to cut your caffeine fix, at least ask for the half-caf option at Starbucks 🙂