How To Deal When You Drink Too Much Coffee

Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
When it comes to coffee, there's a line. And any regular coffee drinker knows what crossing that line feels like: Your heart rate goes up, your hands start to tremble, and you feel like you could snap at any moment. You were just trying to recover from a late night, but now you're pulling all of your mental resources to combatting the "jitters." Is there any way to get off this roller coaster?
According to the Mayo Clinic, a safe amount of caffeine is 400 milligrams per day (about four cups of coffee). Start slurping down more than that regularly and you'll probably find it hard to get to sleep, feel irritable, and have some unfortunate digestion issues.
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But caffeine affects everyone differently. And the "jitters" can absolutely set in even if you stay under that limit — especially if you're not a regular coffee drinker. Plus, caffeine stays in your system for up to 10 hours. So if you do end up having too much, your symptoms can last for up to 14 hours.
So what are you supposed to do until then? Unfortunately, we know a lot more about what not to do. Definitely don't try to drown out those effects with alcohol (remember Four Loko?). And although the calming effects of weed might be tempting, skip it. There's not a lot of data out there about the combination of weed and caffeine, but we do know that both drugs can up your heart rate and your anxiety (especially if you're using high-THC strains). Plus, if you were drinking all that extra coffee in an effort to power through some work, smoking a joint might not exactly help with that.
Internet "experts" often recommend working out if you're over-caffeinated, and there's some reason to think exercise might be effective. "Adrenaline, the hormone responsible for the fight-or-flight response, is released during stress to prepare the body for intense activity," James Lane, PhD, a caffeine researcher at Duke University, tells io9. "Maybe, the intense activity of physical exercise would relieve the effects of the higher adrenaline after too much caffeine." But we'd suggest skipping your intense cardio workout (for now) because both caffeine and exercise raise your heart rate. So the combination of the two might not be super safe.
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Drinking a lot of water also seems like an obvious good idea, and it'll definitely keep you from getting too dehydrated, but Ashley Webb, Pharm.D, director of the Kentucky Poison Control Center, tells Broadly that it's not likely to help with the jitters. "Drinking water is not going to dilute the caffeine in your body, [because, at that point,] you're worried about the effects on a cellular level," she says.
There's also a theory that the potassium in bananas will somehow help with this by replenishing electrolytes. Does it actually work? Sadly, no.
So, really now, what are you supposed to do if you are seriously regretting that extra shot of espresso? Well, if you get to the point where you're feeling heart palpitations and serious muscle tremors, you're going to want to get medical attention. Those could be signs of some scary health issues (e.g. heart attack), so it's a good idea to get checked out.
But if you're just a little jittery, there aren't really any science-backed ways to feel better. You can treat your individual symptoms (e.g. drink more water if you're peeing a lot or stick to easy-to-digest crackers if you're nursing an upset tummy). Beyond that, you've gotta just wait it out — and remember to stick to your usual amount of coffee tomorrow. And hey, at least you're not falling asleep on your keyboard, right?
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