Are you Sensitive to Caffeine? How to tell & what to do about it

Caffeine is powerful stuff.

It can be an incredible, performance enhancing boost – or turn quickly into an unhappy list of side-effects. Awareness of how caffeine affects your body is key to making the most of the benefits while avoiding the more unpleasant side!

The first step is gauging your sensitivity. Loosely defined as “how easily your body metabolises caffeine,” 2 sensitivity describes how much caffeine you can consume over a period of time without overloading your system, and is determined by your genetics. 2 Everyone falls somewhere on a spectrum, from highly sensitive (cannot process caffeine) to not sensitive at all (immediately metabolize with little to no discernable effects).3 Figuring out where you sit is the first step to hitting that perfect amount of daily intake!


How do you know you’ve had too much?

Look for jitters, trembling hands, exaggerated energy output (think reaching for a cup and knocking it over), sensitivity to noise and movement, insomnia, or unease. Caffeine can also exacerbate previously existing conditions, including stomach problems and anxiety.1

In cases where individuals are unable to process caffeine at all, caffeine builds up over time before suddenly flaring up in a variety of ways, including: skin problems (rashes, hives, itching etc.), rapid mood changes, headaches, shortness of breath, chest pain, and cold sweats. Extreme cases resulted in panic attacks, numb extremities, swelling in the throat, and hallucinations.1

Please don’t mess yourself up on caffeine, is what we’re saying.

However! High sensitivity is rare: most healthy adults can have up to 400mg a day with no lasting side effects,3 and the more common unpleasant ones can be easily mitigated by tracking how much caffeine you’re having during the day. Check this handy little pocket guide!


Caffeine Guide

Sources: 7, 8


If you’re realizing that you’re overloading on caffeine regularly, here are some alternative strategies!

Decaf coffee – Okay. Obvious. Check out this post for the scoop on how to find the best!

Half caff – For some, the goldilocks amount may be somewhere in the middle. Replace half the amount of beans with decaf for your regular brew! This also works for espresso drinks; your barista will be able to hook you up.

Tea – We’re unabashedly coffee people, but adding a cup of tea to your daily routine has its own benefits –  less caffeine potentially being one of them.

Clever Timing – Sometimes, the problem is not the amount, but the timing. Monitor how caffeine affects you at different points during the day! You may find that it’s best to drink your joe early, or with a meal, or spaced out over a few hours. It’s all about fine-tuning for best results!


Some important things to keep in mind:

It takes about 45 minutes to process caffeine. If you’re feeling an immediate rush, it’s more likely to be from sugars.2

Decaf coffee still has caffeine. The FDA requires that 97% be removed to be considered “decaf” – but trace amounts are still present, less in instant coffees. (Our decaf is especially good, with 99.9% removed.)6

While coffee is the most common source, caffeine can be found in chocolate, soda, and some pain-relievers, as well as a variety of foods marketed under words like “jolt” and “spark.” (Beef jerky? Oatmeal? Kay cool.)5

If you’re noticing frequent negative side effects from caffeine, give yourself at least two weeks without caffeine to re-stabilize.1


Ultimately, it’s all about the quality of the experience, and for many coffee-enthusiasts, caffeine is an integral part of that. It’s all about finding that perfect balance!

Happy sipping!