coffee consumption at workWhether yours is a flat white, espresso or a straight black Americano, that daily dose of caffeine alerts the senses, sharpens the mind and kick-starts the day. But how much is too much?

Every morning, we see how society runs on coffee. The coffee shops are packed with punters anxious to get their hit to go. And it’s no wonder: every year in the UK we gulp down an estimated 2.2 billion cups of coffee in the UK, and up to 400 billion cups worldwide.

What are the pros and cons of the great bean?

Firstly, let’s set the benchmark for how much caffeine you should have per day. The daily recommended intake of caffeine should be no more than 400 mg, which works out at about 4 mugs of coffee (half that if you’re pregnant). Sticking to that guideline can bring many benefits, such as…

A creativity boost

If you feel sharp and full of ideas after a brew, here’s the science: Coffee inhibits a compound in your brain known as adenosine, which helps induce sleep.

When you wake up, your brain has its highest concentration of adenosine floating around. Coffee blocks your adenosine receptors and kick-starts your brain’s neurological activity.

The feel-good factor

Coffee is brimming with a wide array of significant health benefits. The caffeine boosts dopamine levels in your brain (making you feel good), and may pack antioxidants that may reduce stress levels. It’s been linked to a lower risk developing cancer, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and liver cirrhosis… to name but a few.

Feeling the burn

A caffeine hit before hitting the gym, or any sport, may boost your alertness and performance gains. Nature’s own pre-workout comes in handy for high endurance running, cycling, football or rugby… whatever you’re donning the Lycra for. If you’re looking to melt some body fat away, caffeine has a fat-releasing effect known as lipolysis, which releases free fatty acids in the bloodstream helping to burn body fat.

Longer life?

Is coffee the elixir of youth that’s been under our noses the whole time? It’s possible, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study found that over the 12-13-year study period (1995/6 to 2008), the middle-aged people who tended to live longer drank more coffee – around 4 to 5 cups a day. It’s not conclusive, but it looks promising.

Got out of the wrong side of bed and finding that coffee is keeping you there? Here’s why and when to go easy:

Sleepless nights

Coffee stays in your body for 24 hours, so if it’s still in your system when you’re supposed to be winding down then it can impact your sleep.

A prolonged inability to get a good night’s kip can seriously harm your career prospects – too much caffeine coursing around the body can cause a lack of focus, and can make the hardest of workers slack off.

As well as falling productivity, too much caffeine can even increase the risk to your long-term mental and physical illness – think increased anxiety, depression, tremors and irritability.

It’s expensive

In 2015, research by guarantor loans company Buddy Loans found that we spend a whopping £730 million on coffee every year, which works out roughly at £660 per person if you’re buying your daily fix from Starbucks!

You could spend as much as £15,000 on coffee throughout your lifetime, especially if you enjoy grand creations resplendent with syrups, toppings and the like.

You could trim a few pounds off your coffee spend (and waistline) by choosing less flamboyant options (the ones where you can taste the actual coffee), or by buying an espresso machine or filter. But if you don’t want to give up that little luxury, keep your loyalty cards handy. Points win free coffees, which are even tastier.

It’s addictive

It’s worth remembering that caffeine is a stimulant, which is addictive the more you consume it. Over a prolonged period your body develops a higher tolerance to caffeine, meaning you’ll need to drink more of it to get the same effects. That overconsumption could harm your brain and cause behavioural problems in the long term.

That’s why it’s worth trying alternatives to coffee that offer health benefits and give you the same sense of a pick-me-up like green tea, kombucha, redbush or even coconut water.