How much is too much and how to contain your daily fix

Caffeine consumes Americans' lives

By Marshanna Hester

February 28, 2013 Updated Feb 28, 2013 at 3:29 PM CDT

CENTRAL ILLINOIS -- It's hard to fight the urge when it's everywhere. On TV, every street corner, work and home.

That's why it should be no surprise the Food and Drug Administration says more than 80 percent of American adults consume caffeine every day. The stimulating drug can have such an impact on some people, they become dependent upon it to function, like an addiction.

"It's more of like, I always call it the elixir of life," said Ty Paluska, co-owner of Thirty-Thirty Coffee Co. in Downtown Peoria

Energy drinker Courtney Shattuck said, "It's just a nice roller coaster throughout the day."

"I do enjoy a good jolt of caffeine," said Fred Kraus, owner of Eysals in East Peoria. "It's pleasing to me."

"It's something that if I don't take some caffeine during the day I can feel that," coffee drinker Eli Suddarth.

Suddarth has, at most, three cups of joe a day, two in the morning and an afternoon pick-me-up.

He's tried coffee fasts, but always comes back to the caffeine, which he said has many functions. It provides a social atmosphere, tastes good and gives his brain energy.

"Words seem to come better when I've had a cup of coffee," he said. "I'm able to be a bit more focused on the kind of work I do is helpful."

That's one of the reasons Shattuck turns to caffeine.

The director for HOI 19's Daybreak heads to work at 3:30 a.m. with a 16-ounce Monster energy drink. In between making graphics to air, she finds time to sip and get her fix.

But nearly four hours later, Shattuck switches it up.

"I go to Eysals and get my coffee, which is usually a latte with three shots of espresso," she said.

Around noon, she's back to the unfinished Monster and, 12 hours after starting her day, she still hasn't had anything to eat.

Shattuck's caffeine routine could be dangerous, but without it, she's in just as much trouble.

She continued, "I get really bad migraine's, like intense migraine's, to the point where I have to turn off all the lights, hide under covers, close my eyes and hope I can fall asleep."

Registered psychiatric nurse Mary Beth Antar said when withdrawal symptoms get that bad, it's time to evaluate your caffeine intake.

She said too much can be toxic, dehydrating the body that users experience a "crash" or energy drop.

"What you really need at that time is probably nutrients," Antar said. "Because if you keep drinking the coffee, it's depleting B vitamins, calcium, your joints aren't getting lubricated, your blood doesn't flow through your body in the same way."

Experts say moderation is key. No more than 300 milligrams of caffeine a day.

That's either five, 20-ounce bottles of coke; or three, 8-ounce cups of coffee; or two, 16-ounce Red Bull's. But Antar said an energy boost really comes from within.

"Everybody has the capacity to feel that just by getting enough exercise, eating right, learning social skills," she continued. "We don't need a drug to make us feel good."

A recent report by Packaged Facts shows energy drink sales increased 60 percent over the last four years, worth $12.5 billion in 2012.

The ability to get a buzz cheaper and easier is more appealing to younger consumers, but some local coffee shop owners, like Paluska and Kraus, aren't phased.

"We let our coffee do the talking so to speak," Paluksa said. "We encourage people to try coffee from all over the place or if they want to go get their energy drinks."

Kraus said, "it's a socialization that really money can't buy or take away. It's just naturally given."

"It's just one of those things that it's kind of a necessary evil," said Suddarth.

"If it tastes good and if it lasts all day, why not keep buying it?" said Shattuck.

No matter if you sip, swig or gulp, experts say know your body's caffeine limits and drink responsibly.