Everyday Living

9 Ways You’re Ingesting Caffeine Without Even Realizing It

The average person has a pretty set routine when it comes to caffeine. Whether you start your day with a cup of coffee, nurse a cup of tea on your desk, or mainline espresso all day, you’re probably pretty aware of the amount of caffeine you’re consuming, right? Well, maybe not. Even if you keep meticulous track of the number of caffeinated drinks going into your body, there are still other ways that caffeine can sneak in. It’s nothing that you need to worry about, but if you’re trying to cut down on your intake, or wondering why you’ve been having so much trouble getting to sleep lately, it could be because caffeine has infiltrated your diet in ways you don’t even realize.

Caffeine has its benefits, of course, from sharpening concentration to waking you up to improving memory to relieving stress, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important to be aware of how much of it you’re putting into your body, and in what forms. And we’re not talking about just in the more known sources like caffeinated tea. Like sugar, caffeine is one of those additives that has a habit of sneaking in where you’d least expect it, so here are nine sources that might be giving you a little jolt without you even being aware of it.

1. Decaf Coffee

Even though the name would lead you to believe otherwise, decaf coffee isn’t entirely caffeine-free. Coffee beans contain caffeine naturally, so the decaffeination process can’t eliminate it completely, leaving decaf coffee beans containing usually 1 – 2% of original caffeine content, but sometimes up to 20%. That’s a hugely variable range, especially considering there’s no way of knowing where any individual cup falls on it, as coffee producers aren’t required to disclose the caffeine content of their decaf products.

2. Sodas
Most people are aware that a can of Coke contains caffeine—about 34.5 milligrams of it—but it isn’t just cola drinks that are packing a punch! Diet sodas are particularly egregious offenders, with a drink like Diet Mountain Dew containing 55 mg of caffeine per 12 oz. can, and Diet Pepsi Max racking up 69 mg of caffeine in a single can! Whoa! To put that in perspective, a typical cup of coffee contains about 95 mg, so you’d be getting almost two-thirds of the usual amount of caffeine contained in a coffee, with none of the ritual.

3. Chocolate

Like coffee beans, cocoa beans also naturally contain caffeine, just in a smaller amount. The average candy bar typically doesn’t top out over 10 mg, but the darker the chocolate, the higher the caffeine content, so keep your eyes on the labels!

4. Ice cream
Caffeine 3

It might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s an oft-forgotten fact that coffee- and chocolate-flavored ice creams still contain the same amount of caffeine as the ingredients that make them up! There’s nothing about the ice cream making process that removes the caffeine, which is an important thing to bear in mind when you’re selecting a flavor.

5. Diet pills
Diet pills have a controversial practice of including caffeine as a way to stimulate weight loss. Basically they use the caffeine to curb your appetite, the same way a cup of coffee would, but on a much larger scale: For example, a daily dose of Zantrex-3 includes 1,223 mg of caffeine, the equivalent of 12 cups of coffee. Yikes.

6. Pain relievers

(Image: ABC News)

On the other end of the spectrum, a small amount of caffeine has been proven effective in treating a headache, so it’s an added ingredient in many pain relief tablets, especially those used to treat migraines; two Excedrin tablets contain 130 mg of caffeine, a little more than a cup of coffee.

7. Energy water

(Image: Sabor Da Fruta)

It’s expected for energy drinks in general to have caffeine, but it’s also even included as an ingredient in many energy waters, like VitaminWater’s energy flavor, which contains 80mg per 11.5 fluid ounce can. The typical culprit is the ingredient guarana, pictured above, which is a natural stimulant from Brazil with beans that are about twice as caffeinated as the average coffee bean.

8. Alcoholic energy drinks
Alcohol is a depressant, so alcoholic energy drinks like Four Loko balance that out by pumping their beverages full of caffeine as well, to keep you awake and bouncing around.

9. Fueling gels
Anyone training for a long race like a marathon who uses fueling gels from companies like Hammer should be aware that some flavors—like Tropical and Espresso, in Hammer’s case—contain caffeine. It can provide very real benefits to runners, but if you’re experiencing ill effects like upset stomach or shakiness, it’s something to be aware of, and you may even want to switch to another caffeine-free flavor.

It’s important to be aware of what you’re putting into your body, and we applaud anyone taking a more active role in that process! Just keep your eyes open for the above ways that caffeine is stealthing its way back into your life or diet, and you’ll be well on your way to success!


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