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Cappuccino or Latte? Take the Caffeine Challenge

articles Jan 24, 2024

A (very savvy) coffee-inclined client of mine was debating the difference between the calorie content of a cappuccino and a flat white. Little did I know there was such a difference due to the method of making the drink, so does it really amount to that much around the waist line?

The answer is: it doesn't really matter what type of coffee you prefer, but rather how MANY you drink (and therefore the level of caffeine consumed) and the REASON for grabbing your fifth for the day.

Number of coffees a day

​The recommendations for caffeine limits per day is based on research, as opposed to any particular health body. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ)’s expert advisory group reviewed the literature available and noted that safe levels of caffeine (from all sources such as coffee, tea, cola drinks, energy drinks, supplements) per day is:

  • 400mg for adults (this equates to approximately 3 cups of espresso coffee; one shot contains ~ 145mg caffeine) 
  • 200mg for pregnant and breastfeeding women
  •  For children, the equivalent of two cans of cola can result in increased levels of anxiety and anyone under the age of 18 years does really need to consuming any sources of caffeine.

Caffeine levels in drinks

Image source: FSANZ

Caffeine is easily absorbed in the body and can take between 5 - 30 minutes to see the effects. Caffeine increases your heart rate and breathing, mental alertness and physical energy levels. For some people, these effects can last up to 12 hours in the body.

Excessive levels of caffeine can manifest into symptoms such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Increase in body temperature
  • Frequent urination
  • Dehydration
  • Heart palpitations (rapid heartbeat)
  • Restlessness, irritability or excitability
  • Anxiety
  • Trembling hands
  • Poor sleep
  • ​Spikes of energetic feelings followed by sudden onset of fatigue

The thing with caffeine is the more you drink, the more you want (or perceive that you need).

Your body becomes tolerant and so it takes more and more to get the same high you felt when you were consuming less. Plus, dehydration can set in which sends the wrong signals that you need to drink more coffee or tea when what you really need is water. This can become a vicious cycle, which can lead to more severe health problems such as kidney stones, anxiety and high blood pressure.

Takeaway coffee cup

Reasons for drinking coffee or tea

How often do you turn to your trustie caffeine hit to boost your energy levels? It may feel like your saviour at 7am or 3pm, but what if it was only providing you a false high?

The real reason you might be needing a pick-me-up is not from lack of focus, but perhaps a lack of adequate food fuelling.

Picture this - you start your day with a large latte on the way to the office. Once you get to your desk, emails and meeting preoccupy your mind and the opportunity for breakfast has gone.

​At 10:30am you start to feel flat and slightly peckish. Simultaneously, your colleague calls a coffee run and next minute you’re sipping on coffee numero duo (with a side of banana bread) which settles the empty feeling and you feel perky for the rest of the morning. Sound familiar?

The truth is, you are essentially filling your petrol tank with a heap of fumes and nothing of actual substance.

The energy bursts you experience are only transitional states of alertness while underneath, your body is doing its best to run on ~3 cups of milk (and perhaps a bit of banana bread). The sensation of fullness falsely comes from the density of the milk, as opposed to real food and sadly, this can mess with your appetite cues.

Do you feel sick if you eat breakfast first thing in the morning? That may be because you’ve conditioned your stomach to only tolerate liquid calories in the early half of the day, as opposed to the normal feeling of fullness and adequate digestion.

And it’s not just the morning window that this might be occurring. If you skip lunch or graze throughout the day with multiple cups of coffee (or tea) then again, you experience this ‘top up’ sensation of caffeine highs and fluid-filled fullness rather than healthy, balanced meal times.

What you can do - CHALLENGE TIME!

Step 1. Find out what type of caffeine drinker you are by asking yourself these questions:

  • How many caffeinated drinks do you drink a day?

  • How many of them do you actually enjoy?

  • How many are serving you the purpose of lifting your spirits (genuinely)?

  • What size (and therefore what amount of caffeine) are you consuming?

From here, this might tell you that of the 7 cups you drink a day, you only really enjoy two (or perhaps you never really finish all 7!) or perhaps you only buy your afternoon coffee out of habit rather than need.

Step 2. Challenge yourself to reduce your daily caffeine intake to max. 3 cups a day

Hopefully from this you might rediscover your passion for a truly desirable cuppa, taking the time to savour what it has to offer and feel the true effects of what it’s designed to do!

(PS: ​Just to clear up the facts; a cappuccino has a ratio of 1:3 coffee to milk/foam whist a flat white is 1:2 coffee to milk ratio, therefore why some would argue that a flat white is “better” for you.)

Different types of coffee

Image source:


*Content included on this site is prepared as general information only. It is not advice and should not be substituted for personal advice which takes into account your individual health, financial or other circumstances.