Have you ever felt confused about Caffeine and PCOS? One day you might hear that you should skip breakfast and drink coffee instead in order to intermittent fast (see my thoughts on intermittent fasting here) – and other days you may hear that it can negatively affect your hormones.
So, should you avoid caffeine if you have PCOS, or should you continue to enjoy it? Let’s talk about caffeine sources, and the pros and cons so that you are well informed.
Sources of Caffeine
Caffeine isn’t just in your favorite cup of coffee – it’s in plenty of other beverages, and even some foods. The recommended limit from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is 400 mg per day. That number may not mean anything to you because caffeine amounts aren’t always listed on packaging. The amounts below may help give you an idea of how much caffeine is in your go to drinks and foods. Please note that there is variation in amounts with different brands.
- Energy Drinks: ~170 mg in a 16 ounce can
- Coffee: ~95 mg/cup
- Note that 1 cup is only 8 ounces. If you get a 12 ounce coffee, it has ~150 mg of caffeine
- Espresso shot: 65 mg
- Double this if you get a double shot!
- Black Tea: ~50 mg
- Soda: 40-55 mg
- Green Tea: ~30 mg
- Dark Chocolate: ~25 mg
- Milk Chocolate: ~5 mg
If you drink less than 400 mg of caffeine per day (EG 1 cup of coffee) and already feel jittery or anxious, I would recommend listening to your body and stopping there. There’s no need to reach 400 mg of caffeine – it’s a recommended limit that is not necessary to reach.
Caffeine and PCOS: Is there a concern?
While there are some benefits to consuming caffeine, too much can be harmful. Here are some potential ways that excess caffeine can have negative health implications:
- Cortisol: Caffeine increases cortisol, which is a stress hormone made by the adrenal glands. Not only can high cortisol make you feel anxious, but it also may cause increases in insulin (which can make PCOS symptoms worse).
- Meal skipping: Caffeine can be an issue if you are using it to replace a meal or snack. For example, it’s an issue if you skip breakfast to drink coffee or tea, or skip lunch to drink a diet soda. While caffeine may make you feel more alert, it does NOT provide energy. True energy comes from calories – which are found in carbohydrates, fat, and protein.
- Sleep: Getting enough sleep is essential for properly managing PCOS. If you consume too much caffeine or consume even a small amount late in the day, it could interfere with your sleep.
Now that you recognize how too much caffeine can have a negative impact on hormones – what are the benefits of beverages that contain caffeine?
- Research has linked coffee intake to improved insulin sensitivity.
- Coffee has an antioxidant called chlorogenic acid. This is the substance in coffee that may help some with constipation. Coffee also has some B Vitamins.
- Various teas have antioxidants called polyphenols. Polyphenols may lower the risk of chronic diseases.
In Conclusion – Caffeine and PCOS
So – do caffeine and PCOS mix? This is individualized! If you enjoy caffeinated beverages and it does not make you anxious or interfere with your sleep, it’s okay to enjoy them! There are a few health benefits to consuming caffeine. If it’s your main source of hydration, however, you may consider drinking other non-caffeinated beverages instead. If your water intake could use a boost, here’s a link to my favorite water bottle (I love the 32 oz. size!).
- Caffeine. harvard.edu. (2020, November 12). Retrieved August 11, 2022, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/caffeine/
- McKittrick, M. (2020, July 24). IS COFFEE BAD FOR PCOS? [web log]. Retrieved August 11, 2022, from https://marthamckittricknutrition.com/is-coffee-bad-for-pcos/.
- Lovallo, W. R., Farag, N. H., Vincent, A. S., Thomas, T. L., & Wilson, M. F. (2006). Cortisol responses to mental stress, exercise, and meals following caffeine intake in men and women. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 83(3), 441–447. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pbb.2006.03.005
- Gordon, B. (2022, January 13). The health benefits of tea. EatRight.org. Retrieved August 11, 2022, from https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/preventing-illness/the-health-benefits-of-tea
- National Cancer Institute, cancer.gov (n.d.). Retrieved August 11, 2022, from https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-drug/def/chlorogenic-acid.