Food News

Manage Your Caffeine Intake: App Founder Talks

There's that old Greek maxim, "Know thyself," but if a person hasn't figured out how to maintain a caffeine buzz, luckily there's an app for that.

Introducing Caffeine Zone, an application developed by two scientists at Penn State University. It tells the user when and how much tea or coffee to drink during the day to keep the buzz rolling, or when to stop drinking it altogether.

Authors Frank E. Ritter and Martin Yeh gathered information from several peer-reviewed studies to determine that 200-400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine in the bloodstream provides the optimal amount of mental alertness.

The Office of Naval Research sponsored consulted with Ritter and Yeh to search for ways to reduce stress.

"Turns out that caffeine is a potential tool for reducing stress," says Ritter.

Here's how it works: an interface displays hourly time and mg on a graph, and there's a tab on the bottom of the screen that says "Consume Caffeine." Click the tab and the app will prompt the user to choose from three sizes of coffee and tea, each with varying amounts of caffeine, how fast it is consumed and the time at which it was consumed.

For instance, if a 16-ounce (240 mg of caffeine) cup of coffee is chosen, a prompt will appear stating that the caffeine will exceed the "zone," which is represented by a green bar, but optimal levels will last up to five hours.

Caffeinated gum can also be tracked, or you can customize the amount and rate of consumption. The amount of caffeine you consume is tracked over time, and further cups of coffee, tea, gum, etc., are compounded.

Another handy feature automatically alerts the user when caffeine levels begin to dip below the zone.

Caffeine Zone does not account for body weight, metabolism, etc. Nor does it account for varying amounts of caffeine inside coffee or tea. "It's uniform enough that it gives you guidance on what to do," says Ritter. However, the zone can be adjusted according to sensitivity. "If you're a neurosurgeon or a sharpshooter, you want the bar to be low," says Ritter.

Caffeine Zone Lite is a free app available only for iOS devices (iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad), but a more robust version can be purchased for a dollar.

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David Minsky is a U.S. Navy veteran and Tulane graduate who has experience reporting on stories from California, South Florida, and the Deep South. He has also won some journalism awards. Email or tweet David with story tips and ideas.
Contact: David Minsky