Caffeine has become a large part of modern living. Coffees, sodas, energy drinks, shots meant to last five hours, gels, gum, and even jellybeans all carry this ubiquitous stimulant. Many of us turn to it in the morning to get moving, the afternoon to make it through the rest of the workday, and the evening to stay awake binging shows longer. But how healthy is caffeine?
Alertness – We all know caffeine can keep us alert. It does so by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain that normally cause the body to lean toward relaxation and fatigue over time.
Fast Acting – Caffeine absorbs quickly and moves through the bloodstream to the liver and brain in a relatively short amount of time when compared to other nutrients. We also tend to consume it in liquid forms that make it kick in even faster.
Awake – With alertness, we also feel more awake and less tired. There are times we need or want to stay awake longer. Caffeine is a perfect fit.
Energy – Caffeine can increase adrenaline, dopamine, and norepinephrine levels for a noticeable increase in some feel-good energy.
Focus – More than just alert and awake, caffeine may help us focus better on tasks with a clearer mind, improved reaction time, and .
Mood – The kick of dopamine that often comes with caffeine consumption can help stave off depression
Weight Loss – Caffeine suppresses appetite, speeds up metabolism, and encourages fat burning, so it is often a part of weight loss supplements.
Muscle Building – Caffeine is also often a component of pre-workouts, and for good reason. It encourages fat use as fuel during exercise, improves muscle contractions, and increases endurance so you can work out longer and harder for bigger gains.
Heart Health – Despite the rumors, caffeine consumption may offer some heart protecting benefits, though some of these may be attributed to the antioxidants and phytonutrients found in coffee and green tea.
Addictive – That kick of dopamine is your reward center in your brain encouraging you to keep doing something it likes. Caffeine can be addictive, and some people are more sensitive to it.
Diminishing Returns – Your brain responds to blocked adenosine receptors by creating more, so it can take more and more caffeine over time to have the same effect.
Anxiety – People who are prone to anxiety can have that stress increased by caffeine. Irregular heartbeat, jitters, tremors, and sweating are also possible.
Lost Sleep – Caffeine, especially when consumed later in the day, can keep you awake when you would rather be sleeping, making for a hard morning.
Blood Pressure – Caffeine can slightly raise blood pressure for a short time. People with very high blood pressure should be careful with it.
Headaches – Some people experience headaches and migraines with caffeine or when cutting back on it.
The Crash – When the energizing effects wear off, you may feel more fatigued and tired than if you had grown accustomed to the gradual increase over time without that caffeine. This is pronounced when caffeine is paired with large amounts of sugar, as the blood sugar spike and then low hit you at the same time.
Ways to Offset the Bad
Stay Natural – Naturally occurring caffeine in coffee, tea, and chocolate comes with beneficial antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients that offset many of the problems that can come with caffeine. Coffee and green tea offer some enhanced benefits of longevity, healthier liver function, and brain protection.
Take it Easy – Keep your caffeine consumption to a couple times a day and stay below the recommended limit of 400mg or less per day and 200mg or less per serving.
Take a Break – Occasionally take a break from caffeine to let your brain reduce the amount of adenosine receptors again, so it works with smaller doses.
Cut the Sugar – Avoid adding a ton of sugar with your caffeine to avoid the crash and unwanted calories. Avoid sugary beverages that add caffeine to them. Also turn to natural sweeteners, like monk fruit, or try better quality coffees and teas that may not need much sugar to begin with.
Think Green – Green tea, especially Matcha, contains L-Theanine. This amino acid relaxes the body and mind, offsetting the effects of caffeine for a relaxed, energized, focused feeling that is unique to this natural source of your favorite daily boost. Matcha has as much or more caffeine as a cup of coffee, but people rarely feel jittery, anxious, or over-stimulated after drinking it.