Effects of Caffeine – To Have or Have Not!
I wanted to take a real look at caffeine and really explain and understand its effects on our bodies. Obviously we find caffeine in highest concentrations within coffee, tea, soft drinks and especially energy drinks.
So how does caffeine work? It acts as a stimulant to our nervous system which provides enhanced physical and mental alertness. It also creates a temporary but increased use of fatty acids & blood sugars for muscle fuel.
The effects of caffeine can vary greatly depending on age, sex, liver function, medications and of course pregnancy. In general for healthy adults, the effect can last anywhere from 3-4 hours, but one study has found that women who are taking oral contraceptives can feel the effects as long as 5-10 hours (reference)!
It’s interesting to note that caffeine is somewhat considered as a performance enhancer in the Olympics. Athletes cannot have more than the equivalent of 8 cups of coffee in their system. There have been many studies that shown caffeine to improve both short and long term endurance especially if the athlete has low tolerance level of caffeine (in other words, doesn’t drink coffee on a regular basis).
Side Effects of Caffeine
Well the info above kind of sheds a good light on caffeine, especially if it can help us burn fat and use sugar for energy. And, what are the negative side effects of caffeine?
Firstly, it should be noted that caffeine is regarded by the FDA (Food & Drug Association) as a safe food substance, however people with liver and/or heart conditions are generally recommended to have minimal caffeine intake.
How about the rest of us? Side effects can include insomnia and irritability if large quantities of caffeine are taken for several days in a row (e.g. 3 cups of coffee/day).
And what about if this high intake is continued for several months in a row? Well it’s not good, including caffeine dependency a number of physical and mental problems can occur such as anxiety, muscle twitches, headaches, ulcers and in some cases heart palpitations.
So Should I Stop Drinking Caffeine Containing Drinks All Together?
If you are having 3-4 cups of coffee a day? Yes! Give your mind/body a break for at least 2 weeks. Then…
Moderation is key. There is some research that caffeine also does have some other benefits such as reducing risk of both Parkinson’s Disease & Alzheimer’s. So it may not be as bad as some media has portrayed it. However, try and limit yourself to 1-2 cups a day, and always take weeks off to prevent your body from becoming dependent on it.
The one major indicator that you are having too much caffeine is when you notice problems sleeping. In this case caffeine can create a non-stop cycle. You feel tired so you drink coffee, you have bad sleep and then you feel tired again the next day and need your caffeine fix.
What about energy drinks. Just stay away from them as much as possible, they almost always contain a number of other harsh chemicals including artificial sugars.
I will be writing a focused on energy drinks and why they are so bad in the near future.
So how many cups of coffee do you drink each day? When was the last time you took 2 weeks off from drinking coffee?