Is caffeine good or bad for you?
Some of my most treasured memories are sitting in some magical spot in the world enjoying a good cup of strong coffee.
Most recently it was on the shores of Lake Earnscleugh in Queenstown, New Zealand while watching, it seemed, the world pass by and taking in a view so stunning that it seemed almost unreal.
I enjoy that little buzz that a good coffee leaves me with. Unfortunately, I can only have that one cup of black magic, any more than the one and I find myself shaking from its effects like a thief in a lineup. Or, if I have another in the afternoon I can find myself lying awake at night for hours with the promise of an almighty bad temper to be unleashed on anyone in my vicinity the next day.
Some avoid it, others love it
Either way up to 80-90% of adults worldwide ingests caffeine in its many forms every day. That equates to 2.25 billion cups of coffee and that is the second most popular caffeinated drink with tea being the first.
Let’s talk about what caffeine is and how it affects the body. There are definitely some people who should avoid it and there is a list of symptoms to look out for if you are one of them.
What Is Caffeine And How Does It Affect The Body?
Caffeine is a stimulant that is naturally found in coffee beans, cocoa beans, kola nuts, tea leaves, yerba mate and guarana.
- A cup of coffee espresso and instant both contain around 60 mg of caffeine
- Black tea 40-120 mg
- Decaf coffee 3-12 mg
- An ounce of dark 5-35 mg
Caffeine is also available as a supplement and is added to some soft drinks (20-40 mg) and energy drinks (50-160 mg). There are also some medications that contain caffeine.
Drinks such as Mother are marketed as “energy” drinks because they are high in caffeine. However, we need to remember that these drinks are also very high in sugar so if you are looking for that energy fix they may not be your best choice.
Caffeine’s main effect is in the brain
Two of the main effects are alertness and focus.
It can also improve moods, increase metabolism and improve exercise performance. It does these by blocking the “adenosine receptors” in our brain. After being absorbed by the gut caffeine is broken down by the liver. Adenosine is a relaxation compound, and caffeine blocks its effects. These stimulant effects of caffeine can be felt within 20-60 minutes after ingestion.
Warning! Your body can build up a tolerance to it as well. So, within a few days of regular consumption, you need more to get the same effect. The stimulating and dehydrating effects reduce over time of continued caffeine intake.
Caffeine is addictive but doesn’t generally cause the same physical, mental, social or economic damage as harder drugs. Withdrawal can provoke symptoms which include headaches, shakiness/jitters, and nausea.
Is Caffeine Good Or Bad
There are certain groups of people who should avoid too much caffeine. They are;
- Pregnant women;
- People with irregular heartbeats;
- People who have difficulty sleeping; and,
- Children and adolescents.
We all metabolize caffeine at different rates. There can be up to 40x difference between how fast or slow various caffeine metabolizes in your system. Fast metabolizers can feel the energy boost, and all the effects vanish within a few hours. Slow metabolizers can get jittery, anxious feelings, and have trouble sleeping many hours after ingesting it.
Be aware of the possible effects of caffeine on your body
Some common ones are:
- Restlessness and anxious feelings;
- Irregular heartbeat;
- Increased blood pressure;
- Difficulty sleeping;
- Increase in anxious feelings;
- Headaches or migraines.
If none of these bothers you, then up to 400 mg/day may be fine.
As previously mentioned caffeinated drinks can contain a lot of sugar as well as other ingredients you may want to avoid. This is something to consider when deciding if or how much caffeine is right for you.
Caffeine is the most popular natural stimulant. It’s found in many foods and drinks, most commonly in coffee, tea and chocolate. It’s also added to soft drinks, energy drinks and some supplements and medications.
Some should avoid too much caffeine; while up to 400 mg/day may be fine in others.
Discovering if caffeine is good or bad for you can involve a little experimentation.
Only once did I have a second cup of strong espresso after the first was so delicious I couldn’t resist. Believe me, I am sorely tempted, often, but after I was left feeling so jittery that I really didn’t enjoy the rest of my day discovering the beautiful surrounds of Byron Bay on the northern New South Wales coast I will not be doing that again. It took two or three hours for the effects to wear off.
If I am having a second cup I have to leave it a few hours and then somehow the second is never as good as the first. Insert big sigh here.
If you have any of the common side effects of ingesting caffeine it may pay to consider reducing your intake.
Do you love your daily hit of caffeine or do you leave it well alone?