Caffeine: The Good, The Bad (And the Ugly)
If you’re not familiar with caffeine, one might say you’ve been living under a rock. Caffeine has become as a staple in most people’s diets and is one of the most common ingredients on the planet. It’s found in many products such as energy drinks, coffees, teas, diet products, desserts and other common foods, and even in supplement/pill form.
People use/intake caffeine for various reason such as weight loss, alertness, energy, and more, but is it a good thing? Can it be dangerous? Does it have any health benefits? Let’s find out and get all of your questions answered.
What Is Caffeine? Here Are The Facts
Caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant that is most commonly found in the seeds and leaves of plants such as coffee, teas, and cacao. Caffeine can also be produced in an artificial manner and added to many products that we consume.
Though it’s perfectly legal, caffeine is considered a drug because of the role it plays on the stimulation of the central nervous system and for its addictive properties.
When consumed, this stimulant quickly enters the bloodstream from the gut. Once absorbed, it’s main effects are on the brain.
Caffeine blocks certain neurotransmitters such as Adenosine that calm the brain and makes you feel relaxed. Adenosine levels continue to rise in the brain over the course of a day and make you feel tired and sleepy. So, by blocking these neurotransmitters, caffeine can help you stay awake and alert for a longer period of time.
It is also believed that caffeine increases the levels of Adrenaline in the blood, which further stimulates brain activity and alertness.
Side Effects Of Caffeine
Caffeine can come with a few common side effects which include:
- Feeling of Restlessness
- Frequent Urination
- Sleep disruptions
- Muscle Spasms
Health Benefits Of Caffeine
Whether you’ve heard good or bad things about caffeine, it does have its “perks” when consumed in safe amounts. Here are a few surprising benefits you may not know:
- It can boost your memory- In a study conducted at Johns Hopkins University, it showed that caffeine had a positive effect on the long-term memory when its subjects consumed a 200mg dose.
- Reduces Muscle Pain- We’ve all had that horrid post-workout muscle pain known as DOMS (Delayed onset muscle soreness), but did you know that downing a couple of cups of joe can reduce that pain as much as 48%? It’s true, and studies have proved it over at the University of Georgia. So, the next time you suffer from the leg day blues, brew yourself some coffee.
- May Ward Off Alzheimer’s- Caffeine has been shown to reduce the protein responsible for Alzheimer’s in a study performed on mice bred with the brain disease. When the mice were given the equivalent of 5 cups of coffee per day over the course of the study, their memory impairment was completely reversed. Before we get too excited about that one, let’s wait for some human trials.
- Improves Alertness and Attention- Caffeine increases brain function and if you are one who lacks sufficient sleep, this can really be of benefit sometimes. Many studies have shown that even those who don’t sleep well can benefit from caffeine as it helps them to be more alert and aware for a limited amount of time. Lack of sleep can cause delays in reaction time, adding a little caffeine can reverse this effect and help you become more alert and responsive.
- Increases Endurance and Strength- Given that caffeine has anti-fatigue properties, naturally it increases one’s ability to go faster, further and utilize more power in workouts such as sprinting, plyometrics, weight training, and the likes.
- Aids in Weight Loss- Caffeine has been proven time and time again to boost your metabolism. Though the effects only last for a short period of time, it’s significant enough to help your body burn off more calories throughout the day and the more calories we expend, the better for weight reduction. When it comes to caffeine in weight loss supplements, too much of it can lead to health issues. Look for one that contains more natural ingredients like Ultra Omega Burn. Furthermore, if you are looking to get rid of cellulite, caffeine does help as well as it increases blood flow.
- Enhances Your Mood- Caffeine increases the levels of the natural mood enhancer Dopamine in the brain. Dopamine tells the body to anticipate pleasure and excitement. Though this effect only lasts for about 3 hours noticeably, a study showed that those who drank caffeinated coffee had a lower risk of suicide and/or suicidal thoughts.
- Lowered Risk of Skin Cancer- Caffeinated coffee drinkers have a lower risk of developing Melanoma, human studies have shown. Also, a study with laboratory rats who had skin cancer showed that the consumption of caffeinated tea greatly reduced tumors and fat levels in the skin. Learn how dark chocolate can help offer skin protection properties as well.
Warning: Caffeine Can Be Addictive
There are a few reasons that caffeine is considered a drug. Not only does it affect the central nervous system, but it can also become highly addictive.
For those who don’t intake caffeine on a regular basis, it’s usually not a problem. But under certain circumstances such as a change in work hours, lack of sleep due to stress or a new baby in the house, lack of energy, and more, caffeine can easily become a new addiction as one might consume coffee to deal with these circumstances and therefore form the habit.
After a while, the body starts to build a tolerance for the caffeine consumed. Naturally, one might drink a bit more coffee than usual to make up for the lack of its effects. As a person begins to drink even more caffeine to try and match the alert and energetic feelings they had in the beginning, this can become a problem and even start to affect your health.
Quitting caffeine can be tough if you are reliant on it. It can come with a list of withdrawal symptoms such as:
- Decreased focus and energy
- Digestive Problems
That’s why it’s important to limit your caffeine consumption to under 400mg per day and try not to make it a regular habit.
Too much of a good thing can quite literally be a bad thing. Though caffeine has its many upsides, we should always be careful when consuming it. For those with heart issues and other factors, caffeine is definitely something you should ask your doctor about before consuming. But, if you are a normal and healthy adult, caffeine can benefit you in a number of ways when taken in moderation.