I got a special, not to mention, really great request, from a friend of mine I've known for 14 years.
She texted me the other night asking:
"WHAT ABOUT COFFEE?...
I know that people say you don't need it because of all the energy from healthy foods, but so far, I haven't found that to be true for me."
What a coincidence. So far, it hasn't been true for me either.
There was a time several years ago when I tried to cut coffee out of my diet, and I did ok, but then I discovered a pink Rockstar that magically appeared in my fridge and I used in an emergency case scenario. That was it, I was caffeine hooked again off that one drink. I was a nanny at the time and every morning they would have a fresh brewed pot of coffee when I got there, but no. I had to bring my pink Rockstar in my purse, and because I didn't want anyone to know I had given into the caffeine addiction again (which I was, not long after, given away by the boys I was taking care of, of course!), I wouldn't drink it until after the parents had left.
Can you say: WEIRDO?! (Not really. the woman I worked for and I were constantly bouncing diet and nutrition ideas off of each other and she was impressed I was off the caffeine, so I was embarrassed I had to switched to Rockstar of all things!) I finally stopped being silly and started just drinking coffee again (especially after they got a fantastic Keurig, and Alex got me my own for Christmas!) and my daily routine continued to include about two cups of coffee with a couple tablespoons of fat free french vanilla sweetener.
Back in the day, when I used to work as a Fashion Expert at Express, we would do 5 AM floor sets. They were only bearable because of three things: 1) Florence + the Machine Pandora station 2) Great talks with a great floor set manager and 3) the one that gave us energy to make that store beautiful, Starbucks Skinny Vanilla Lattes.
I know we're not the only ones who feel like we can't function without that morning cup of joe, right? I used to think to myself in my head "There is blood is my caffeine stream."
I've definitely cut back since those days.
I have got a lot of information to lay on you not just about coffee, but about caffeine and the effects they both have on your body. The problem is, I can't tell you whether or not to drink coffee or consume caffeine, it's completely up to you. After all of the research I've conducted, I don't even know if I'm going to stop. I think it's all a matter of "everything in moderation." At the end, I'll talk about some ideas I've thought of in the course of researching this blog to use as alternatives or, if you're going to use caffeine, caffeine uses.
Here we go...
Obviously, the primary psychoactive chemical in coffee is caffeine, which you're going to want me to shut up about later. So let's try to just stick to coffee, because there is actually kind of a difference.
I will say that your average cup of coffee, which is about 6-7 oz., contains anywhere from 80 to 175 mg of caffeine.
Most Americans consume about 2-4 cups per day.
I just want to cut the BS and quickly list the numerous pros and cons I found while doing my research and then we'll get into a couple that I think are pretty important!
Protects against Parkinson's disease, type 2 diabetes, and liver cancer.
Contains high levels of antioxidants.
Protects against heart rhythm problems and strokes (antioxidants may help quell inflammation's damaging effects on arteries).
Coffee drinkers are less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Contains minerals such as magnesium and chromium.
May counter several risk factors for heart attack
Reduce risk of developing gallstones
Coffee discourages development of colon cancer
Improves cognitive function
Increases endurance performance in long-duration physical activities
May reduce blood pressure that often results from mental stress
Provides protective effects on the skeletal, reproductive, nervous, and cardiovascular systems, including homocysteine (which I'll explain) and cholesterol levels, etc.
As coffee intake rises, incidence of glioma, a form of brain cancer, tends to drop
Should be avoided by anyone with high blood pressure, gastritis, or ulcers
Should not be consumed, or consumed in extreme moderation by pregnant or nursing mothers
Adding cream and sugar adds fat and calories to your diet
Heavy caffeine use (four to seven cups of coffee a day) can cause A LOT of issues that I'll get into later
Raises level of adrenaline (also has to do with caffeine)
Decreases absorption of essential minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc, AND causes excretion of these minerals in the urine, especially calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and iron.
Known diuretic, which limits the body's ability to absorb water (for every cup of coffee, a person should drink at least the same amount of water to make up the difference)
Raises blood acidity levels which causes calcium to pulled from the bones to alkalize the blood, increasing risk of osteoporosis
Coffee is a crop that is heavily sprayed with pesticides and grown outside the US where pesticides are used that are against regulations (switch to organic coffee to avoid these dangerous chemicals)
5-cup or more daily habit is associated with higher heart disease risks and that may be because excessive caffeine may sabotage the antioxidants' effects
Unfiltered coffee could raise cholesterol levels
I was really curious about coffee reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. I know a couple people who have the biggest sweet tooth and consume coffee regularly. After reading more about it and making sense of it on my own, it all kind of all clicked for me.
Coffee protects your body from diabetes because of antioxidants, which are nutrients that help prevent tissue damage caused by molecules called oxygen-free radicals.
The presence of minerals, like magnesium and chromium, help the body use the hormone insulin, which controls blood sugar. In type 2 diabetes, the body loses its ability to use insulin and regulate blood sugar effectively, so giving your insulin some guidance can't be a bad thing! The benefits are not likely due to caffeine, so drinking decaf would do the trick as well!
I hope you were like me and read the word homocysteine and thought to yourself, "ok? what is that?"
I found out more.
Excessive coffee consumption compromises the body's ability to utilize B vitamins such as folica, B-12, and B-6, which are needed to maintain healthy homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is an amino acid in the blood which in high levels has been associated with a variety of cardiovascular disorders.
This is the one I really have a lot to tell you about.
If you're pregnant or nursing, please either don't consume it, or consume it in great moderation. While pregnant, I drank half-caf and limited it to one cup a day. That was my own personal decision that worked for my crazy school schedule at the time, you do what you feel is right for your body.
A link has been indicated between a consumption of over 300 mg of caffeine per day by pregnant mothers and low birth weight, miscarriage and some birth defects.
A fetus', as well as an infant's, liver is not developed to process caffeine yet so it remains in the body for up to 4 days, which is why nursing mothers should avoid caffeine as well.
A few basics about caffeine: it causes your heart rate to increase, your pupils to dilate, and your muscles to tighten up. Caffeine injects adrenaline into your system (which I will talk more about later) to give you a boost and make you feel good. Most people who drink coffee regularly, do so to combat fatigue. The problem with regular consumption? Tolerance and Addiction.
Caffeine isn't just used in the morning as a stimulant. It is also used with alcohol to ramp up the effect, after alcohol to sober up, commonly used to relieve headaches, cure cancer, and prevent Parkinson's.
90% of Americans use caffeine in some form.
Notice how I said some form. That's because, not all forms of caffeine are the same. The "caffeine experience" can be quite different from beverage to beverage.
Each caffeine complex actually has a different name depending on its source. Some examples are guaranine as found in guarana, mateine as found in mate, and theine as found in tea.
Another difference is not all caffeine is actually caffeine. For example, chocolate contains theobromine, a very close relative of caffeine, but only 1/10 as stimulating (did you know chocolate contained a stimulant?).
I am going to get a little boring for a second. I found this rather interesting, but there is no real way to explain it without just being straight to the point, so if I lose you, please, just bear with me.
Caffeine stimulates your adrenal hormones, resulting from an activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which controls the body's "fight or flight response," and should never be an extended condition.
In this state, the body's parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest system) is inactive, but is usually active under normal conditions.
What your parasympathetic nervous system does is regulate your hormone levels which, in turn, maintains body temperature, digestion and nutrient absorption. Pretty important system, right?
As the sympathetic nervous system remains active for extended periods and your parasympathetic system remains inactive, adrenal hormones are continuously excreted, causing other hormones to become out of whack, suggesting numerous risk factors, such as osteoporosis.
This could ever mean if you're ever being extra moody one day, simply take a look at your caffeine consumption, because you could be throwing your hormone levels all out of whack.
OK, now that's over with!
Let's get into Addiction:
Although not as addictive as hard drugs, caffeine affects the brain and body and stimulates them in a manner similar to the amphetamines such as cocaine.
They all work by blocking adenosine's ability to slow nerve cell activity in preparation for sleep, and instead increase the speed of nerve cell activity and of the neuron firing in the brain.
Imagine the nerve's are having a party and the neuron's are the one's who spread the word to the rest of the body. You've been to high school, you know exactly what I'm talking about.
Another effect of the block of adenosine is that it causes blood vessels in the brain to constrict, which also serves to prevent the brain and body from sleeping.
The ability of caffeine to close blood vessels in the brain is why many pain relievers contain caffeine.
Both caffeine and cocaine increase dopamine production in the brain, so you experience a temporary "high." Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that activates "pleasure centers" in the brain and makes you feel good.
The dopamine manipulation plays a major role in caffeine addiction.
If you have a morning cup of coffee, 75% of it will clean your system by the time you go to bed, but if you have a couple of cups of drip coffee in the morning, you may be going to bed with up to 50 mg still percolating in your veins, making it rough to fall asleep. if you drink coffee throughout the day, or as an afternoon pick-me-up, the level in your blood at bedtime will climb dramatically. Yeah, you may be used to it by now and able it sleep, but bet you a nickel and a quarter it isn't quality sleep and rest.
Caffeine is also a growing concern for kids, with the consumption of soft drinks doubling in the past 35 years. Basically, soda has replaced milk.
Side note: EUROPE REQUIRES A WARNING LABEL ON HIGH CAFFEINE ENERGY DRINKS AND RED BULL HAS BEEN BANNED IN FRANCE.
CAFFEINE AND ALCOHOL.
Caffeine and alcohol DON'T MIX!
Caffeine is a stimulant, whereas alcohol is a depressant. THEY ARE COMPLETE OPPOSITES.
That means that the coffee doesn't cancel out the effect of the alcohol, it only makes you "think" it does.
Some researchers call this "toxic-jock syndrome." There is definitely a higher incidence of risk-taking behaviors because your perceptions of your limitations are distorted. Caffeine appears to override the natural sleepiness that occurs when someone drinks alcohol and delays the feeling of drunkenness causing the user of an alcoholic energy drink to keep drink well beyond their normal limits.
Consuming caffeine creates the impression that you're getting sharper and more sober, but actually your reaction time and judgment are still impaired.
WHEN YOU MIX ALCOHOL AND CAFFEINE, YOU ARE MORE LIKELY TO HAVE ACCIDENTS, EITHER IN YOUR CAR OR WHILE OPERATING HEAVY MACHINERY.
Scientists aren't sure exactly how the body processes the combination of caffeine and alcohol because "THE COMBINATION IS TOO DANGEROUS TO TEST ON HUMANS IN SCIENTIFIC EXPERIMENTS."
OK, seriously, if its too dangerous to even test, why would you want to put it anywhere near your body?
Before Four Loko and Joose were forced to remove caffeine as one of the ingredients in their alcoholic energy drink, one can was equal to two cups of coffee combined with the equivalent of four or five beers. Even before the caffeine was removed, our military was instructed not to consume the product. Crazy right?
My friends used to be all the rage when it came to those nasty things. Personally, they always made my stomach hurt and it was never worth it to me.
Well, some friends went to the beach one and drank a few of those. One of them wandered off in the middle of the night, and the others could not find him ANYWHERE. The next morning, he woke up, naked, on some strangers couch, with no idea of how he got there or where his clothes were, and the guy threatened to call the police if he didn't leave. The guy gave him a blanket and then he walked to the nearest gas station. He just so happened to overhear someone on the phone saying they were on their way to our hometown, so he explained his story to them, and they graciously offered him a ride. How SCARY though!
Now, I'm not saying if your favorite drink when you go to the bar is Red Bull Vodka, Whiskey Coke, or Jagerbomb, don't do it. Those aren't so bad. A Red Bull Vodka only has about 1/4 or 1/5 of what is found in a Four Loko, so just keep it in moderation.
Red Bull also does not contain that much caffeine. You would have to consume three Red Bulls to get the same caffeine you'd find in an alcoholic energy drink.
Historically, small amounts of caffeine have been used to help control weight, alleviate pain, open up airways for improved breathing, and overcome chronic fatigue
Can benefit people who are at high-risk for liver disease
Increases muscle strength
Increases metabolism by breaking down fat, freeing fatty acids and forcing them to be burned (most active ingredient in many diet pills)
Increases pain relief medication effects
Increases mental faculty
Reduces asthma symptoms
Reduces migraine and pain symptoms
80% less likely to develop Parkinson's
As your body gets used to caffeine, it becomes addicted to it. The symptoms for drinking too much caffeine and the symptoms for caffeine withdrawal are similar.
Excess caffeine can cause restlessness, irritability, anxiety, heartburn, headaches (sometimes severe, like migraines), high blood pressure, sleeplessness, rapid heartbeat, nausea
Caffeine withdrawal, which can begin as soon as 12 hours after your last cup depending on how much your body is used to and can last up to a week can cause restlessness, irritability, anxiety, headaches (again, sometimes severe), muscle stiffness, chills and/or hot spells.
TO REDUCE CAFFEINE INTAKE, DO SO GRADUALLY TO AVOID SOME WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS.
CAFFEINE ALTERNATIVES (if you're brave enough)
EAT BREAKFAST- Have a healthy breakfast! Try my shake recipe. Include protein to rev up your metabolism and improve your concentration.
EAT A SNACK- If, by mid-morning, you start losing energy, eat a healthy snack like fruit, whole grain crackers, or yogurt. Complex carbohydrates supply your body with the energy it needs to be effective.
MOVE THROUGHOUT THE DAY- Walk during your break or lunch, get up and stretch as often as possible during your day. JUST MOVE! Regular physical movement makes your heart pump harder and helps your body fight fatigue.
AVOID TOO MUCH FAT- If you find yourself getting that "2:30 feeling" every afternoon, a high-fat lunch might be your problem. After you eat, your body is busy with the digestion process and distributing nutrients to the proper places. If you consume a lot of fat, it takes your body longer to work through the digestion process, causing you to feel more tired.
WAYS TO USE CAFFEINE
-Use natural caffeine as opposed to "added" caffeine. Natural caffeine contains those powerful things called antioxidants!
In chocolate, you'll find flavonoids, procyanidins, epicatechin, and cocoa phenols.
In tea, you'll find epigallocatechin, epicatechin gallate, epicatechin and theanine (which is actually a beneficial amino acid).
In coffee, you'll find chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, and melanoidins.
-Set your caffeine intake to about 100 mg a day, that's about 3 cups of green tea. The exception to this guideline is if you take your caffeine bound to fiber, as in guarana (not extract), since the caffeine releases over time rather than in powerful bursts, which allows you to consume more without negative side effect.
*Remember, if you already have a high intake of caffeine per day, slowly lower it down to 100 mg per day to decrease risk of caffeine withdrawal symptoms and their severity.
-Don't use caffeine as part of a "daily ritual," and this one is going to be especially tough for me. Use caffeine only when it is needed, and take a couple days off a week, completely caffeine free, once your system is used to the 100 mg limit.
This friend of mine also let me know about a recipe she repinned on Pinterest for some healthy coffee fully of HEALTHY FATS, which I will include the link for here, but I will also just include the recipe below before I end this entry!
The benefits from this drink include (and after reading them, I am totally trying this!):
Tons of vitamins and minerals
Immune system booster
Weight loss aid
You will need:
1 cup of coffee
3-4 oz. Coconut Milk
A heaping tablespoon or more of Raw Cocao Powder
Just mix it all together and drink!!!
Like I said before, I'm not sure if any of this information will change my caffeine consumption overnight, but it is definitely something to be mindful of as I go about my days. What does your daily average caffeine consumption look like? Do you think you could a couple days without a cup of coffee or an energy drink? Let me know!