The morning ritual of coffee is engrained in many of us. You get up in the morning and BAM right away make that cup of joe to get your morning fix of energy before you can deal with the day's craziness. Although it might be the ritual we love, it’s the caffeine that gives us that zingy, tingly feeling we get when we are finished with our cup. Let’s take a look at caffeine and how it works.
Caffeine is a supplement that is found in coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate and various other foods. It’s a central nervous system stimulant, comparable to amphetamines (yet weaker). It has been around for almost 1,000 years and has been used for over 40 years to help performance in all types of sports. Whether you need an early morning jolt, are running a marathon or trying to deadlift 600lbs, caffeine may have benefits for you.
Caffeine can decrease the feelings of perceived exertion, improve work capacity, and increase mental alertness. It is rapidly absorbed into your bloodstream, and blood levels peak after 30–120 minutes. The levels remain high for 3–4 hours and then start to drop. Although there has been a lot of research on the subject of caffeine, there is not enough evidence to support the supposed benefits of caffeine so pay attention to the word MAY in the statements below.
- The nervous system. Caffeine activates areas of your brain and nervous system to improve focus and energy while reducing tiredness
- Hormones. Caffeine increases circulating epinephrine (adrenaline), the hormone responsible for the “fight or flight” response, which can increase performance.
- Fat burning. Caffeine MAY increase your body’s ability to burn fat via lipolysis, or the breakdown of fat in fat cells .
- Endorphins. Beta-endorphins can increase feelings of wellness and give you the exercise “high” that people often experience after working out
- Muscles. Caffeine may improve muscle performance through activation of the central nervous system; however, the exact mechanisms are unclear (11Trusted Source).
- Body temperature. Caffeine has been shown to increase thermogenesis, or heat production, which raises your body temperature and MAY help you burn more calories.
- Glycogen. Caffeine MAY also spare muscle carb stores, primarily due to increased fat burning. This can enhance endurance performance.
The Down Effects
Caffeine can cause anxiety, gastrointestinal disturbances, restlessness, insomnia, tremors and heart arrhythmias. Just like other drugs, it can be physically addicting and stopping caffeine can even cause withdrawal symptoms. Caffeine is also a natural diuretic so plan on making additional trips to the bathroom throughout your day. This means paying extra attention to your water in-take to avoid dehydration.
Caffeine can also have a significant impact on your adrenal glands. Adrenal fatigue describes a condition in which adrenal glands are exhausted and unable to produce adequate quantities of hormones, such as glucocorticoid cortisol, often due to chronic stress. Caffeine stimulates neuron activity in the brain in which neurons send messages to the pituitary gland to stimulate the adrenal glands, which then produces adrenaline and cortisol.
Adrenaline and cortisol are those famous hormones involved in “fight or flight” mode, which happens when you are faced with danger. But these “stress,” hormones are meant to aid us in true emergencies versus meeting a tight deadline to submit a business plan or quarterly report.
If your adrenal glands are fatigued, then caffeine can cause your adrenals to overwork to make more cortisol and burn out your glands. This leads to your adrenals being weakened and less able to respond adequately. This is why coffee has less and less effect over time on people with adrenal fatigue.
Is coffee/caffeine right for you?
Well, it depends. In the right amounts it can be an amazing tool to help you hit your goals and enjoy it as a morning ritual. It’s important to be aware of the effect it is having on your body and adjust your in-take accordingly. Recently, I was experiencing fatigue, anxiety, and heart palpitations on a routine basis. As a first step, I decided to remove coffee and caffeine from my diet. To be honest, the first two weeks were BAD. I felt horrible the first night with painful headaches and persistent nausea. I was in bed by 7pm. After that I slowly began to feel like myself again. My anxiety calmed down, my energy went up and I didn’t crash during the day. It was clear that I was WAY too reliant on caffeine. Moving forward, I’m still going to enjoy coffee as part of my overall lifestyle but now know how to maintain a balanced amount while staying in-tune with how my body is feeling on a daily basis.