Let’s face it, most of us fuel our busy lives with caffeine. Maybe you’re no use to anyone without your morning coffee. Or perhaps securing that PB all depends on whether you’ve downed your pre-workout before your session. Some say it’s the placebo effect but it’s no secret that many of us rely on our good friend caffeine to get through the day.
The UK are sipping their way through 90 million cups of coffee per day and, naturally, we’re consuming even more tea, with 123 million cups drank each day*. So, it’s pretty clear Brits love a hot beverage but is this much caffeine good for us? And how does it affect our bodies?
We quizzed Grenade® athlete and nutrition coach Vinny Russo on all things caffeine to find out more about this complex chemical.
“There is a long-lasting relationship between humans and caffeine consumption, which is why Starbucks isn’t going anywhere anytime soon!
But, is caffeine bad for you?
What is caffeine?
Caffeine a natural component of certain plants. Just like vitamins and minerals, caffeine needs to be consumed within certain limits to reap the benefits without compromising other areas of health. Remember this phrase, “The dose makes the poison!” The available evidence suggests consuming caffeinated beverages within a safe range in order to deliver benefits of cognitive function and heart health. The safe range of caffeine consumption falls between 38-400mg per day for healthy adults.
The benefits of caffeine include improvements in cognitive function, physical endurance, mood, and even hormone secretion. On the other hand, some concerns include anxiety, headaches, lack of deep sleep or sleep disturbances and dehydration.
To avoid those concerns you need to be aware of two things:
1) How much?
2) Where is it coming from?
Try to make sure your caffeine consumption is within the range multiple studies have found to be beneficial (38-400mg/day), and make sure the sources of your caffeine provide additional health benefits.
Where should I get my caffeine kick from?
When I talk about sources of caffeine, I mean what foods or drinks are you consuming in order to introduce caffeine into your body? The source is important as some sources seem to be healthier than others. As a quick example, coffee, which has a multitude of benefits, compared to chocolate, a source of caffeine that provides additional saturated fat.
Caffeine also has anti-inflammatory properties, aids the liver by reducing liver enzymes and increasing bile production, provides the body with tannins, and can increase gut motility. Best of all, multiple studies have shown that one cup of coffee per day can lower the risk of death by 6%! Yes, it actually increases the longevity of life. I’m not lying when I say that coffee is one of the healthiest drinks you can consume on the planet! But, remember, if you’re adding sugar and dairy to your tea and coffee, this will automatically make it less healthy.
What about energy drinks?
Some people hate tea and coffee but love energy drinks. So, what about this source of caffeine?
Well for starters, the amount of caffeine is 4x that of the commercial caffeinated beverages. When you subject your body to that amount of caffeine, your body will eventually build a tolerance to it. This means you will need to drink more caffeine to feel any of its effects, which will eventually lead to “adrenal burn-out.” Not to mention the occasional insomnia. We have to remember that the DOSE makes the POISON and too much of a good thing, can be a bad thing.
Some energy drinks are also loaded with unnecessary amounts of sugar, something to watch out for. I’d recommend opting for diet or sugar-free versions.
What should I consider when consuming caffeine?
Aside from these benefits, it’s important to remember that caffeine can become very addicting. Remember, caffeine is a very powerful nervous system stimulant and people may get addicted to that feeling and dependent upon its effects! Some develop hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysfunction, also known as HPA axis dysfunction. This means you will actually become dependent upon the stimulant. How? Well caffeine is oddly similar to adenosine which is a neurotransmitter by-product that is used to “tell” the body it’s time to go to sleep and recover. Since caffeine looks very similar to adenosine, it can fit into adenosine receptor sites. When this happens, you are supposed to feel tired, but caffeine is what fills the receptor sites, so you don’t realise you’re tired. Your body then produces more of the by-products and you don’t even notice it. Due to this, caffeine can affect mood and performance by inhibiting the actions of adenosine.
Now if you’re a devoted coffee drinker like myself, think about what happens when you don’t have your cup of coffee for the day? Yup, a headache! That’s just another drawback to the withdrawal symptoms you may feel if addicted to this powerful stimulant.
So, is caffeine good or bad?
As mentioned earlier, there’s nothing wrong with consuming caffeine – infact, it offers many benefits when consumed correctly. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The dose makes the poison! It’s all dependant on your caffeine source and how much you consume.
So, do yourself a favour and grab a cup of coffee or a shaker full of protein powder and enjoy the effects caffeine provides, along with the health benefits that come with it. Just be mindful and conscious of how much you take in per day, and you will be just fine!”
Clued up on your caffeine? Great! Take Vinny’s advice and give our it a go! But make sure you head over to our blog first and check out our top training tips and advice so you can really maximise your workout.
*Statistics from drugwise.org.uk