If you can’t get going in the morning (or afternoon) without your latte, if you’re hooked on pre-workout to take you through your reps at the gym, or if you drink cup after cup of coffee and can’t remember the last time you had a glass of water, this article is for you.
Caffeine. It wakes us up and it revs us up. It’s that little helper that can keep us alert, get our creativity flowing, and stave off our appetite.
It is also a drug that, if we overuse it, can harm us.
Caffeine is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug and a central nervous system stimulant of the methylxanthine class. It is one of the few psychoactive drugs that is legal and unregulated in nearly all parts of the world. If you don’t know what a psychoactive drug is, the class also includes alcohol, cocaine, and cannabis.
How does caffeine work? When caffeine molecules bind to the adenosine receptors in brain cells they block adenosine, a neurotransmitter that signals the body it is time for sleep, from binding. This prevents you from feeling symptoms of drowsiness and makes it easier for dopamine to be released. The elevated levels of adenosine in the blood also cause the adrenal glands to release more adrenaline, so you feel amped up and happy.
But because your body responds to blocked adenosine by increasing neural activity, the pituitary gland is stimulated. This prepares your body for increased activity and more adrenaline is released from the adrenal gland to induce a number of responses throughout your body. The liver releases greater amounts of sugar into the bloodstream to increase energy, your pupils dilate, your heart rate accelerates, and your breathing tube opens in order to take in more oxygen.
But while increased adrenaline has some benefit, sustained high levels can be damaging to your physical and emotional health.
Although there is some argument in the medical system as to whether or not adrenal fatigue is an actual medical issue, overuse of caffeine can cause multiple health issues for men and women. For example:
-Men who drank more than four 8 fl.oz. cups of coffee per day in a Mayo Clinic partnered study had a 21% increase in all-cause mortality.
-The Mayo clinic also found that people who regularly drink caffeinated beverages have a higher average blood pressure than do those who drink none. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to complications including stroke, aneurysm, heart attack or heart failure. It is also a precursor to metabolic syndrome, which is a cluster of disorders of your body’s metabolism. Metabolic syndrome will make you more susceptible to diabetes, as well as other illnesses.
-A study from The University of Nevada School of Medicine showed that caffeine can reduce a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant by about 27%. According to a study from researchers at the National Institutes of Health and Ohio State University, Columbus, a woman is more likely to miscarry if she and her partner drink more than two caffeinated beverages a day during the weeks leading up to conception.
Cutting down on caffeine use is a great way to avoid these and other health issues. Some ways of reducing caffeine consumption are:
-Drink coffee in moderation. Do you really need that quad venti latte? If you suffer from anxiety or depression, you especially don’t. Studies links caffeine intake to panic disorders and depression and that “patients with anxiety disorders may benefit by avoiding caffeine-containing foods and beverages”. If you still love the flavor (and the antioxidant benefits) switch to decaf.
-Try other caffeinated beverages such as yerba mate (high in theobromine) or matcha. Thanks to the L-theanine green tea contains, matcha has the same amount of caffeine per brewed cup (34 grams) but the release of caffeine is slowed and has a calming, relaxing effect.
-Instead of drinking caffeinated beverages, use nootropic stacks to experience caffeine benefits. A high quality nootropic containing caffeine will provide more effect from less caffeine if it is combined with other nutrients, such as EGCG from green tea, B complex, and theobromine.