Perks of Caffeine
Let’s talk about CAFFEINE.
I can find plenty to appreciate in a well-made cappuccino and I make a point to do just that every weekend at my favorite yellow coffee shop on Magazine Street. If you ARE local, make a point to try one of French Truck’s New Orleans locations. It will not disappoint. Unfortunately for you non-locals, you may not have the pleasure of experiencing a French Truck coffee. Regardless of your location, odds are that you consume your own preferred version of a caffeinated beverage multiple times a week.
Personally, I love the taste of coffee, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t drink it for the benefits of caffeine. Caffeine can make your mind feel exceptionally sharp. You suddenly obtain these cat-like reflexes and your to-do list turns into a list of accomplishments. We’ve all been there. However, a mental crash soon follows this caffeinated affect for most people, and because it’s so common, we assume that the crash is normal. Whether this thought may or may not have occurred to you, there is actually a right and a wrong way to use caffeine.
First, what is caffeine?
Caffeine is a stimulant that naturally occurs in about sixty different plant species. The most common types are coffee plants, tea bushes, kola trees (soft drinks), and cocao trees. Caffeine is absorbed by the small intestine, gets metabolized by the liver, and typically takes about 30-45 minutes to take effect post-consumption. From here, caffeine travels through the blood and acts directly on adenosine receptors in the synapses of each nerve cell within the body. Caffeine is both water and lipid-soluble, which means it can cross the blood-brain barrier and directly affect the synapses of the brain. Depending on one’s sensitivity or tolerance to caffeine, the potency may differ, but the effects can range anywhere from increased wakefulness, reaction time, concentration, and overall improved energy. Essentially, caffeine is telling your body to work at its fastest, best, and most efficient whether or not it’s capable of doing so.
Here’s where the negative side effects come into play. We’ve all seen at least one of the Fast & Furious movies (pretty likely with there being close to ten of them). Caffeine is to the body as NOS (nitrous oxide) is to a car. Do you think Vin Diesel would be pressing that button with an empty gas tank? Luckily, our bodies are a little more complex than a souped-up car, but the concept is still the same. For humans, the body is able to break itself down in this case of a self-induced "emergency." If your body is lacking in adequate fuel and/or rest, caffeine should not be your go-to.
We fail to pay attention to the many ways the body communicates with us, so here is to helping you do a better job of that and using caffeine to increase your daily performance.
Never drink coffee on am empty stomach, especially first thing in the morning.
When you wake up, you have been fasting for at least 6-8 hours. This means that your body has depleted itself of whatever fuel, if any, that you have stored as glycogen in the liver. Your body requires food for fuel, but when food is lacking and you tell the system to work harder, it has no choice but to breakdown your own tissue, especially muscle, instead. In order to make this happen, your body goes through a series of steps in which the stress cycle is taking place. Feeling jittery with a high heart rate? No fuel and a demand for higher energy— your body perceives this as a problem and cascades this series of steps as an alarm reaction. Keep inflammation and chronic stress at a minimum in whatever way you can. Whether it be a breakfast on-the-go or breakfast enjoyed at home, fuel your body BEFORE you demand more of it, and stop breaking down the important stuff!
If you find yourself with a stomach ache post brew, ask yourself: “When’s the last time I ate?” Maybe the coffee would sit better if it accompanied food in your tummy.
**NOTE: The stomach ache should not be confused with the "laxative effect" of coffee/caffeine.
Limit your daily intake.
Sometimes when I start with a client, I find that they’re accustom to drinking 2-3 cups per day, and sometimes they’ve had all of these cups before 10 am. So does it just become a matter of habit and maybe comfort? It’s clearly not having the desired effect, which means it's time to cut back and ONLY consume caffeine, like anything else, at the right time. Are you consuming caffeine to make up for poor/inadequate sleep? If this is the case, it’s time to address the sleep issue instead of further overloading the system. You can only cover up the issue with a band-aid for so long before you find that these choices lead to a faster onset of chronic disease and disorders.
Drink your coffee with cream and sugar!
It tastes better anyway. Cream and sugar provide you with all three macronutrients (fats, proteins, and carbohydrates). Skip the additives and go for real cream. Nuts don't have nipples anyway.
If you workout, try drinking your coffee as a pre-workout.
Although I don’t drink coffee everyday, nothing gets me ready for a workout like an espresso or something of the sort about 30 minutes before I start my warmup. Aside from the neurological benefits, caffeine aids in physical performance.
Maybe a workout out isn’t your thing and that’s perfectly fine if you’ve found other ways to be active. Maybe you have something critical on the agenda for work today. Why not skip the early morning coffee and consume it in better proximity to your task? You won’t know until you try it!
Hoping to but a dent in the many questions when it comes to all things nutrition!