March is Caffeine Awareness Month so I figured it would be a good time to tackle this subject.
Is this drug good or bad for you? What is the best way to quit? How will my body react?
First let’s disclose that I am not a doctor and these are my own opinions based on my research. There have been over 19,000 studies done on this naturally occurring substance since the 1960’s. Let’s start with some caffeine facts, how it affects your brain, and lay out the pros and cons and then discuss what happens if you quit.
- USA is the 16th in the world per capita of coffee consumption – the Netherlands, Finland, Poland, Norway, Germany lead the list
- FDA says it’s safe to consume up to 400 mg of caffeine per day (2-3 8 oz cups of coffee)
- The FDA regulates how much caffeine can be put in soda but NOT energy drinks
- In coffee the lighter the roast the higher the caffeine content and decaf coffee typically has 20 mg of caffeine per serving
- Caffeine has a half life of 4-6 hours meaning that if you ingest 200 mg of caffeine at 6 pm by 11 pm you will still have 100 mg of caffeine in your system
- 90% of humans partake in this vice daily
How it affects your brain
Caffeine tricks your adenosine receptors to do the opposite of what they are supposed to do – help you sleep. The same receptors speed up your neurons. It constricts your blood vessels and gives you a pleasurable effect by releasing more dopamine and absorbing it more slowly. It can trigger your fight of flight response in your brain resulting in dilated pupils , adrenaline, breathing more rapid, stop digesting food, rise in blood pressure and making your liver releases sugar into the blood stream giving you more energy.
Studies have shown it can help to decrease the chances of contracting many diseases. Among these are an 80% drop in developing cirrhosis, less likely to contract diabetes, liver disease or cancer, a 50% less chance of developing mouth and throat cancer and can decrease the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Preventing cavities (black coffee only), aid in constipation and improve memory and your mental functions are also positive traits . For those who like to exercise it can mildly enhance athletic performance by increasing energy levels and making you more alert. It also helps break down body fat and use it as fuel for training.
If you’re big into sleeping – caffeine may be your worst enemy.
- You may fall asleep but it may prevent deep sleep which is what your body really needs
- You may wake up earlier because your body craves caffeine
- Induce and/or exacerbate anxiety
- Causes teeth clenching
- May interfere with calcium absorption
- promotes anxiousness, nervousness, and irritability
It also boosts blood pressure.
What happens if I quit?
First of all you will feel like crap. Withdraw symptoms usually start within 12 – 24 hours and can last up to a week. They include:
- lack of concentration
- muscle pain
- low energy
- you may replace one addiction for another (food) and see an increase in weight
Once your are out of this phase you should wake up in the morning feeling wide awake and energized. Not to mention staying that way all day long! You will be free from the dependency of caffeine.
Of course you should always consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet. I’ve come to the conclusion that the pros outweigh the cons and with moderation caffeine can stay in my life for now.