The Caffeine Conundrum

The Caffeine Conundrum.jpg

I’ll admit it. I love coffee. A simple cup of coffee can feel like an old friend wrapping his rich aroma and warm arms around you in the morning, whispering smooth reassurances that “it’s all going to be okay.

Lots of people ‘feel good’ on their favorite caffeinated beverage in the morning.  Maybe you’re part of the local caffeine crew piling into Pete’s Coffee at the corner.

Could it be that your morning cup could actually offer some health benefits?

Turns out, the answer is a bit ambiguous but YES, there are health benefits to caffeine. There are also a few cons, so be sure to read to the end to find out which side of the coin you fall on.

The Pros...

  1. Coffee and certain types of tea are loaded with antioxidants.Side note: You can definitely get the same amount of antioxidants from eating your veggies PLUS the veggies pack a larger punch with actual vitamins and minerals.
  2. Coffee may increase memory! Do you feel undeniably (and self-surprisingly) sharp after your cup of morning joe? Turns out, Johns Hopkins researchers would chalk that up to hard science. While the mechanisms are still unclear, they believe caffeine can help increase the effects of adrenaline (norepinephrine) on various parts of the brain responsible for memory formation.
  3. I wonder if Einstein drank coffee?
  4. Coffee may protect against Type 2 Diabetes.Researchers at UCLA (Go Bruins!) found that drinking coffee increases a protein called sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), which controls the body’s testosterone and estrogen levels, both of which play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes. Side note: Excessive coffee intake can actually contribute to the development of diabetes. I’ll cover that in the next section.
  5. Liver health- Recent studies reveal coffee could be beneficial to liver health and even protect the liver in cirrhosis patients!

The Cons...

  1. Caffeine can overstimulate adrenal glands.As previously mentioned, over stimulation of adrenal glands can eventually cause additional hormone imbalance which could eventually contribute to type 2 diabetes. Keep adrenals healthy, blood sugar balanced and caffeine in moderation (no more than 200mg/day) and you should be okay on small amounts of caffeine.
  2. Coffee can take up to 24 hours to fully metabolize! That means that your morning cup is still in your body by 10PM. If you have difficulty falling asleep, start by cutting back or eliminating your caffeine. Check with our chart below to find out how much caffeine you’re consuming (and then try and stick with 200 mg per day).
  3. Genetics might make you sensitive to caffeine-induced issues. Some of us may be less capable of metabolizing caffeine due to a slight variance in genetic sequencing, thus effecting the activity of a caffeine metabolizing enzyme called cytochrome P4501A2 (CYP1A2).If you have the genetic variance, caffeine will take longer to break down and could possibly contribute to anxiety, insomnia, increased blood pressure and increased risk of heart attack. If you’re curious to find out if you’re genetically inclined to caffeine sensitivity, check out the genetic test 23andMe.
  4. Excessive caffeine can decrease insulin sensitivity.  This can eventually lead to high blood sugar levels, arterial deterioration and even type 2 diabetes. This metabolic mishap can be perfect recipe for weight gain disaster:Elevated insulin +  Elevated cortisol = Weight Gain
  5. This statement may seem contradictory to #3 listed in the ‘Pros’ section above, but the problem with caffeine consumption (for most people) can simply be due to excess.
  6. I personally recommend trying to stick to less than 100-200 mg/day. See the chart below to measure how much you’re consuming each day.

The Conundrum...Do you need caffeine?

Caffeine helps to naturally stimulate the release of adrenaline in the morning, which also elevates the cortisol hormone, literally helping you to WAKE UP each morning.

The problem?

Some of us become so dependent on coffee that we fail to recognize our inability to ‘wake up’ in the morning (or stay awake during the day) without coffee

If you’re the type who can’t ‘wake up’ in the morning without a cup of coffee, it’s time to look into your adrenal health. (tweet that)

While caffeine does offer some health benefits, I would suggest that you monitor your intake and stick with 100-200 mg or less per day.

“But Whhhhy?” (whiny inner child voice says)

You want to limit your caffeine intake because TOO much of good thing is actually bad in this case.

Too much caffeine can over stimulate and eventually drain your adrenal glands, ultimately  leading to:

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Speedy aging
  • Hormone imbalance (think moodiness + PMS symptoms)

And chances are, you already have lots stimulating your adrenal glands besides caffeine like…

  • Family stress
  • Work stress
  • Homework stress
  • ’Meeting everyone’s expectations’ stress
  • Relationship stress
  • Rush hour stress
  • Paying bills stress
  • etc…

Final Message:

Listen to your body.

Measure your caffeine intake if you haven’t already to find out how much you are really consuming.

*My Own Caffeine Confessions*

-I always order an Americano instead of regular coffee because it’s less caffeine.

-I try to stick with tea and keep coffee as a ‘treat’

-If I’m hyped up and nervous about my day, I try and stick with a grounding tea like Chai instead of choosing coffee, which will often make me more nervous.

-If I’m “moody” (as my husband calls it) he tries to hide extra coffee from me because he knows it can make me more of anxious ...which doesn’t always bode well for his day ;)

My weekly ‘coffee treat’ is Philz Coffee every Wednesday + Thursday morning (it’s the only thing that’s EVER gotten me out of the house at 6:30AM)!

Melissa Esguerra