Caffeine’s Influence on Performance, Production, and Awareness.
I want to start out this week’s blog by letting you all know how terrible the timing of my last post was. A blog about eating healthy the day before Thanksgiving! The average American consumes 4500 calories and 230 grams of fat on this glorious holiday. I think my 2 servings of pumpkin pie and carrot cake definitely contributed to this stat. I also heavily abused my own rule of “treating the bod”. Did anyone else?
Since moving to Europe, I have been shocked at the amount of coffee and tea that is consumed. Despite how intelligent Norwegians are, I decided to do some research for myself. In North America, upwards of 90% of adults consume caffeine on a daily basis. Caffeine has been said to improve endurance, mental awareness, increase energy levels, and reduce fatigue. So what is the truth behind this stuff? Does it work? And is it worth it? From my findings and recent studies, the short answer is YES, in the correct amounts, and through the right source.
The Abbreviated Science
Caffeine is plugged into the adenosine receptors(these are the body’s version of a regulatory function to slow down your central nervous system), to inhibit or slow down adenosine from performing its job. As a result, the caffeine causes your central nervous system to run at a faster rate. Thus, you experience a rise in blood pressure, an elevated heart rate, and stimulated cortex, that can give you a clearer thought process, increased alertness and energy levels, and can rid muscles of fatigue.
Soon after your first sip, caffeine begins to work its magic by causing the release of dopamine. Dopamine is a brain chemical that stimulates the area of your brain responsible for alertness, problem solving, and pleasure. Caffeine can give people a greater ability of concentration for up to 1-3 hours after consumption. Caffeine also gives you the feeling of being activated, sharper, and has a mild mood-elevating effect. It causes a keener appreciation of sensory stimuli and reduces reaction time so you feel like you are “on the ball” . Studies show that caffeine increases the level of free fatty acids in the bloodstream which can boost fat burning levels and conserve muscle glycogen.
A chart of Caffeinated Drinks *Keep in mind the standard cup of coffee only has 8 ounces
Caffeine is a habit-forming drug in which tolerance and in some cases, dependence develops. It can affect sleep and cause insomnia, depending on the total intake daily. Coffee has been shown to stain teeth and can leave you feeling jittery if consumed in excess. Likewise, the sugar from energy drinks can lead to things like tooth decay and increased blood pressure and insulin levels.
THE UNKNOWN-With new products continuing to be developed, the long term affects and combination of ingredients mixed together, will always be an uncertainty and something to be conscious of when choosing a product. The lack of transparency that companies provide in regards to ingredients and caffeine levels also raise concerns and questions with medical professionals. This is part of the reason why many of my suggestions steer towards products that come from more natural sources, like coffee beans and tea leaves.
Depending on how it is brewed and the type of coffee bean, a standard cup of coffee generally has between 80-120 mg of caffeine but can have up to 200 mg’s. Coffee is an extremley natural source of caffeine and it’s health benefits extend far beyond caffeine and antioxidants. Very low calorie on its own but can turn into a small meal once you start adding flavors, milk, creams, syrup, and sugars. (Check out the calorie content of some of your Starbuck’s favorites below.)
Containing between 30 and 85 mg of caffeine, tea is made up of things like catechins, theanine, and caffeine, and is a great natural source of energy and antioxidants. Specifically green tea, which is filled with antioxidants and has been shown to lower chronic inflammation all over the body as well as slow down oxidative stress which causes muscle fatigue. Tea is an excellent source of caffeine for the common man or woman.
A wide variety of products, but most have between 80 and 200 mg of caffeine. However, no one is certain about the caffeine levels because there is no requirement to list specific amounts in each product. Marketing slogans claim that the combo of stimulants and vitamins(guarana, amino acid taurine, and other herbs) help energy levels, when in reality it is the caffeine and sugar-glucose. Energy drinks are often times associated with a “caffeine jolt” followed by a “caffeine crash” which can be attributed to the high sugar content in most of these drinks.
Between 150-200 mg of caffeine, energy shots are considered dietary supplements which means the FDA doesn’t require them to list actual caffeine levels. Despite claims, energy is not obtained from vitamins or minerals in these things much like energy drinks. The feeling that you might get from this product comes from the caffeine. The one advantage of this product over energy drinks is the “no crash” element. Despite boasting a 12 % market share, I would air on the safe side and stick with products that list ingredients and comes from a more natural source.
Generally between 20 and 50 mg of caffeine, sodas have been linked with everything from type 2 diabetes, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, to one of the leading causes of obesity in North America. You will get more energy from the sugar and other ingredients than the actual caffeine in pop. In other words, stay away from sodas completely, even if it is “Diet”.
When to avoid caffeine
New companies and products continue to boast new caffeinated products every day. Because of the variety of products, many of the new energy drinks, shots, and pills, are very unregulated and often times have no 3rd party inspections. Unlike coffee, energy drinks and shots contain several “Energy Boosting” ingredients that have little research and data to back the claims. You also need to be aware of the calorie levels in some of your favorite drinks, as some have over a meals worth of calories, sugar, and the dreaded high fructose corn syrup. Opt for a regular size product. Extra large energy drinks and Venti coffees can pack lots of unwarranted calories, sugar, and fat.
Energy Drinks and Sugar levels *This entire serving has 54 grams of sugar
The American Heart Association (AHA) daily recommendation for sugar: 37 grams for men (150 cal, 7.4tsp) and 25 grams for women (100 cal, 5tsp).
The Social Factor
One of the perks of choosing coffee and tea is what I call the “social factor”. Coffee and tea gives you a great option to meet with a colleague, teammate, or date. You can kill 2 birds with one stone by allowing caffeine to work its magic on your central nervous system while enjoying some camaraderie in a social setting. The amount of coffee shops, cafes, and patios in Europe alone has converted me into an occasional coffee drinker and avid tea fan.
My suggestion for athletes
Most studies which have reported the positive effects of caffeine comes in doses of at least 5-6 mg per kg of body weight (5-6mg/kg) between 30 and 60 minutes before exercise. (For 180lb person you would need 400 mg or for 160lbs 350 mg). However, depending on your tolerance to caffeine, your intake levels could be much different. As a general guideline, take between140 to 400mg (example: between 1 and 3 cups of coffee) of caffeine between 30 and 60 minutes prior to exercise and through the product that works best for your specific body type and lifestyle. (That means do a little experimentation with some products before practice and if you find one you like, use it for games, matches, or events) Because of its affect on sleep, I would try and and limit my caffeine intake to anytime before 6PM.
Limit yourself to one serving of coffee or tea in the morning and depending on your energy levels throughout the day/workout time/day’s agenda, one at lunch or in the early afternoon. For the Average Joe, I would avoid energy shots and energy drinks to steer clear of high sugar levels, high prices, and the chance of missing out on the “social factor” you can have with a cup of coffee or tea. As a last tidbit to influence your decision, caffeine consumption from coffee and tea can improve brain health, prevent Alzheimer’s, and lower the risk of Parkinson’s Disease.
Thanks for everyone’s interest and feedback on my blogs. I Really appreciate any comments, positive or negative.