The Benefits & Negatives of Caffeine

Benefits and Negative of Caffeine
Written by Derek Howes

Caffeine, which is found in coffee, tea, soda, pre-workout supplements, pill form, energy drinks, and various other forms is a drug that can have a wide range of effects depending on your sensitivity to it. It might make you feel alert and wide awake,  you may get the jitters, your heart might race, or you may race to the bathroom (caffeine is a diuretic). Most people know caffeine as something that gives you a boost or keeps you awake, well here is a list of things you should know!

Things you should know about caffeine:

  • It has a half-life of 4-6 hours (meaning that it takes that long for the body to metabolize half the amount consumed).
  • It can become counterproductive by taking too much. This reduces the body’s ability to function causing anxiety, restlessness, upset stomach, irritability, and diarrhea.
  • Caffeine inhibits the absorption of thiamin (thiamin is important for carb metabolism) and several minerals, including calcium and iron.
  • Caffeine stimulates the production of adrenaline, a hormone that accelerates the release of fatty acids in the bloodstream. Some theories state at the beginning of exercise, the muscles will start to use these available fatty acids for energy while sparing some of your muscle glycogen.
  • Caffeine makes you think that you are doing less work than you really are. This is because caffeine (according to research) can cross the blood-brain barrier and antagonize the effects of adenosine, the neurotransmitter that causes drowsiness by slowing down nerve cell activity. Basically, the brain is tricked into thinking caffeine is adenosine and has the ability to bind to adenosine receptors on brain cells. Since caffeine doesn’t have the same action as adenosine (causing drowsiness), it stimulates brain chemicals to secrete epinephrine…which keeps you going and makes you feel better.
  • More than a few studies show that caffeine can improve performance by up to 22%.

Although there are both negatives and positives to supplementing with caffeine, I personally think it is one of the best “natural” supplements to take. It’s cheap, has been researched for decades, and can be found almost anywhere at anytime.

In research it says that the amount of coffee it takes to increase performance is around 16 ounces of coffee (or ~200mg). I don’t recommend starting off drinking/taking this much. Start by drinking 4-8oz and/or taking a 100mg caffeine pill (half a normal one), 30-60min before exercising. Eventually you will work your way up to 16 ounces, but not at first. By taking too much you will experience more negative sides than positive. You also may find yourself not getting a boost after awhile. When this happens, I suggest taking a few days off from it. This will flush your body and make your tolerance go down.

A few things to remember:

  • Most supplements already have caffeine in them
  • Caffeine can aggravate certain health problems so always run things by your doctor first (high blood pressure, heart disease, ulcers, anemia, etc)

About the author

Derek Howes

Derek Howes is a personal trainer and chef with over a decade of experience in the gym and kitchen. Derek, who is also known as The Protein Chef on his blog and YouTube channel shows his viewers every week that food doesn’t need to be boring or repetitive, it’s all about balance, moderation, and having the knowledge to change things up. His recipes which have been featured in the news, magazines, and on TV are cheap, quick, AND delicious! His motto in life is “everything in moderation” and is without question the most important habit he follows.

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