It is often assumed that caffeine is not good for you. Many view it as a guilty pleasure, addicting, unnecessary and certainly not pro-health. There are so many questions around caffeine: Does it burn fat? Is it dehydrating? Will it improve my athletic performance? Will it prevent me from sleeping?
It seems important to understand what studies are saying about caffeine, considering most American adults have at least 1 cup of a caffeinated beverage per day.
Caffeine has long been associated with improving endurance. How does it work? Caffeine makes it easier for the body to use fat as fuel. Thus your body can use both its glycogen reserves and its fat stores to fuel its efforts.This allows for longer periods of aerobic endurance. In addition, the stimulant properties of caffeine can improve cognitive functions, so users show more alertness, faster reaction times and decreased perception of pain.
Caffeine is a know diuretic, meaning, it increases the passing of urine, although that does not seem to have a significant effect on overall fluid balance. A study in 2013 with individuals drinking the equivalent of 5 cups of espresso or 7 servings of tea found that caffeine does not alter fluid balance in healthy male subjects, regardless of body composition, water intake or physical activity. Although the long-held assumption that caffeine is dehydrating may not be accurate, that doesn’t mean coffee should replace water. You want to drink enough to make your urine clear.
Scientists are suggesting that coffee consumption is linked to a significant decrease in Type 2 diabetes. Much more research needs to be done to clarify the data, but one study found that when coffee consumption was increased on average by 11/2 cups per day, the risk of Type 2 diabetes decreased by 11%. Another found that every additional cup per day may decrease diabetes risk by 7%.
Sleep is one area where all evidence seems to show we should be cutting back on caffeine. Studies show a correlation between caffeine consumption and impaired sleep, which is no surprise. Because caffeine is a stimulant, it can decrease total hours of sleep as well as quality of sleep. Some of this may vary based on genetics and age, as well as typical caffeine consumption, but it is clear that if you are not sleeping well, your caffeine intake should be investigated.
Many people have wondered whether that pounding afternoon headache was a sign of caffeine withdrawal. To determine whether something is a “drug of dependence,” brain-mapping technology can be used to see whether it triggers the brain circuit of dependence. Although caffeine has not been shown to trigger that pathway, the American Psychiatric Association updated its diagnoses in 2013 and included caffeine withdrawal as a symptom.
Yes, its true that caffeine has zero calories on its own – same for black coffee and tea. But not all coffee cups are equal, for more reasons than just caffeine. It is crucial to know what is in your beverage that might hinder your efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Many of us add sugar and fat to our beverages, causing the calorie count to rise quickly. Also, because caffeine products are a booming industry, there are pre-made mixes, on-the-go drinks and caffeinated bars that are full of calories and processed ingredients.
Still confused about caffeine? Not sure if you should take that drink? Remember the following:
Start with honesty. Measure how much coffee you are having. A serving is an 8-ounce cup. Most small sizes in coffee shops are 12 ounces. If you are trying to assess whether caffeine is affecting your sleep, exercise performance or weight, it is always essential to know your baseline.
If you’re not sleeping well, try to cut back. If you want to sleep better or are concerned about your sleep, decreasing or avoiding caffeine might be just what you need.
Do not go cold turkey. If you do want to cut out caffeine, slowly wean yourself off coffee for a week and then go off all caffeinated beverages for 30 days. Assess how you feel and then decide how much, if any, you want to add back.
July 11, 2016