Millions of people consume caffeine in drinks and foods around the world. For many people, especially those who have poor sleep habits, it is the first thing they drink in the morning to start their day. Caffeine can promote athletic performance by increasing the level of feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain, namely dopamine, for improved energy levels, as well as enhanced fat oxidation levels in the muscles. However, it is the polyphenols and antioxidant properties in coffee that offers cardiorespiratory and metabolic health benefits.
Consuming too much caffeine and at the wrong times can have an adverse effect on health, such as disrupting sleep patterns, causing anxiety, and potentially leading to reliance or withdrawal symptoms with overconsumption. So, there are advantages and disadvantages of caffeine.
- Caffeine - Is It Really That Good?
- Benefits of Caffeine
- Potential Side Effects of Caffeine
- Take Home Messages
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
Caffeine – Is It Really That Good?
Tea and coffee are the most widely consumed drinks across the world after water. People typically drink 4-6 cups per day, and may consider it essential to get them through the day…thanks to caffeine!
The consumption of caffeine offers sports performance enhancement and focus health benefits, which is why athletes regularly consume caffeine to enhance performance. However, caffeine has always been perceived to cause a diuretic effect (dehydration). Is coffee actually good for your health? Or does coffee consumption pose a health risk? The pros and cons of caffeine consumption.
Benefits of Caffeine
Moderate consumption of caffeine can show positive effects on your mood and behavior like improved athletic performance, increased alertness, energy, concentration, and metabolism. Below are some benefits of caffeine you can get from the consumption of caffeine.
1. Health Benefits of Caffeine
No evidence of adverse health issues from moderate caffeine consumption in healthy populations
Risk of Type 2 diabetes
Risk of cardiovascular disease
Risk of developing dementia/Alzheimer’s disease
Short-term mood & well-being
1. Moderate caffeine consumption is harmless for healthy individuals:
There is no evidence of adverse health effects from average caffeine consumption in healthy individuals. When consumed wisely, caffeine has many health benefits, like increased alertness, athletic performance, improved memory, and mental functioning for improved productivity. However, overconsumption may have a negative effect.
2. Caffeine may improve metabolism and weight management:
Caffeine intake can improve the metabolism and promotes weight management. It helps you use fat for energy by “freeing” it from your fat cells. Several studies suggest caffeine reduces hunger and increases fullness, reducing overall calories. Long-term results have yet to be found, but caffeine has benefitted people.
3. Caffeine can improve short-term mood & well-being:
Caffeine intake can contribute to an overall sense of alertness and vitality. It improves mood by stimulating the central nervous system, which increases feelings of alertness. This effect can be beneficial for sleep-deprived individuals or working long hours. Some studies have suggested that caffeine can improve reaction times and reduce the perception of fatigue, leading to increased mental performance and productivity.
2. Performance Benefits of Caffeine
Short-term cognitive function (concentration, reaction times)
Skill & Accuracy
Perception of pain
1. Improved Cognitive function:
Caffeine has shown positive effects on cognitive performance. It acts as a cognitive enhancer by blocking the neurotransmitter adenosine from its receptors in the brain. This leads to increased alertness and improved cognitive skills, such as decision-making ability.
2. Enhanced Endurance Performance:
Caffeine is a natural stimulant that can enhance endurance and power performance. 3-6mg.kg of body mass of caffeine is recommended to enhance athletic performance.
3. Increased High-Intensity Performance:
Caffeine can improve high-intensity exercise performance, such as sprinting and weightlifting, which leads to more significant gains in strength and power. In power based sports like sprinting, where finishing times can be separated by 0.01 seconds, any improvement from caffeine can make a significant impact on race performance!
4. Reduced perception of pain:
Caffeine is a drug with analgesic (pain-relieving) effects that reduce pain perception in the body. It benefits individuals with chronic pain or those who want to push through discomfort during exercise. It’s important to note that while caffeine can reduce the perception of pain, it does not address the underlying cause.
5. Improved skill and accuracy:
It is another performance benefit of caffeine. Caffeine can enhance motor skills and accuracy, benefitting athletes and individuals who require fast and precise movements. By increasing levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, caffeine increases alertness and arousal, which leads to improved performance on tasks.
6. Greater muscular endurance:
Muscle endurance is the ability to perform repeated contractions over an extended period. Caffeine can increase muscular endurance, allowing individuals to perform more powerful actions during resistance training. Its effect on muscular endurance varies depending on the individual and the type of exercise.
Potential Side Effects of Caffeine
There are side effects, too, if consumed excessive amounts of caffeine. Caffeine can hamper your sleep quality if consumed untimely and in excess quantity. Below are some noticeable cons of caffeine.
The diuretic effect in large doses (enhanced effects in non-habitual caffeine consumers).
Sleep quality (if you consume caffeine before bed).
Develop a tolerance (may encourage to consume more to get the desired effect).
More is not always better and may cause negatively affect health & performance.
Caffeine content can vary drastically between drinks & retailers.
1. Diuretic effect:
Overconsumption of caffeine per day may cause a diuretic effect. It can increase urine production by the kidneys resulting in frequent urination. It causes dehydration if fluids are not sufficiently replaced. This effect can be more pronounced to those individuals who are not regular caffeine consumers or are more sensitive to caffeine.
2. Poor sleep quality:
Many people may have a habit of consuming caffeine while working at night which in turn impairs their sleep quality. Caffeine is a stimulant that affects sleep quality, making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.
3. Tolerance development:
Regular caffeine consumption can develop a tolerance in the body, and the body wants excessive caffeine to achieve the same effects. It can encourage individuals to consume more caffeine than they have before. It causes adverse effects on their health and performance.
4. Adverse effects on health and performance:
On one side, caffeine can benefit individuals by increasing alertness and staying focused to improve productivity. But its overconsumption can cause adverse effects such as anxiety, Insomnia, dehydration, restlessness, headaches and migraines, and increased heart rate.
5. Variability in caffeine content:
The caffeine content in different drinks and foods varies by type, brand, and preparation. It isn’t easy to accurately predict the amount of caffeine consumed by a person per day. It increases the risk of harmful side effects of caffeine, especially for individuals sensitive to caffeine. It should be moderate consumption e.g. 3-4 cups of coffee a day.
Take Home Messages
If you regularly drink caffeinated drinks (4-6 coffees per day) you should keep drinking it! This does not mean you should start drinking coffee regularly if you don’t already.
Use coffee, caffeinated beverages, or supplements (30–60 minutes) before training to enhance performance.
Test in training before the competition and assess dosage to meet your needs/tolerance (1-3mg/kg/body weight)
Avoid consuming coffee late at night to promote sleep quality
Caffeine is not a diuretic in small doses.
Yes…it really is THAT GOOD!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
What caffeine does to your body
Caffeine is a stimulant that affects the central nervous system of the body. It enhances alertness, cognitive function, physical performance, energy levels, and reduces fatigue. Additionally, in large quantities >300mg, it can act as a diuretic, increasing urination along with heart rate and blood pressure.
How much caffeine is good for your body?
Caffeine recommendation varies according to the source, but generally ranges from 200-400mg per day is considered safe for most adults. This equates to up to 4 cups of coffee a day. Some people may be more sensitive to caffeine and may experience negative effects e.g., anxiety and jitteriness at these recommended doses.
Is caffeine daily safe?
Yes. The daily consumption of caffeine, particularly from tea and coffee, can improve mental alertness and is linked to reducing the risk of certain diseases e.g., type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancers. Despite its benefits, individuals sensitive to caffeine may experience side effects such as jitteriness, anxiety, and insomnia.
Where can we find caffeine?
The most common source of caffeine are tea, green tea, coffee, chocolate, soda, energy drinks, supplements,
Does caffeine affect pregnancy?
Consuming caffeine during pregnancy may have negative effects on the developing fetus. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommends limiting caffeine consumption to 200mg per day. Studies have proposed caffeine may be linked to an increased risk of miscarriages and producing developmental delays. It is always best to consult with your healthcare provider.
How many cups of coffee a day?
400mg of caffeine a day for adults is an ideal drink which can be about 4 or 5 cups of coffee.
Who should avoid caffeine?
Caffeine stimulates the human body’s central nervous system. People with insomnia/sleep disorders, high levels of anxiety, ADHD or related disorders, glaucoma, diarrhea, and overactive bladders should avoid caffeine. Pregnant and breastfeeding women are best to avoid or significantly reduce their daily caffeine intake.
How much caffeine is dangerous?
It is considered moderate for healthy adults to consume up to 400mg of caffeine daily (4-5 cups of coffee). However, caffeine sensitivity differs from individual to individual. Caffeine intake from a moderate amount to over-consuming a day harms your health. Single intakes greater than 6mg per kg body mass can induce negative responses to cardiorespiratory, CNS and cognitive function, and impair exercise performance.
Is it okay for a child to consume caffeine?
It is not recommended for children under the age of 12 to consume caffeine. You can consult with your healthcare professional for further advice.