Caffeine has long been the center of controversy. It can feel like scientists change their mind every other day but in reality there is just a whole lot of noise out there surrounding caffeine. So is caffeine good or bad for you? In this post I will share some of the reasons why caffeine is seen the way it is to help you make your own decision regarding its use.
Coffee vs. Caffeine
Quick overview. Coffee contains caffeine. Caffeine doesn't only come from coffee.
This is important to discuss because often the advice that we hear about caffeine is actually referring to coffee and vice-versa. There is a pretty big difference.
Look, I have been shamed plenty when it comes to my love for coffee. Maybe you have been to. I'm always hearing about how I need to cut down on drinking coffee and I've seen my share of people proudly boasting their lack of interest in coffee while holding an energy drink. So maybe you really just want to know if you can drink coffee guilt-free or if there are health risks that you are ignoring.
It makes sense because most of us don't choose to eat unhealthy things because they are unhealthy but rather because they're delicious so we just want to know if the risk is worthy.
If you are looking at coffee, you need to look at what is in the coffee, including the caffeine. If you are looking at caffeine then you have to look at where the caffeine is coming from. For example:
Cola & other sodas
Energy drinks & bars
In each of these types of products, caffeine is not the only ingredient and whether or not they are vilified is based on the context of how they are used. You may read an article about how bad energy drinks are and think that they are bad because they have caffeine when in reality the writer was referring to the high level of empty calories. You may hear that coffee is good for weight loss and go buy yourself a venti-mocha-frappe and then wonder why it didn't work?!?!
If you are trying to make a decision you need ask yourself what the reason is. Are you wondering if this is a healthy drink for weight-loss or for high-blood pressure? Some of the ingredients to pay attention to are:
Sweeteners (if you can't have certain types like Aspartame or are avoiding HFCS)
Dairy/Dairy Alternatives (if you are lactose-intolerant or have a milk allergy or a nut allergy)
Carbohydrates (if you have diabetes and are watching your blood sugar levels or if you are trying to get more fiber)
Other Stimulants (if you are taking meds or know you can't have other ingredients)
Type of Coffee (decaf will have less caffeine and how a cup is processed will differ in caffeine and may have different micronutrients)
Understanding The News
When taking in information, first, make sure you actually read the full article and then take that information in context and relate it to your own knowledge. This goes for watching news as well because a lot of the time the information is being summarized and not placed into the very specific context that scientists studied.
A post that talks about the awesome benefits of caffeine on weight loss may not be helful if you have high-blood pressure. Unfortunately, not every blog post is geared towards every single person and can't include details about every condition or need. This is true of scientific journals and peer reviewed books and articles. A study that is researching the effects of caffeine on an athlete is not the best source of knowledge for a pregnant woman.
In general caffeine affects people differently if you are in one of these groups:
Pregnant or breastfeeding
Sleep or anxiety disorders
Chronic headaches/ migraines
Gastric issues like GERD or ulcers
Heart issues or high-blood pressure
Kids and Teens
In any of these cases it is best to talk directly to your doctor about whether caffeine is good or bad and how much.
Benefits and Side-Effects
I was going to write just the benefits and side effects of caffeine as my post but then I looked up the sites to give you as sources and I thought, they do a better job, so instead I am just going to list a few sites here for you to go read if you want details about caffeine.
The basics to understand are:
Caffeine is a drug. It is a chemical component found in food products and can be ingested with food or directly. It is natural but can also be made synthetically.
Caffeine is a stimulant. This means that it is a substance that stimulates your body, brain,and central nervous system. This is why we get energy from coffee.
Caffeine is addictive. It changes your brain's chemistry so that your body becomes dependent on it and leads you to eventually need more caffeine or suffer through withdrawals.
Caffeine has a lot of positive effects depending on its use. It can help speed metabolism and help people lose weight if used alongside proper nutrition and exercise and can even improve exercise performance. It can help you feel more alert, focused, and even help with short-term memory. New studies are showing that caffeine consumptions might be linked to lower risk of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Depression, Heart Disease, and Type 2 Diabetes. This makes caffeine sound like a wonder drug!
Caffeine also has negative effects! There are limits to how much caffeine a person should have so it is important to not go overboard. Some people are caffeine sensitive and can only have a small amount. People who are pregnant, have certain medical issues, or are taking certain medications may need to cut down or completely avoid caffeine. Some common effects of too much caffeine, even for regular users, include; jitteriness, anxiety, heart palpitations, insomnia, headaches, migraines, loss of appetite, and nausea. Here is a list of more side-effects!
I Want Some Anyway!
Let's say you don't care, you want your coffee or pop, how much should you have? Each drink is different and you can usually find out how much caffeine is in something by checking the nutrition facts. Here is a guideline of how much caffeine is in common drinks: