Caffeine. Is it good or bad? We get this question all the time, and the answer really depends on your goals and current state of health.
Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that starts altering bodily functions once consumed. Caffeine will increase heart rate and blood flow while raising your body temperature. Many people drink coffee and its accompanying caffeine to help them start their day. A cup in the morning makes you feel more alert while satisfying the physical dependence you may acquire from drinking it daily. Most experts agree that a daily cup or two of coffee or tea is considered safe.
Caffeine may not be suited for everyone though. Caffeine consumption may disrupt sleep cycles, but it can also cause under-hydration as well as restlessness, anxiety, and irritability in mood and behavior. Those with heart conditions, high blood pressure, or type 2 diabetes are risking added stress on the heart and circulatory system as well as a possible increase in blood sugar levels. So caffeine could increase health risks in individuals with these conditions.
On the positive side, studies have shown that caffeine does improve athletic performance, which means a cup of coffee or green tea before you exercise could help you accomplish more. This is due to caffeine’s ability to increase muscular power output by assisting the release of calcium as well as helping your body burn more fat as a fuel source. Caffeine consumption before a workout also lessens your rate of perceived exertion and your perception of exhaustion. Your brain makes you feel as if you aren’t working as hard as you really are. This performance boost can be achieved by consuming as little as 1 milligram of caffeine per kilogram of bodyweight. So, for most people, a cup of coffee or green tea would be enough to boost the output of your workout.
The main concern we have with drinking coffee every morning is that too often the coffee takes the place of a complete breakfast. Many people rely solely on the caffeine and sugar in their morning cup to get them through until lunch, but this gives no nutritional sustenance. So as long as breakfast consists of a balance of macronutrients from actual food, there should be little concern with having a cup of coffee or brewed tea. If you’re drinking an 8oz caffeinated drink, be sure to drink 8oz of water to help offset the diuretic effect of the caffeine.
Also, be aware of your dependence on caffeine, as it is found in many sodas and energy drinks. If you have to drink more than two caffeinated drinks just to get through your day, it may be time to cut back. Try, instead, to fuel your body with nutrients from real food so you stay naturally energized. Many caffeinated drinks contain high amounts of sugar or artificial sweeteners, so limiting or avoiding them will help keep your overall health in check as well.
So be aware of the good and bad aspects of caffeine and if and how it should fit into your nutrition plan.