Is coffee good or bad for you ? Caffeine complete guide !

Caffeine, one of the most used substances that more than 90% of adults and as many as 50% of kids that is adolescents and teenagers use on a daily basis. When it’s present in drinks and foods, we actively come to like those foods and drinks more than if caffeine were not contained in those foods and drinks, therefore it is not only a stimulant but also acts as a reinforcer. It is a so strong reinforcer that if only a small amount of it is present in drinks and foods you’ll prefer them over other choices. (be aware of that when buying some product which has no reason to have caffeine in it, now you know why it contains caffeine).


Caffeine and weight loss:

If caffeinated beverages contain GLP-1 or glucagon-like peptide 1 it’s been discovered it reduces hunger. GLP-1  makes us feel sated, makes us feel full in our hypothalamus (brain region that controls hunger and satiety). GLP-1 also acts on certain receptors in the gut to make us feel as if we’ve ingested enough food.  Yerba maté teas are known to stimulate significant amounts of GLP-1 release.


Caffeine and depression:

Relationship between depression and caffeine shows that if people are not drinking so much caffeine, it makes them overly anxious. Regular intake of caffeine is inversely related to levels of depression, so it may have some antidepressant effects. However is not clear whether or not the effects of caffeine in countering depression are direct or indirect. (direct effects = on the chemical systems of the brain that relate to mood and well-being that could offset depression OR indirect effects = people are ingesting caffeine and they are more motivated to do work and pursue quality social interactions, then the probability that they will have depression could be lower.)


Caffeine improving mental performance and physical performance

It improves our reaction time, it makes it shorter. It also stimulates certain neurotransmitters
and neuromodulators within the brain and body that give the neural circuits in the brain that are associated with learning and memory a lower threshold to activation. Meaning we are better able to access the brain circuitry involved in learning and memory when we have a certain amount of caffeine circulating in our system.


How caffeine works:

1) Caffeine acts as a reinforcing agent.
It increases the probability that you will return to and engage in a certain activity or consume a certain beverage or food.

2) Caffeine increases dopamine and acetylcholine, which are both neuromodulators in the forebrain, which helps us improve our ability to think, to modify our rule sets. Caffeine stimulates the release of dopamine in a way that’s very much distinct from the classical dopamine pathway associated with addiction and reward.(pathway associated with sex and food and drugs of abuse, like cocaine and methamphetamine.)

3) As caffeine increases the number and efficacy of dopamine receptors in the reward pathways of the brain it makes things that would feel pretty good feel even better.

4) Caffeine acts as an antagonist to adenosine, which offsets the sleepiness that we would otherwise feel from the accumulation of adenosine that occurs as we are awake for more and more hours throughout the day. Be aware that this is simply “borrowing”, because when the caffeine becomes dislodged from the adenosine receptors, you will have a massive glut, a backlog of adenosine and you will feel extra sleepy.


Caffeine Dose:

Not everybody will respond to the same dose of caffeine the same way. We can use our bodyweight to estimate a single tolerable dose of caffeine, for most people 1 to 3 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram (2.205 pounds) of bodyweight can have positive effects. I’m not talking about the total amount of caffeine ingested per day but about the total amount of caffeine ingested in one sitting (coffee, pill etc.) !


Timing ingestion of caffeine:

1) delay your caffeine intake to 90 to 120 minutes after waking up on most days
If you drink coffee 2 minutes after waking up and then in particular after lunch, you’ll experience a dramatic dip in your overall levels of energy, the afternoon crash. (afternoon crash = inability to recover energy and focus and a need to consume more caffeine just to make it through the afternoon). And because of the afternoon crash, you ingest another caffeine in the afternoon which if it falls within 8 – 12 hours of going to sleep will disrupt your sleep. It disrupts the architecture and quality of nightime sleep, you might fall asleep easily as usual but the quality and depth of your sleep will be disrupted by consuming caffeine in the afternoon. 

Avoid drinking caffeine in the 12 hours prior to sleep. Anything that offsets getting regular high quality sleep of sufficient duration is undermining the pro-health effects of that thing. Quality sleep is an absolute must, for more info check my article here.

After you emerge from sleep, you still have adenosine present in your system, if you didn’t sleep well or deeply enough you’re going to have more adenosine in your system. It seems logical to block the adenosine by drinking coffee right after waking up but adenosine will accumulate and after caffeine effects will start to wear off you will experience “the afternoon crash”. Better way is letting adenosine to clear out after waking out not to block its receptors by drinking coffee but to deliberately spike your cortisol.

Clearing out adenosine after waking up, “natural way”:
As soon as you wake up, get bright light in your eyes ideally from sunlight as research has shown it will spike your cortisol levels up to 50 % (cortisol spike increses alertness, mood and it can clear out residual adenosine after waking up). Other ways might be doing a quick exercise in the morning, or walking outside which might get sunlight in your eyes as well.
Important: If you wake up and you ingest caffeine right away, you’re blocking the adenosine receptor but you’re not clearing it out. You’re also preventing cortisol from having its normal increase and rise such that it can directly clear out adenosine.

Morning workout and coffee: If you are somebody who likes to wake up and exercise within the first 90 minutes after waking, it would be appropriate to ingest your caffeine just prior to doing that exercise. But you should expect that the combination of drinking caffeine very shortly after waking plus exercising very intensely shortly after waking will increase the intensity of the afternoon fatigue that you feel.

2) If you absolutely cannot live without ingesting caffeine after waking up, you might want to split the dose into two. You drink half of your caffeine after waking up and the other half 1 hour later. Caffeine has a quarter life of about 12 hours, that means that if you were to ingest a cup of coffee at 8:00 AM, about 25% of that caffeine will still be present at 8:00 PM that night.

You can get away with drinking less caffeine to get the stimulant effect if you do it on an empty stomach. It’s very clear that caffeine on an empty stomach enhances both the mental and physical enhancing effects of caffeine. When we ingest caffeine, provided that we don’t have a lot of food in our stomach and that our blood sugar isn’t particularly high, generally, we experience an increase in alertness within about five minutes. And that increase in focus and alertness peaks around 30 minutes after ingestion of caffeine and persists for as long as 60 minutes. (assuming that one takes caffeine in pill form or drinks the entire caffeine drink within a short period of time)


Coffee drinking and the great myth: Is caffeine dehydrating or not ?

As a chemical, caffeine increases production of urine, which means caffeine is a diuretic. But most research suggests that the fluid in caffeinated drinks balances the diuretic effect of typical caffeine levels. Simply put, if you drink your coffee and you use water as a fluid for production of it (what else right ?), you’re fine and you don’t have to worry about dehydration from coffee. But as with everything else, high doses of caffeine taken all at once may increase the amount of urine the body makes, this I would not recommend to anyone, you’re not helping yourself anymore you’re hurting your body and destroying your quality sleep.


Good to know:

Caffeine’s effects are made more potent by a brief to not so brief period of abstinence prior to taking a dosage of caffeine. (try abstinence at least for 48 hours).

If you are somebody who is not accustomed to drinking caffeine, meaning you’re hypersensitive to caffeine or you don’t regularly ingest caffeine, please do not ingest caffeine on the day of any important mental or physical challenge or performance, because if you are not caffeine-adapted you will experience changes in your thermal regulation, in your levels of anxiety and jitteriness and your levels of focus that could be very detrimental to mental or physical performance.


That’s all from me about this amazing molecule called “Caffeine”, take care, talk to you soon.


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