COOOOOFFFFFFFEEEEEEEE!!!! It's all the rage. Many give it credit for waking them up, keeping them up, keeping them socially behaved, and even making them better parents. What they're really worshiping is caffeine. So is caffeine good or bad? What is the verdict? Well....it depends.
There are multiple studies and sites which proclaim caffeine to be very good. Healthy, even. Why? Well, first of all, it's a stimulant. Stimulants can increase thermogenesis or fat burning. This is one of the biggest notable benefits of caffeine. Okay, so what contains caffeine??? Coffee. Soda (unless labeled caffeine free). Energy drinks. Chocolate (minimal) . Green Tea. Iced Tea. Hot tea (most herbal teas DO NOT, but that depends). How much caffeine are in these and how much is a "good amount"? Well, that depends too!
Caffeine reaction is dependent on the person. Some people respond and get the "caffeine high," even jitters, from drinking small amounts of caffeine. Some do not-caffeine does not do much for them. If you are thinking to yourself, "well I drink a lot of coffee, but really don't get the same kick I used to," this is quite typical too. Caffeine is a stimulant your body can get used to. This means with long term use, you will not likely continue to get the same “kick” you initially experienced. So how do you get that delightful kick back? Well... you need to wean off caffeine for a period of time. I know: WHAT!!! Are you kidding me? Well, you don't HAVE to. Just continue drinking a pile of coffee and be more tired than you already are. The other option is to wean yourself off completely in a step by step process in 3-5 days. By day 5, caffeine should be non-existent. Following the weaning period, I suggest at least a week without caffeine. You will get rid of the migraines, headaches, etc. and you will eventually feel MORE ENERGIZED. This is usually the case. Once you feel better for at least 3 days, then you could add in that cup of Joe again. Be careful though. It's a slippery slope. 1 cup will most likely give you a better boost than you are used to. Then the next day you do the same. Before you know it you are back to the lethargic, old self, drinking a pot of coffee before 10 am.
Caffeine can help you lose weight! So how much caffeine should I have?? A MAXIMUM OF 600mg daily, but I would stick to 200-300mg. How much is that??
1 cup of Joe= 100mg caffeine That's a small cup too! Your tall is most likely 150-200mg or better. That is coffee only, not an Americano with 4 espresso shots (300mgish)
Energy drinks (16 oz) - 200mg
Pre-workout powders - 200-500mg
Fat burner pills - 100-200mg/pill
Okay, so now that you're educated about the amount of caffeine in the average things you consume, it's time to ask..... How caffeinated are you??? Most people don't realize fat burners are loaded with caffeine. I have recently been loving a combination of L-tyrosine (adds focus) and Exhilarin (leaves you feeling exhilarated). On top of this, you have that afternoon pick me up, and before you know it you are pushing 500 mg of caffeine daily and wonder why you have terrible sleeping habits. Click HERE for some sleep "hacks". Caffeine has a 1/2 life of 8 hours, which means it can have effects for up to 8 hours. Even if you are a “non-responder” this really doesn't matter. You may still experience some effect for up to 8 hours. Could that little effect wake you up at night? Of course it could. Does that mean you have to cut off caffeine earlier in the day to avoid that sleep disruption? Yes. It does. Aim to have your last cup at 2 pm and you should be good to fall asleep by 10 pm. You might wonder how much caffeine you could have at 2 pm. This is relatively easy. If you have more caffeine, it will draw out the effects longer. An energy drink could keep you up (or at least restless) an ADDITIONAL 12 hours!
What about the different types of caffeine? Why do I get a major kick from energy drinks, but coffee doesn't do much for me anymore? It is all about delivery:
Coffee, depending on the type and manufacturer can be "cleaner" and have a better effect. Have you ever been to a high end coffee shop and ordered the gourmet coffee and were bouncing off the walls? The next day you triple scooped your Folgers and took a siesta 10 minutes later? Quality, the process of manufacturing, type of coffee bean, etc. all play a role in the effect it will have on you.
Energy drinks usually have additional B vitamins (precursors to promote energy) and things like taurine, and guarana. These deliver the caffeine in a different way so you receive that caffeine high.
Pre-workout Powders are usually extremely potent in their delivery system, which is why they are so effective. Also, because they're advertised as a fitness supplement more-so than caffeine dynamite, most people don't understand what they are taking. Most pre-workout labels are hard to read and contain huge amounts of caffeine or stimulants in a very small dose. Get schooled on pre-workouts by clicking HERE.
Fat burners typically come in liquid gels or capsules which enhance the delivery and absorption. This will give you the pep in your step at a faster rate, and like pre-workout powders, may contain large amounts of caffeine in a single capsule. Before you know it, it's 3 am and you are staring at the ceiling counting sheep in beast mode.
The takeaway: As long as caffeine consumption is monitored and occasionally given a break, it is a totally safe substance to consume, and can even have some energy and weight loss benefits. If it causes sleep pattern disruptions or heart palpitations, consumption should be weaned back and ceased until symptoms subside, and reintroduced mindfully, if at all.
Thank you for investing in your health.
Joseph Champa, RD, CSCS