Are you approachable before you have had your morning coffee? Or do you need that little caffeine-kick to start your day? If so, you are definitely not the only one! Caffeine is the most widely consumed mood enhancing substance. What do we know about this stimulant? Is okay to consume as much coffee, energy drinks or tea as you want? Let’s dive in the world caffeine!
Caffeine is a natural substance that functions as a stimulant. A stimulant activates your body’s systems. Caffeine does that in multiple different ways, that we will explain further on. The natural compound called caffeine is found in plants, most famously in coffee beans, tea leaves and cocoa beans, and much more. These plants are used to create delicious caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, energy drinks and soft drinks.
Caffeine stimulates the chemicals in your brain in two ways. It affects different neurotransmitters, the messengers inside your brain. Most importantly dopamine and norepinephrine are stimulated. These two are responsible for regulating motivation, attention and your mood. Your sips of espresso activate and enhance these chemicals, making you feel extra motivated and focused.
The same espresso sips affect your brain in another way too. When caffeine enters the bloodstream it blocks another molecule called adenosine, a molecule that makes you feel drowsy. Therefore, when we are feeling sleepy, a caffeinated drink can change that feeling!
The ability to increase alertness and improve focus is the most well-known effect of caffeine, and frankly, why some of us love it so! This is why caffeine is often used to help people stay awake and alert, especially when they need to be focused on a task for long periods of time. Long workday ahead? A cup of coffee can help you get into the work flow.
Caffeine also has a number of physiological effects on the body. It increases the heart rate and blood pressure, increase metabolism, and causes the release of insulin. This can be helpful for people who are looking to lose weight, as caffeine has been shown to increase the amount of calories burned by the body. But on the other hand, the amount of acid in your stomach increases too, which can lead to heartburn or an upset stomach.
The effects of caffeine can be felt as soon as 15 minutes after consuming it. The peak amount of caffeine in your blood is an hour after drinking and remains at this level for a few hours for most people. Six hours after consuming, half of the caffeine is still in your body. It can take up to 10 hours for it to be completely out of your blood. Do you want to flush it away faster? Drinking more water will help! By keeping your body well hydrated, the effects will be less noticeable.
If you ever felt like you are visiting the bathroom more often after drinking tea, you are not alone. The caffeine in your drink actually makes you urinate more often. This is because it is diuretic, a substance that increases the production of urine. It causes the body to lose more water than it takes in, extracting water from the body through the kidneys. Next to that, your kidneys are better supplied with blood. Your heart rate goes up and so does bladder pressure. Off to the bathroom it is! The last reason why you have to pee more is because caffeine cannot be stored in your body. The liver processes it, and lets it exit quickly through your urine.
Despite caffeine offering benefits in small amounts, an excess in consumption can have negative effects. Because of the stimulation of the neurotransmitter we mentioned earlier, Noradrenaline, affecting your sense of awareness and response, too much of this can make you feel anxious. It can cause you to experience jitters, a nervous feeling and restlessness. An uneasy feeling of your heart beating fast and trouble sleeping are other side effects if you have been drinking too much caffeine. It can also affect your sleep, the amount and the quality of sleep can decrease if you drink coffee hours before bedtime.
How much is too much? Up to about 400 milligrams of caffeine a day is research suggests, is completely fine for most healthy adults. Roughly speaking, that's four cups of coffee. And as with most substances, the more you take, the more tolerance you build up to the effects.
The caffeine tolerance we just mentioned causes you to need more and more of it to feel the effects. Eventually, this can result in a dependency, both physical and mental, for the stimulant. Phase out slowly if you want to counteract this. Then your nervous-system can adjust to function without it.
We could go on, but it is time for a coffee break. In conclusion, caffeine is a safe stimulant when not used in excess amounts. Listen to your body, make sure your sleeping well and drinking enough water. Other than that, enjoy your caffeine-kick, in whichever way you consume it! What is your caffeinated beverage or food of choice?