- Susannah Money-Schenk
Coffee - Yep! It's good for you, but how much?
Well! I never thought when I set about writing this post that I would struggle for something to write about! Not because there was nothing to say but quite the opposite! There is SOOOOO much to say about the world's most widely drunk beverage!
So I have narrowed it down in to three parts:
Caffeine - we can't tackle coffee without talking about the world's most widely consumed drug. What is it? What does it do to our bodies? How much should we have?
Benefits of coffee - yes there are LOADS! This surprised me but in a good way!
Coffee and Sleep - as I'm writing this as part of my 30 day challenge which involves the 10pm club (please see my other blog on Sleep!) I feel this is a very important thing to cover!
How much should we be drinking?
The facts are coffee is good for us for a number of reasons but it can also be harmful if drunk in excess and at the wrong time. In order to delve into this lets start with caffeine - the chemical in coffee which keeps us a awake.
Caffeine is a natural active ingredient in coffee.
Caffeine acts as a stimulant on your central nervous system making you feel more awake and alert when you consume it. It does this by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain (more about this later), increasing levels of our natural stimulants - dopamine and glutamine - and by flooding our system with adrenaline.
These chemical changes brought about by caffeine can have both good and bad consequences.
Increases alertness and keeps us awake
It makes us feel good
It makes us feel energised
It causes an increase in acid production in the stomach so can cause heart burn
It can give us the jitters
The rush of adrenaline we experience can make us tetchy and emotionally charged
These are the short term effects of caffeine on the body. To see what great health benefits it can provide lets head back to coffee!
The Benefits You can Gain from Drinking Coffee
One of the best things about coffee is that it contains loads of antioxidants. Antioxidants are molecules that can prevent cellular damage which over time could lead to disease. These antioxidants are probably mostly responsible for some of the awesome health benefits drinking coffee can give us!
Reducing the risk of disease including - Type II diabetes, Liver Cirrhosis, Liver Cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's
It can also help lower the risk of depression through its stimulation of dopamine and glutamine.
It can improve our physical performance. Having a coffee before a workout can increase strength, muscle endurance and anaerobic performance.
It can speed up fat loss. This is due to it speeding up metabolic rate by increasing the levels of chemicals in the blood that move our fat stores to be burned off.
It can make us live longer! The study that found this was huge covering 400,000 people. It found that coffee drinkers had a significantly lower risk of dying from heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, and even infections and injuries and accidents. Four to five cups per day was associated with a 12% reduction in risk of death by those causes in men and 16% in women - we will talk more about quantity later on!
Drinking coffee has also been found to have benefits for asthmatics. It acts a bronchodilator very similar to Theophylline which is commonly used to open up asthmatic's airways. Research has shown that asthmatics may feel a beneficial effect of drinking coffee for up to 4 hours. This does not by anyway mean that coffee should replace you medication - more of a fun fact! So that maybe why some asthmatics feel better at a certain time of the day - due to their coffee consumptions opening up their airways and increasing their oxygen supply!
So these are all great things about coffee but there is one subject that we must delve into before we talk about how much and when we should drink it.
Coffee and Sleep
Obviously we drink coffee to stay awake. But can this be detrimental to our health if we abuse it? The answer in my opinion is yes. This is due to how it can interrupt our sleep cycle. In my previous blog I discuss how important sleep is so if our caffeine intake is affecting our sleep we can run into problems.
As discussed previously, caffeine inhibits adenosine helping us to stay awake. Adenosine is an organic compound that we produce over the course of the day. As its levels rise our body starts to prepare itself for sleep. By interfering with our levels of adenosine we can affect our sleep cycle by literally preventing ourselves from sleeping with the stimulation of caffeine! So we need to avoid drinking coffee too late in the day. It can take 5-6 hours for the effects of coffee consumed to wear off, so this is something to consider when reaching for the mug mid-afternoon!
Another thing related to sleep is by drinking coffee first thing in the morning we start to become immune to the effects of our early morning cortisol. Cortisol helps to wake us up in the morning. Its levels rise over the first hour and half of waking. If we consume coffee within this time regularly we will start to interfere with the cortisol production - it switches it off and replaces it with caffeine particles instead. This can lead us to not using our cortisol properly and then to coffee addiction. Our levels of cortisol rise and fall throughout the day and relative to this the best time to have coffee is between 10am and noon. Drinking it at this time it will interfere less with our natural cortisol levels as well as helping us to ride the wave of energy into the afternoon, avoiding the mid afternoon crash.
So how much should we be drinking and when?
The daily recommended allowance of caffeine is 400mg. This equates to approx 4-5 average cups of coffee a day. The research into longevity discovered this was the amount need to increase life expectancy by 12-20%. Drinking more than this actually made no further difference! So why bother? The chances are you will then interfere with you sleep cycle!
So my challenge to you is to reduce you caffeine intake to 4-5 cups a day. If you don't drink this much anyway try not to drink before 10am! If your days starts ridiculously early then try I want you to refrain from drinking it until you have been awake for at least 1.5 hours.
We can all benefit from coffee but lets not abuse it!