Balancing Benefits and Risks
What contains caffeine?
Coffee, tea (including green tea), energy drinks and chocolate. There are differing amounts of caffeine in each drink. Coffee has the most caffeine while black tea has about half the amount of coffee and green tea about half the amount of black tea. The caffeine content of energy drinks and chocolate will depend on the manufacturer.
Should you give up caffeine?
There is so much confusion about the effects of caffeine on your body. There are some positive studies – it has been shown to improve your mood and enhance your sports performance. But there are also studies showing a negative effect such as altering your stress response and increasing your blood sugar.
So, what’s best?
It comes down to genetics – some people are able to break down caffeine faster than others. If coffee leaves you feeling jittery, more stressed, causes sleep problems or you think you might be addicted, then it might not be for you. Too much coffee can leave us feeling more tired, not less and so we then need even more just to feel normal. For some people one coffee in the morning will leave them jittery – while there are those that can drink an expresso in the evening after dinner and have no problem with going to sleep at night.
Caffeine is a diuretic, which means that it will cause you to go to the loo more and so there is a risk of becoming dehydrated, but this is more common if you drink lots of caffeinated drinks. It’s important to stay hydrated, so try and drink a glass of water to every cup of coffee or tea.
If you enjoy and are able to drink caffeine, do so in the morning so it doesn’t affect your sleep. Caffeine has a half-life of between 1.5-9.5 hours (again depending on the person). This means that if you drink your last cup of caffeine at 3pm, then it might still be in your blood stream when you want to go to bed and affect your sleep. If you have problems getting to sleep avoid caffeine for 2 weeks to see if it makes a difference.
If you are very stressed and constantly living on a heightened rush, then caffeine will be doing you no favours. It will increase the feelings of stress. If you are looking to lose weight, then stress is the enemy. Stress = high cortisol which causes your body to retain belly fat.
If you feel that caffeine has a positive benefit or you know that you metabolise caffeine quickly, then drink your tea and coffee black or with just a small amount of milk. Avoid lattes and coffee with added syrups (which is just sugar in disguise).
If you want to cut down or remove caffeine, then please do so slowly. I advise switching some of your cups to de-caffeinated for the first week (which still contain some caffeine) and then start cutting down. Make sure you drink lots of water if you decide to cut down to flush all the toxins away.
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Author: Katherine Bright MBANT, CNHC