The reason truckers throw back caffeinated beverages is because it helps keep them awake and alert. Teachers use it because of the long hours they face on a daily basis and parents because life is rough on them. Others drinks coffee just to make it through the day.
But caffeine is so much more than a way to get energy.
The truth about energy from caffeine
Getting a boost of energy from caffeine is perceived as feeling like you have the ability to do more. Feeling suddenly focused and alert. This leads many people to believe caffeine gives them energy, but it’s not entirely accurate.
Your body can only get energy by breaking down carbs into glucose and fats into ketones. Protein is broken down as a very last resort. Caffeine works in a much different way.
Caffeine helps people stay awake because it’s an adenosine antagonist. Adenosine makes you feel tired and sets your body up for sleep. Caffeine binds to these adenosine receptors and hides your tiredness.
In simple terms, caffeine just hides the fact you’re tired.
Caffeine & focus
Caffeine stimulates your nervous system, causing a flight or fight response. Adrenaline is released which causes your heart rate to increase. And because fighting or fleeing requires increased focus, you get that benefit as well.
But the primary benefits come from caffeine’s ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. This allows it to have a significant impact on your ability to focus, concentrate, and even elevate your level of motivation.
In terms of real world benefits, this means caffeine can help you stay focused and maintain cognitive function—even in a sleep deprived state. This study on marksmen tracked the effects during three consecutive days with only 4 hours of sleep and found that caffeine was able to help compensate for the lack of sleep. That said, caffeine is not a viable solution for longer periods of less-than-optimal sleep.
Caffeine & exercise
Caffeine is a prevalent ingredient in almost every pre-workout supplement. There are a number of studies showing caffeine’s ability to help when exercising—independent of training status or current caffeine consumption.
In other words, no matter how much you exercise or how often you drink coffee, caffeine supplementation can help improve your ability to exercise.
For example, a study involving teenage female karate athletes found that caffeine lessened perceived pain related to exercise.
Similar effects are seen in sports which require short bursts of speed: hockey, rugby, soccer. How caffeine achieves this isn’t entirely clear, but what is clear is that it creates a feeling that exercise is easier. This leads to a longer time to exhaustion, allowing caffeine consumers to get exercise longer.
Caffeine’s benefits on exercise aren’t exclusive to cardio-based activities. They also extend to strength and muscle endurance. However, this is due to caffeine’s effect on the central nervous system and not on the muscles themselves.
Caffeine & mood
In an analysis of over 200,000 people in three cohort studies, it was discovered caffeine can support a healthy mood. Because of caffeine’s role as an adenosine antagonist, it is simultaneously responsible for enhancing dopamine signaling.
Dopamine is a chemical in your brain that helps control the reward center. It’s colloquially known as the feel-good hormone.
However, these effects of the study are shown at 300mg of caffeine (about 3-4 cups of coffee). Keep in mind that this effect on mood is short-lived. You won’t see lasting effects after you stop drinking coffee or tea.
Taking more than 300mg of caffeine has been known to increase anxiety. After all, caffeine is a stimulant, so it may cause anxiety to get worse. If you discover you’re more anxious than normal when drinking coffee, reduce your intake to find a dose that works for you or stop drinking it altogether.
Stay away from energy drinks
The benefits of caffeine are plentiful, so it can be tempting to rely on energy drinks—quick and potent sources of caffeine.
Artificial sweeteners, high amounts of sugar, and terrible ingredients aside, energy drinks pose significant risks to its users. Claims have been made that they have even killed people (these cases are still pending, so there’s currently no proof they have).
But the real reason they’re troublesome often gets overlooked. Some energy drinks, for instance, contain 215 mg of caffeine. That’s about two cups of coffee!
The problem is two cups of coffee is usually split by a few hours and not taken all at once.
But there’s something even worse: concentrated caffeine powder. The FDA has recently taken action against distributors of pure caffeine or concentrated caffeine powder. Both have been known to cause seriously adverse side effects due to the extremely high concentrations of caffeine. One teaspoon can contain as much as 28 cups of coffee!
If you’re looking to get your daily caffeine fix, coffee and green tea remain your best choices.
Caffeine in coffee vs green tea
When caffeine is extracted from coffee and green tea, is there any difference? You might think there’s no difference because caffeine is caffeine, but there is one huge distinction.
Caffeine from coffee provides a harsh jolt. You know the exact second it starts working because you can feel it. The other side is you know exactly when the caffeine starts wearing off—you feel a crash.
Caffeine from green tea provides a much smoother transition. It eases you into a state of focus and energy. It also helps avoid the sudden crash you experience with energy drinks and coffee.
It’s why we chose caffeine from green tea extract for SuperBeets Energy Plus. It promotes mental focus while providing balanced energy.
Caffeine: Best use tips
The majority of studies focus on normal caffeine use. Studies involving exercise differ because researchers analyze caffeine’s nearly immediate effect. Part of the reason is because they’re mimicking how people typically consume caffeine before exercising (approximately 30 minutes prior to a workout). The other is due to the fact that over-consumption has been known to cause issues.
To get the most from your caffeine intake:
- Drink up to 3-4 cups of coffee a day or 8 cups of tea (300-400 milligrams), but no more.
- Drink approximately 30 minutes before you normally begin to feel tired.
- Ideally, drink your coffee black or add a small amount of honey to your tea. You want both to be as pure as possible.
- You can build up a tolerance to caffeine. Try avoiding caffeine on the weekend to prevent it.
Most importantly, the half-life of caffeine has a range of 2 to 10 hours depending on the person. This means it’s likely your 100mg of caffeine from your 9am coffee is at 50 mg when you’re on your lunch. You can avoid having trouble sleeping by not drinking coffee or caffeinated tea after 4pm.
Whatever the reason for your caffeine consumption, smart adherence to these guidelines can help you ensure you’re getting the most out of it.