Few things can compare to the first sip from a fresh cup of coffee. The way the steam tickles your nose, the rich taste of the beans as they wash and spread over your tongue. It's this exact experience that has you coming back for more every morning.
--But drinking coffee each day does a lot more to your body than just warm you up in the morning.
Dilated eyes, shaky hands, a knee that bobs and a foot that taps are just a few of the common side effects of caffeine.
The jittery effects aren’t necessarily always this extreme. In some people, caffeine has the opposite reaction --it can actually calm and mellow people out.
But why exactly does coffee, and just caffeine in general, cause our bodies to react in such ways? A burst of energy or a wave of calm --what is it about caffeine that makes us so...affected?
What Exactly IS Caffeine?
You're probably not going to like this, but caffeine is a drug.
Don’t believe us? Well, are you addicted to coffee? Can you go a full day without coffee or an energy drink and NOT fantasize about how great it would be to have a full cup or can in your hands right now, even when you know it might be bad for you?
The good news about caffeine being recognized as a drug --it’s socially and globally accepted. At least there’s comfort in the fact that a lot of us are addicted. Just count and see how many coffee shops you pass by on your way into work in the mornings!
Even still, many of us pour ourselves cup after cup of coffee each and every day --and have no idea why other than the fact that it makes us feel “awake”.
What Caffeine Does to Your Body
When we drink caffeine, be it from a latte or a can of energy drink, our body responds in several ways.
For starters, caffeine tweaks and messes with our nervous system. Not necessarily in a negative way, but in an unnatural way at the least.
Adrenaline Kicks in.
When caffeine mingles with our natural hormones and chemicals, it targets the adrenal glands. This is what triggers that “rush” sensation.
Many of us feel that jolt only a few minutes after we take that first sip. This rush of adrenaline fires all through our body and makes us feel more alert, albeit to differing degrees. Some people become so alert they can hear a fly crawling up their neighbor’s wall, and others can feel just enough of a kick to help them remember where their shoes are in the morning.
Adenosine Is Put On “Mute”
Besides triggering the manufacturing of adrenaline inside of you, your body feels like it's shaking off all drowsiness because caffeine combats a chemical called “adenosine”.
Its presence builds and builds naturally all day in your brain until your brains just can't handle it anymore --and it forces you to fall asleep. Your sleep allows it to filter out all the excess adenosine so the process can restart when you wake up.
What caffeine does in your brain and body is block adenosine chemicals and dull their effect. Adenosine absolutely is still there, but caffeine temporarily blocks and dulls its presence in your body.
After drinking caffeine, it usually reaches its peak level in your blood within one hour and stays there for four to six hours. For those who are sensitive looking to achieve rich sleep, it is wisest to avoid taking in any caffeine up to as many as 6 hours before bed, in extreme cases. The average cut of time of being able to take in caffeine and still achieve easy sleep was 3 hours before bed, reports a recent study by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
However, once the caffeine burns off, the ever-building level of adenosine comes back into full effect, and its rush back into action causes you to feel that “crash”-- leaving you feeling even more tired than when you started.
So, Is Caffeine Good For Me?
Caffeine unfortunately has become “essential” for so many of us, but remember --you don't actually need it.
As a warning and definition, Anil Sharma of the Delhi Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research quotes the FDA with the following:
“Caffeine is used in both prescription and over-the-counter medicines to treat tiredness or drowsiness and to improve the effect of some pain relievers. People with heart problems shouldn’t use caffeine because it makes their hearts work too hard, and people with anxiety problems or panic attacks may find that caffeine makes them feel worse."
No caffeine (in moderation) may not necessarily be bad for you, as long as you are staying away from energy drinks that are spiked with added chemicals, loads of sugar and synthetic additives. A cup or two of coffee a day is not going to kill you, but for those who are taking in 4-5 cups a day? Yeah, pull back a little.
“A daily dose of 400 milligrams or less — about three to four cups of home-brewed coffee — is generally considered safe by the Food and Drug Administration” says a study by the American Physiological Association.
There are a lot of individuals who have decided to cut caffeine out of their diet all together, and even keep off of it. How do they do it? Like everything else out there, dropping a habit cold turkey often leads to a backslide, so if you are looking to kick the caffeine habit --ease off slowly.
Your body will thank you, and your body will balance itself out to naturally energize itself the longer you keep off of caffeine.
You’ll also save a ton of cash every year by not dishing out for fresh coffee every morning. It’s a win-win.
Rosenfeld, Leah S et al. "Regulatory Status Of Caffeine In The United States." Nutrition Reviews . 2014.
Lovallo, William R. et al. “Caffeine Stimulation of Cortisol Secretion Across the Waking Hours in Relation to Caffeine Intake Levels.” Psychosomatic medicine67.5 (2005): 734–739. PMC. Web. 28 Nov. 2017.
Drake, Christopher et al. "Caffeine Effects On Sleep Taken 0, 3, Or 6 Hours Before Going To Bed." Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine (2013): n. pag. Web. 28 Nov. 2017.
Recent Advances in Drug Delivery Technology
Sharma, A.. "Recent Advances In Drug Delivery Technology." Google Books. N. p., 2017. 2016.
Ribeiro J., Sebastiao A.. “Caffeine and adenosine”. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. 2010.
Lu S. “Too Much Coffee?”. GradPSYCH Magazine. 2015.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with questions regarding a medical condition. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read here. This article is for general information only.