Caffeine is the most socially accepted and frequently used substance to enhance physical and mental performance. There are many myths around caffeine being addictive, dehydrating and bad for overall health. What’s the truth?
What is caffeine and how does it work?
Caffeine is an acid that naturally occurs in some seeds and plants, such as coffee beans, tea leaves, kola nuts and cacao beans. It can also be produced chemically and added to energy drinks, gums and bars.
In the brain, caffeine blocks adenosine (makes you sleepy and drowsy) from binding to its receptors in the central nervous system, increases the binding activity of dopamine (makes you alert) and the release of dopamine in the brain. The effect: you’re more alert, focused and have a higher perceived endurance.
Essentially, caffeine tricks your brain into thinking that you do less work, when in reality, you’re exercising harder.
Is caffeine addictive?
Yes, but…. Caffeine is an ergogenic drug that stimulates the nervous system to perform better. Regular use causes mild physical dependence. When you stop ingesting caffeine all of a sudden, chances are that you have symptoms of withdrawal for a few days (depending on how much caffeine you normally consume): headache, fatigue, anxiety, irritability, depressed mood and concentration difficulties are some of them. A withdrawal makes for a few bad days, but it doesn’t threaten your physical, social or economic health. For this reason, most experts don’t consider caffeine consumption as a harmful addiction.
Is coffee dehydrating?
No. Drinking coffee and tea can make you urinate more, especially, if you’re not used to consuming caffeine. However, the amount of fluid you consume at the same time is enough to offset the fluid loss through increased urination. Hence, drinking caffeinated beverages in moderate amounts does not cause dehydration.
Is coffee good or bad for my health?
Coffee consumed in moderation shows no link to osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease or cancer. However, caffeine has few possible health benefits such as helping with headaches or asthma, and reducing the risk of Parkinson’s disease, liver disease, some cancers, type 2 diabetes and dementia. More studies are needed to confirm both its benefits and potential risks.
How much caffeine is ok?
A healthy adult may consume 300 to 400 milligrams of caffeine or about 3 to 4 cups of brewed coffee a day. A shot of espresso has about 75 milligrams of caffeine and energy drinks range from 47 to 163 milligrams of caffeine per 8 ounces.
Can I drink coffee to enhance my training?
Used properly and within the recommended amounts, caffeine can have positive physical and mental outcomes. Drinking a cup of coffee, tea, or caffeinated beverage before your training might enhances physical performance, stamina and alertness. It is important, however, to make smart choices when it comes to choosing the right beverage. Carbonated beverages can impair physical performance when consumed right before exercise as it might cause gastrointestinal discomfort. Beverages that are high in fat or protein, such as a latte, hot chocolate or chocolate milk can cause digestive discomfort as it takes longer to digest protein and fat than carbohydrates. Drinking a cup of coffee plain or a latte with low-fat milk, a cup of tea, or low-fat chocolate milk before exercising is generally well tolerated among athletes.