Benefits Of Caffeine
I want to dive into the benefits of caffeine in this blog post. Caffeine often gets a bad rap because of it's addictive nature and supposed link to high blood pressure, impaired sleep, and cancer... Caffeine as a supplement has been studied extensively for the past several years and there are apparent pros and cons. There is always two sides to the coin so let's explore caffeine and some of the benefits we can derive from it.
What Is Caffeine?
Caffeine is the world's most widely used psychoactive drug. It belongs to the methylxanthine class and acts as a stimulant to the central nervous system. Caffeine is related to the adenine and guanine bases of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA). It's found naturally in many seeds, nuts, and leaves and acts as a protective mechanism to the plants it's found in. One of the most common plants containing caffeine is the coffea plant. The caffeine exists within the seeds of this plant, commonly referred to as coffee beans. Caffeine is also commonly found in tea, cola, and most energy drinks and pre workout supplements.
What Does Caffeine Do?
Adenosine is a chemical that all of us contain in our bodies. It is a neuromodulator and plays a role in promoting sleep and suppressing arousal. It also is involved in the regulation of blood flow to various organs through vasodilation. In the absence of caffeine, the adenosine accumulates in the neuronal synapse which, in turn, bind to and activate the adenosine receptors found in the CNS neurons. When these receptors are activated, they produce a cellular response that increases drowsiness. When caffeine is present, it antagonizes the adenosine receptors and prevents them from activating by blocking the adenosine binding location on the receptor. This temporarily prevents drowsiness and is the main reason why you see everyone reach for a cup of coffee upon waking or during the afternoon slump.
Caffeine is also touted to:
- Give you more energy
- Increase your mental clarity
- Boost your sport's perfromance
- Improve brain function
- Enhance memory
While those all my be true, I would argue that all of those are simply a byproduct of your temporary increase in alertness.
Other Benefits Of Caffeine
Another potential benefit of caffeine is it's ability to aid in fat-loss. Now, this is up for debate but there are two fairly sound arguments. One is that it has a satiating effect that suppresses appetite which results in a lower total caloric intake. If consuming coffee enables you to eat at a slightly lower caloric intake and moves the energy balance towards a net negative, you could potentially lose weight. Now, this is not to say that simply dropping calories causes fat loss, that is a whole blog topic in itself.
The other theory is that caffeine helps to stimulate thermogenesis and causes the body to generate more heat and energy. Since caffeine is shown to increase alertness and stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, this could very well hold some truth. However, the increased fat burning effects of consuming caffeine would pale in comparison to what could be accomplished by proper nutrition and training so don't expect caffeine to be your answer for long term body recomposition.
Apart from increased alertness and a potential increase in fat burning, caffeine has also been studied as a potential aid in...
- Reducing the risk of Alzheimer's disease
- Reducing the risk of Parkinson's disease
- Reducing the risk of Type 2 diabetes
As is true with most things in the health and nutrition world, there is much left up for debate with regard to caffeine. For years, caffeine was frowned upon for many of its potential negative side effects (which will be the topic of another blog post). However, with the current research, I do not see any overwhelming need to avoid caffeine. Like most things, use it as a tool in moderation. Don't rely on caffeine as a crutch to make it through the day-to-day. I personally supplement with 120mg - 240mg of caffeine per day, generally prior to training. There was a time when I consumed significantly more than that until I began to notice a dependency on the drug and realized I had to scale it back. Now, I can quit coffee entirely if I decided to do so and I wouldn't suffer any negative consequences. Addiction to anything is bad. Use it strategically and benefit from the positive effects of caffeine.