Whether you have an occasional cup of green tea or you’re a coffee lover from morning until night, you probably think occasionally about the caffeine you’re consuming. Is it helping or hurting you? Are you relying too heavily on this substance to keep you awake so you can achieve your goals? Or is it a harmless addition to your diet?
As with most things, caffeine is neither innately good or bad. The key is to understand what it is, how you can use it beneficially and when you should say “no” to a cup o’ joe. This post will help you learn more about the pros and cons of caffeine, so you can best determine how much to consume.
How Caffeine Works
The next time you haven’t had caffeine for a while, pay attention when you drink a caffeinated diet soda or cold sweet tea. For most people, caffeine causes a faster heartbeat and boosts alertness. As a stimulant, caffeine grants your body’s cells additional access to oxygen. While this may not be a problem in infrequent, small and manageable doses, overuse of caffeine can cause the body to send the wrong messages to your brain, which is one of the negative effects of caffeine for your health.
For instance, constantly drinking caffeine can lead to anxiety and insomnia. Neither of these outcomes is particularly welcome — especially if you already have a stress disorder or trouble falling asleep. Additionally, because caffeine is a diuretic, you may become dehydrated faster if all you drink is caffeinated hot and cold beverages.
Another downfall to caffeine is the way it becomes a “crutch.” Without it, people may get serious headaches to the point where they need caffeine for relief. If this sounds familiar, watch out! You’re already addicted to this substance or getting close to addicted. That’s never a good thing, especially if you don’t feel like yourself until after you’ve had caffeine.
Using Caffeine Advantageously
Of course, all the negatives aren’t meant to suggest that caffeine can’t play a role in a healthy diet. Therea are also positive effects of caffeine. In fact, for many people, advantageous and deliberate caffeine use can help them remain mentally clear and focused.
If you love beverages that contain caffeine, you’ll be happy to learn that some studies have shown caffeine can make up for a bad night’s sleep by helping your brain come back to its tasks. And if you’re fueling up before a workout, a little bit of caffeine could give you better performance results, according to some athletic research.
Some scientists believe caffeine can inhibit the development of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other medical conditions — although this hasn’t been completely proven and requires more documentation. Of course, in all cases, research participants were carefully monitored.
Consequently, you’ll want to be careful if you’re performing your own caffeine experiments at home. The best rule of thumb is to listen to your body — and your doctor — when it comes to caffeine. Think you might be overdoing it? Try substituting a caffeinated beverage with one that has less caffeine or none at all. Weaning yourself off your eight-coffees-a-day habit will take time, so start slowly.
Be careful as you moderate your caffeine intake, since some foods, like chocolate, contain hidden caffeine and can throw you off your game. By staying aware of the advantages and disadvantages of caffiene, you can determine when best to enjoy a cup of coffee, and when to cut yourself off for the day.