Next to running to the toilet in the morning what is one of the first things you do to start your day? If you answered “make coffee” you are not alone nor are you being judged. That is exactly how I start my day, every day.
Recently I have been spending a lot of time thinking about what I put into my body, the effects of my choices, and the changes I can make to be a healthier more functional version of myself. Caffeine consumption amongst many others like sugar, bread/pasta, and alcohol have all come up at the top of my “need to change list.”
Let’s take a direct look at caffeine.
Caffeine is typically used first thing in the morning and again in the mid-afternoon as a pick me up for when energy levels appear to be low. The main issue with this is that we are combatting our hormonal system.
In the morning the body is meant to wake in its natural state and is releasing higher than normal amounts of cortisol (stress hormone) which naturally wakes you up! By consuming a caffeinated beverage, you are hampering the desired effects of both the caffeine and the cortisol in the body. This is why you see many people downing entire coffee pots in the morning. They have been fighting their system for far too long and require more and more caffeine to feel “awake”.
For the afternoon coffee drinker it’s important to recognize the body naturally reaches a peak state of cortisol around lunchtime (for most of us). Again, this is a time when we should consider allowing our hormones to do their job rather than a stimulant. If you experience the post-lunch crash tune in next week when we talk about the effects of refined carbohydrates on the body.
The simple remedy to avoid a hormonal battle is to wait an hour or two in the morning before you drink coffee. When you do drink it enjoy a cup that is more so European sized rather than the massive sizes we have grown accustomed to. More caffeine isn’t necessarily better.
Caffeine has a cumulative effect and stays in the bloodstream long after consumption, up to 10 hours for a single cup. If you drink it again in the afternoon, you are adding even more caffeine into your system affecting both sleep and mental acuity. More below.
The brain can’t tell the difference between caffeine and adenosine and once the caffeine has made its way to your noggin your natural ability to experience wakefulness and drowsiness are compromised. You will now find yourself in a state of increased brain activity, your palms may be sweaty arms heavy, and you may feel your heart beating much harder than usual. You my friend have just induced the “fight or flight” response. This means your system is increasing the production of adrenaline to prepare you for battle or to run for your life, not to drive to work and sit. By ingesting high doses of caffeine day in and day out you are placing undue stress on both your mental and physical well-being.
So, how does caffeine affect sleep?
We all know a person who claims they can drink a cup of joe right before bed and have a great sleep. Well, they typically live with a coffee IV attached to them to combat the vicious cycle of poor sleep and lack of energy during the day due to their over consumption of caffeine. By the time bedtime roles around they are exhausted from living in a heightened state all day. Think about how tired you get after an adrenaline rush.
Caffeine massively affects your ability to sleep restfully. Think back to adenosine. Your ability to feel naturally drowsy is thrown off which in turn bumps you out of your natural sleep cycle. You have just created the vicious cycle of poor sleep and higher levels of caffeine consumption through the day. I can’t tell you how many 3:00 pm coffees I am now regretting!
Let me finish by saying, I know coffee and tea are freaking amazing. I enjoy both. I do think it’s important to limit yourself to one-two cups per day at the most and to stop drinking coffee 8-10 hours before bed if you want a Sleeping Beauty-like sleep. If you suffer from anxiety, poor sleep, or low energy levels through the day consider limiting caffeine to treat status. Instead, focus in on your nutrition, sleep, and hydration through the day. OH, exercise too! For those of you who are environmentally friendly also look at the effects coffee cups have on the eco-system… That is an article all in itself.
If you would like to geek out further on the effects of caffeine here are some great articles I drew inspiration from as well as a great Matcha Latte Recipe!
All the best,