Maybe you’re one of those people who can’t imagine a morning without a cup of coffee. Or you treat yourself with chocolate, energy drinks, tea. You just can’t imagine life without caffeine in any form. But do you know what caffeine really does to your body? Do you know not only its positive effects, but also its risks?
Caffeine is most often associated with coffee, but you can find it everywhere – in chocolate, lemonade, tea (tein) and some over-the-counter medicines for flu, colds and pain. It is a “kicker” that helps people in many ways, but it can also be harmful. And before you have another cup of coffee, you might want to know what all it does or can do to your body.
Basic information about caffeine
Caffeine is primarily a stimulant of the central nervous system, which is why it is famous for its stimulant effects, where it can fight fatigue, drowsiness, lack of energy.
It’s fast-acting, so you get what you want almost immediately, but you’ll feel the effects the most after half an hour to an hour. And how long does it last? According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the half-life of caffeine in the body is about five hours – that’s when the amount of caffeine in your body is cut in half. The body then takes much longer to break down the remaining half, and some people with significant caffeine sensitivities feel the effects of the stimulant for hours or even days.
For a peaceful night
Again, we are all different, and if you are a sensitive individual, you should go easy on the caffeine. However, the general advice is that you should last have it about six hours before bedtime, and the ideal amount for healthy adults is about 200 milligrams a day and certainly no more than 400 milligrams a day.
But when “dosing” you need to think about what all you’re getting caffeine in and in what amounts. Focusing just on coffee, in general, arabica is weaker than robusta, filter coffee is weaker than classic bean-to-cup or ground coffee, instant is even weaker, but beware, even non-caffeinated coffee contains a small amount (2 to 5 milligrams) of caffeine. Just to give you an idea, one small espresso (29 ml) of arabica contains about 75 milligrams of caffeine, 150 milligrams of robusta, 240 ml of drip coffee contains 95 milligrams of caffeine, and a drink made with two teaspoons of instant coffee contains 65 milligrams of caffeine.
What it does to the brain
According to the American medical magazine Healthline, caffeine really is such a general kicker and energiser. It’s supposed to make you feel tired, sleepy, and energised very quickly. That’s why it’s popular with athletes, for example. Just before or during a sports performance, it can energize the body to perform better. “Caffeine makes it easier for the body to use fat as fuel. This makes it easier for your body to use its fat stores to support your exercise efforts,” Jae Berman, an American nutrition expert, tells The Washington Post. This makes caffeine the perfect tool for where you need endurance – running, cycling or any similar activity. Some studies even claim that caffeine reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and because it’s a bit of a mood lifter, it reduces the risk of suicide.
But as with almost everything, there are not only positive aspects, but also downsides. It is possible to develop an addiction to caffeine, and when you don’t have it, your body will definitely let you know, most often with headaches, but also with nervousness, irritability and so on. And, of course, your brain will not react well to an overdose either. If you overstimulate it with caffeine, so to speak, you may be distracted, you may have trouble keeping your attention, you’ll just generally be in a state of confusion.
Caffeine and the rest of the body
But caffeine is not just a stimulant, it affects not only the brain but the whole body.
- Heart rate – Caffeine temporarily raises the heart rate, which poses virtually no risk to healthy individuals, but if you have heart problems, you should keep this in mind.
- Blood pressure – caffeine has been shown to raise blood pressure relatively quickly after consumption. This is a short-term increase, after about four hours everything returns to its original values. So again, for healthy individuals, it is risk-free. However, for those who normally suffer from high blood pressure, this could be a problem.
- Heartburn and stomach problems – not so much caffeine, but coffee in particular is not suitable for those who generally suffer from acid reflux or stomach acidity. All of these problems are exacerbated by coffee. Even healthy people who overdo it, however, may experience stomach irritation, slight nausea and, in extreme cases, vomiting.
- Digestion – caffeine definitely has an effect on bowel movements and can help those suffering from constipation. A reasonable amount (perhaps just morning coffee) can make going to the toilet easier, there is a certain laxative effect of caffeine. But beware, too much is too much, too much caffeine drains the body, which can make emptying difficult.