If you are anything like me, you like to start your day with a cup of coffee, or two, or even three sometimes. It is part of my morning routine and has been for many years. It helps me with the process of waking up and provides me with that extra boost after my lunch that keeps me going through the rest of the day, this is what coffee does with me. Numerous studies have shown that coffee in moderation has a positive effect on your life, however, you can also have too much of a good thing!
The chemical present in coffee that is responsible for all its effects is called caffeine. Caffeine is part of a group of drugs called psychoactive stimulants, just like nicotine found in tobacco. Psychoactive refers to the things that affect the function of our brains, and stimulants mean something that raises the level of physiological or nervous activity in the body. It is the only drug from this group that we readily give to our children with little to no thought.
How does it work?
When we drink coffee, the caffeine starts acting almost instantly. It works by blocking the receptors for Adenosine. Adenosine is a hormone that is a byproduct of breaking down sugars in your body to produce energy. It helps your brain understand that you are tired. However, caffeine is very similar in structure to adenosine. Similar enough to physically replace the hormone but not similar enough to produce the chemical reaction that lets your brain know that you are tired hence you do not feel sleepy after coffee.
In moderate quantities, caffeine can be beneficial to your well-being. Studies have shown that taken in moderation, coffee can help you with everything from your sleep to exercise, improves your memory as well as the relationship with your colleagues at work. However, drinking too much can have a negative impact on the above. It is used to build more focus. But after a certain level, you start losing focus. Over time, you may start feeling edgy and irritable.
Coffee can also seriously impact your sleep negatively. When caffeine hits your system, the caffeine stimulates the adrenal glands which release the hormone adrenaline into your body. This makes you more energetic and alert. Moreover, it also releases other hormones such as dopamine and glutamate that are responsible for the good feeling that you get some time after drinking.
The caffeine inside it starts acting within 20 minutes. However, the half-life of caffeine is 6 hours and a quarter-life of 12 hours. This means that if you drink a cup at 12 during the day, a quarter of it will still be present in your blood at midnight. As the causes alertness, drinking coffee late in the day actually blocks your deep sleep. It either stops you from sleeping or lowers your sleep quality by reducing your deep sleep time. This is what coffee does to your brain and body.
But how much coffee is too much?
The answer is not very straight forward. It actually depends on a number of things. It is theoretically impossible to overdose on coffee. One cup contains 100mg of caffeine. However, the overdose limit of caffeine is 10 grams. This means that in order to overdose, you will have to drink a hundred cups in a short period of time.
FDA recommends no more than 4 to 5 cups a day for an average healthy adult. However, if you are someone who suffers from anxiety or is prone to anxiety. It is recommended to avoid coffee as much as possible as it can trigger anxiety or in extreme cases panic attacks. The same goes for patients with insomnia. If you already have trouble sleeping, it is recommended to avoid it as much as possible.
Another thing to consider is that coffee releases adrenaline that is responsible for the alertness you get after drinking it. It increases your heart rate, pumping more blood to your body and brain. This is why doctors recommend cutting down if you are a patient of arrhythmia or similar heart disease. However, a study shows that for a healthy adult, you have to drink at least 9 cups a day to put yourself at risk of arrhythmia.
The time of the day when you drink coffee also matters a lot. If you start your day with a cup, most of it leaves your system by the time you go to sleep. It is mostly harmless unless you are drinking on an empty stomach, which damages the internal lining of your stomach. However, drinking later in the day leaves most of it in your blood when you go to sleep. Studies have shown that one standard cup of coffee in the evening reduces the amount of deep sleep that you get that night by about 20 percent. This is the equivalent of you being suddenly aged by 15-20 years.
As long as you do not have a preexisting condition that worsens with caffeine intake, drinking a moderate amount of coffee may actually be good for your well-being. It helps you wake up in the morning. It increases your heartbeat that in turn improves your metabolism, your blood pressure rises, your breathing tubes open up and more sugar is released into your bloodstream for extra energy, this is what coffee does to the human body and brain
Coffee also helps you with attention and concentration and has proven to improve your relationship with your coworkers. However, care should be taken not to go overboard with it. Drinking later in the day, and more than 4-5 cups a day will start producing negative results. It is recommended to stop drinking after 12 in the day to gain the most benefits out of it and to avoid the negative impacts of drinking coffee.