If you take a look at the number of coffee shops that have popped up over the past decade, you don’t need to be convinced about the rise in coffee consumption. Yet more and more people are getting hooked on this drug without being fully aware of the harm it can do to the body and your mental health.
The Physiological Effects of Caffeine
The main ingredient in coffee that gives you that boost is caffeine, a central nervous system stimulant. Caffeine is found naturally in tea, chocolate, fizzy drinks and even in pain killers and weight control drugs.
Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system by blocking adenosine, a neurotransmitter that normally causes a calming effect in the body. The resulting neural stimulation due to this blockage causes the adrenal glands to release adrenaline, one of the “fight or flight” hormones. Your heart rate increases, your pupils dilate, muscles tighten up, and glucose is released into the blood stream for extra energy. Voila… you now have your ‘hit’.
Why is Caffeine Addictive?
Caffeine increases dopamine. Dopamine activates the pleasure in parts of the brain. Physiologically, caffeine makes you feel alert, pumps adrenaline to give you energy and changes dopamine production to make you feel good.
So powerful is this cocktail that then you stop drinking it, the withdrawal symptoms can be full on. Symptoms include headaches, insomnia, nervousness, increased stress, and exhaustion just to name a few.
Caffeine puts a huge stress on the body and yet when we feel the need for that ‘hit’ we drink more of it, leaving our body exhausted.
The Downside of Caffeine
Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and can produce restlessness, headaches, and irritability. It also elevates your heart rate and blood pressure. Over the long-term as your body gets used to caffeine, it requires higher amounts to get the same effects.
Caffeine is also a diuretic and causes a loss of fluid, which then leads to a dehydrating effect. This is obviously not conducive to fitness activities such as resistance training, as fluid is needed for the transfer of nutrients to facilitate muscular growth.
Cutting Down on Caffeine
Never ever stop drinking caffeine cold turkey! It is a highly powerful stimulant and stopping cold turkey can have potential serious ramifications on the body. Always cut down your daily intake slowly and give your body time to adjust to it’s natural energetic balance.
We are not suggesting that you can’t still enjoy a coffee on a morning, but limit your intake to 1 or 2 cups. I have known clients who were drinking around 10 cups of tea and coffee a day and wondering why they couldn’t sleep and were always tired!
Like anything that you put into your body, be savvy, listen to what your body is trying to tell you and feed it what it really needs to thrive.