It’s no secret that the majority of Americans can’t imagine starting their day their day without at least one cup of coffee. According to the National Coffee Association (NCA), more than three quarters of Americans drink coffee, making coffee the most consumed beverage in America, next to water. Despite this high level of coffee consumption, there are those that still debate the benefits of a key component of coffee – caffeine. In fact, a recent article referenced more than 18,000 studies on the health benefits of caffeine, so clearly, a lot of people are trying to figure it out!
If you are a coffee lover, chances are you gravitate to the pros: performance enhancement, antioxidants, or mental focus to name a few; but there can be both pros and cons to having your daily cuppa joe. As with most things, moderation is key. Coffee consumption is a very personal decision and what it all comes down to is quantity, preference and your own personal health considerations.
For most of us, the pros far outweigh the cons, but here are a few arguments from both sides to help you decide.
Why we love our coffee:
Caffeine as an Exercise Performance Enhancer: Having one cup of coffee before you exercise can boost performance and 1-3 cups can boost endurance during exercise. Another fantastic advantage is that caffeine causes fat cells to be utilized as an energy source rather than glycogen. Several studies have concluded that metabolic rate or energy expenditure is positively affected by coffee consumption. A study in the American Journal of Physiology (i) showed that energy expenditure increases by about 10% in response to caffeine ingestion. Results of a study published by The British Journal of Sports Medicine (ii) found that ingestion of caffeinated coffee could enhance the performance of sustained high-intensity exercise. So stretch out that fitness program by enjoying a good cup of coffee as well as the rewards of exercise.
Caffeine for your brain: Drinking a reasonable amount of coffee, somewhere between 1 and 4 cups daily, has been shown to help reduce the risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease. How? Coffee is full of antioxidants which may prevent some damage to brain cells and help to boost the effects of neurotransmitters involved in cognitive function.
Caffeine for your heart: There have also been studies showing that coffee drinkers who consume 1 to 3 cups a day have lower rates of stroke than non-coffee-drinkers. Again the benefit is attributed to the antioxidants that may help reduce inflammation and its damaging effects on the arteries. More java isn’t necessarily better though: a 5 cup or more daily habit is associated with higher heart disease risks. Researchers think that the excessive caffeine may sabotage the antioxidants’ effects.
Some potentially unwelcome effects:
Caffeine can cause anxiety or jitters: If you’re sensitive to caffeine, it can cause irritability or anxiety in high doses. Chemically, caffeine looks a lot like adenosine, a brain chemical associated with sleep and relaxation of blood vessels. Caffeine binds to the receptors meant for adenosine on your nerve cells, leaving no room for the adenosine to get in—so nerve cell activity speeds up, blood vessels constrict—and you get a caffeine buzz, those wonderful irritable jitters.
Caffeine is linked to trouble sleeping: It takes about 6 hours for the caffeine to clear your system, although it varies from person to person. If you’re having trouble sleeping it might help to cut down on caffeinated beverages, or to drink them only early in the day.
Limit Caffeine is you are Pregnant or Nursing: The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology says it’s safe for pregnant women to get a moderate amount of caffeine but do not recommend more than 200 mg, or about 2 cups of coffee, per day. If you are breast-feeding caffeine can pass into breast milk, and nursing moms should cut down if their babies are restless or irritable.
What’s a girl to do?
Still can’t decide? Get the best of both worlds with new Half Caff single serve coffee cups from Skinnygirl, Half Caff is made with 100% specialty-grade Arabica coffee beans. Half of the beans are decaffeinated and the other half are not, creating a coffee with all the benefits, but half the caffeine compared to a regular single serve coffee. Half Caff is Rainforest Alliance Certified™, supporting sustainable agricultural practices and helping coffee farmers and their families. It’s a choice you can feel good about.
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