The majority of people need their morning caffeine fix, or an afternoon pick me up to help get through the day. If you, like many other individuals, rely on caffeine, then you might be wondering what effect it is having on your body.
A cup of tea or coffee can do so much more than just wake you up, as caffeine is a stimulant that impacts the body in many different ways. Understanding the long-term effects and symptoms of caffeine can help you to make an educated decision about what you put into your body.
We all know that caffeine is found in coffee, tea and many energy drinks, but it can also be found in many other products. It provides no nutritional value and is completely tasteless on its own, so it isn’t always easy to know when caffeine is in your food or drink. It does almost always cause symptoms of some form, as it is a central nervous system stimulant. When caffeine reaches your brain, it will give you instant alertness, leaving you feeling more awake and energised.
What Are The Benefits Of Caffeine?
Caffeine brings with it many health benefits, and some consider it an extremely healthy addition to any diet. When consumed in moderation, caffeine can lead to many benefits including;
- Alertness: One 75mg serving of caffeine will increase alertness and attention, making you feel more awake and energised. A 160 to 600mg dose can improve speed responding, mental alertness and your memory. If you are feeling tired or groggy, caffeine is a great way to temporarily perk you up.
- Weight Loss: It has been claimed that caffeine can boost weight loss because it suppresses the appetite and reduces the desire to eat. It also stimulates thermogenesis which means the body generates more energy when digesting food.
- Brain Function: Caffeine can help to enhance thinking skills and improve focus because it affects the adenosine receptors in the brain.
What Are The Risks Of Caffeine?
While caffeine offers many health benefits; it should always be consumed in moderation. There are also potentially harmful effects of caffeine on the human body, including;
- Anxiety And Depression: A high level of caffeine in the body can make symptoms of anxiety and depression worse. Various studies have found that a higher caffeine intake increases the risk of severe depression and can leave individuals feeling on edge and anxious.
- Digestive Issues: Coffee provides a laxative effect because it releases gastrin which speeds up colon activity. In addition to this, caffeine has also been shown to stimulate bowel movements. Those who consume large doses of caffeine can experience loose stools and diarrhoea.
- Addiction: Caffeine can result in psychological or physical dependency, and studies show that it releases certain brain chemicals in the same way as amphetamines do. While caffeine doesn’t cause addiction in quite the same way as these drugs, it can become habit-forming and leave you dependent on the effects.
- Fatigue: While one of the main effects of caffeine is alertness and boosting energy levels, it can also have the opposite effect and lead to fatigue. Once the caffeine is out of your system, you can be left lethargic and tired, often leading to consuming more caffeine to counter the effects. Caffeine can also hinder your ability to sleep, leaving you more tired during the day.
How To Consume Caffeine Sensibly
With caffeine providing both benefits and risks, knowing how to sensibly consume can be confusing. Generally, consuming a moderate intake of caffeine on a regular basis can be good for your overall health and wellbeing. However, overdoing it can lead to some risks and downsides that you should be aware of.
The general recommendation for caffeine intake is less than 400mg a day, but this amount varies depending on your sex, size, medications and sensitivity to caffeine.
If you are thinking about cutting down your caffeine intake because you are concerned about the side effects, it is essential you do so gradually. Cutting down over a few days rather than abruptly can help to avoid other symptoms and withdrawals. If you are looking for ways to beat fatigue, avoid the coffee and check out our expert guide. For those wondering how caffeine intake can affect the menopause, and how to swap coffees for herbal teas, check out this blog post.