People have relied on caffeine to help them stay awake and stay focused for generations. As with any substance, as long as you take caffeine in moderation there is little risk of any harm to your health, although it is worth being aware of some of the possible side effects.
Most people get their caffeine from their morning cup of coffee or tea, but it is also present in energy drinks and some types of chocolate, and there are also caffeine supplements available at health food stores and online.
Experts recommend that you should consume less than 400 mg of caffeine per day to stay healthy; that is about equal to three cups of coffee. Any more than that and you may start to experience unwanted side effects, including high blood pressure or anxiety.
Benefits of Caffeine
Most people consume caffeine first thing in the morning, or maybe later in the day if they are starting to feel tired. Studies have shown that drinks high in caffeine content can increase concentration and focus in people who are sleep-deprived, shift workers and those suffering from jet lag. Even if you have had a good night’s sleep, your morning cup of coffee can soon become part of your routine to help get you moving and on your way to work or school.
There is some evidence that caffeine is not just useful for boosting your brain function, but that it can improve your physical performance too. However, you should be careful if you are planning to use energy drinks to power your workout; make sure you don’t become dehydrated by also drinking lots of water.
Caffeine and Medical Conditions
Some scientific studies have found evidence that caffeine can prevent some degenerative brain conditions, like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s. In addition, caffeine in moderation has been shown to improve heart health and even prevent heart attacks; moderation is the key word here, as too much caffeine is actually bad for your heart and can lead to high blood pressure.
One effect that many people have observed without the aid of scientific study is the impact caffeine can has on constipation. Many people notice that their first cup of coffee doesn’t just wake them up, but gets all the body’s other functions working at the same time.
Cons of Drinking Caffeine
If you are one of those people who drink coffee regularly — two or three cups every day — you can actually experience withdrawal symptoms if you cut your caffeine intake completely. While these withdrawal headaches are not dangerous, they can be unpleasant and annoying. If you are trying to stop drinking coffee for any reason, best to reduce your intake slowly over a few weeks.
Drinking too much coffee, or taking caffeine too late in the day can actually stop you getting a good night’s sleep; you can easily get stuck in a vicious circle where you sleep badly because of your caffeine intake, which means you need to drink more coffee the next day to stay awake and focused, and so on. Moderation is always the key.
Caffeine and Pre-existing Medical Conditions
Although scientific studies have shown that caffeine can help to prevent some medical problems, if you already have conditions like anxiety or problems with your heart, then caffeine can actually make them worse. It can also prevent the body from absorbing enough calcium, which can lead to conditions like osteoporosis or weak bones; again, this is more likely if you are already susceptible to this condition.
Caffeine can contribute to dehydration as it makes you want to urinate more frequently. This is why it is particularly important to also drink plenty of water if you are using caffeine-rich energy drinks to help fuel your workout.
There are plenty of good reasons to drink coffee — but drinking more will not increase the benefits of caffeine, and will actually end up making you more ill and more tired. Stick to one or two cups a day and your morning coffee will only ever be a blessing, and never a curse.