‘I need a coffee to function’
This is an all too familiar phrase heard first thing in the morning.
Guilty. I am a coffee lover. And sadly, find it easier to function once I’ve had my dose of caffeine first thing in the morning. I’m not the only one. Coffee culture is having a moment, and showing no sign of slowing down. Society is currently coffee-fuelled.
Speciality coffee shops are appearing on every corner (something I am definitely in favour of!) and coffee now has even more flavour profiles than red wine!
Surely my love of a strong coffee to help me face the day is normal? Right?
Perhaps it isn’t such a good thing…
Let’s talk Caffeine
It is a stimulant that acts on the Central Nervous System.
It works by blocking out the action of the brain chemical Adenosine, which normally makes you feel tired and sleepy. So, by blocking this chemical you therefore feel more awake and alert.
It reduces your perception of effort and fatigue. Meaning it is easier to keep going for longer: exercise feels easier and less demanding. Research has proven greater performance and effect on endurance as a result of caffeine. This also translates into the world of work; we can operate at a higher level for longer.
It’s hard to know exactly how much caffeine is in a cup of coffee.
It can be anything from 50mg in a cup of instant coffee to 200mg or more in a double espresso bought from a coffee shop. Do we really know what’s in our coffee? How strong we actually make it?
The negative effects of caffeine:
There is a reason caffeine isn’t recommended for under 18s…
Two of the worst are:
Caffeine has been shown to directly impact anxiety and further heighten it. And even increases physical trembling. With The World Organisation titling stress as a modern-day epidemic due to lifestyle demands, caffeine is only adding to the problem.
Caffeine stays in the body for a long time; it reaches a peak level in your blood within 30 to 60 minutes but has a half-life of up to 7 hours. For example, if you have a coffee at 3pm, half may still be in your system at 10pm. Not ideal if you are wanting an early night.
It therefore can increase problems sleeping, especially if drunk later in the day. However, recent investigation has shown that even those whose sleep doesn’t appear to be affected by the caffeine, and can fall asleep immediate, may not be sleeping as well as they think. They won’t enter into sufficient REM sleep interval (deeper, more restorative sleep).
This said, everyone responds differently to caffeine.
It all comes down to the genetic predisposition on whether you metabolise it fast or slowly. There are certain genes which predispose you to using or breaking down caffeine more readily.
This explains why some people can have a strong coffee yet still fall straight to sleep 20 minutes later when their head hits the pillow.
Is this you? Or are you someone who simply has to sniff coffee to be bouncing off the walls?
The positive effects of caffeine:
Some people don’t get a positive effect or an effect at all from caffeine whilst others can feel a large impact from even a small dose.
As previously said, caffeine works to enhance both strength and endurance exercise. The ergogenic (positive) effect is thought to be 3mg per 1kg body weight. Meaning an average woman of 60kg would need a 180mg to get a marked beneficial impact in terms of performance in exercise. Now this is a lot of caffeine. Hence why more people seeking enhanced exercise performance are increasingly opting for caffeine supplements instead of coffee. It also varies considerably from person to person, so at the end of the day it really comes down to trial and error.
However, the large majority of us don’t drink coffee, or are conscious of our caffeine intake, for exercise performance purposes. We (hopefully) drink coffee because we enjoy it!
Luckily, it isn’t all negative. As well as its taste, there are also many benefits of having a cup of coffee.
One being that it contains lots of antioxidants and polyphenols. These are plant chemicals that can benefit your gut bacteria as well having many other properties.
We can’t deny, sometimes we can go a little overboard or rely on coffee to fuel chaotic days. But how many is too many?
There is no one answer as it comes down to the individual. But if you identify with any of the negative symptoms or are just looking to slow down on your caffeine intake, why not try an alternative hot drink?
Two of my favourites are:
Turmeric latte or ‘Golden milk’
Comfort in a mug. Due to the turmeric, cinnamon and ginger, this heart-warming mix boasts anti-inflammatory properties, aids digestion and is a very also a strong antioxidant.
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- Black pepper
- 250 ml of preferred nut milk. I love to use coconut milk.
- (natural sweetener such as agave nectar, maple syrup or honey if desired.)
Sweet Revolution’s Chicory Latte with Lion’s Mane
The name alone might sound a bit alien, but chicory (a flowering plant) root is a popular and natural alternative to coffee. Whilst it has a similar flavour to coffee, chicory lacks caffeine and its side-effects, enabling it to create a latte which can be drunk at any time of day.
The latte also contains Lion’s Mane, a kind of mushroom that has become famed for its potential brain boosting properties. Numerous studies have shown that the mushroom may be able to boost and even protect brain function. Alongside these benefits, research published in 2010 looked at the mushroom’s effect on thirty women; eating either ‘placebo’ cookies or those containing Lion’s Mane. They discovered that, after four weeks, those eating the cookies containing Lion’s Mate appeared less anxious and irritated than those on the placebo cookies. Therefore, highlighting the superfood’s relaxing qualities. This makes it an ideal coffee alternative, helping to alleviate anxiety and stress.
The Lion’s Mane powder and chicory mix (malted barley, barley, chicory root, rye and fig) with the coconut milk powder creates a frothy latte when hot water is added. Not only delicious, it is also vegan and organic.
Although similar to coffee, it definitely has a distinct flavour. Somewhat earthy… although you’ll have to judge for yourself.