Caffeine: BFF's or Not Meant to Be?

Hot, iced, frothed, steamed - you name it. Coffee is beautiful in just about any form! If you are as much of a coffee fan as me, this post is for you. Seeing as it is one of the most widely consumed beverages all over the world, coffee and caffeine consumption has sparked a huge interest in the health community. Many studies have looked at the potential benefits of caffeine, specifically coffee, and some things to be cautious about.

This article will talk about the many benefits of consuming coffee, tips to consume safely, and will touch on other forms of caffeine consumption such as tea and energy drinks. The good news is, despite some controversy over the years, is that there is a strong case that coffee can actually offer many health benefits. So grab your cup of Joe, sit tight and keep reading!

For starters, coffee itself (decaf or regular) contains tons of antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory substances that lead to its many benefits. According to many studies, some of these long-term health benefits include:

  • Lowering your risk of certain cancers, including prostate cancer, endometrial cancer, liver cancer, and many more.

  • Decreasing your risk of cardiovascular diseases, including heart failure and stroke.

  • Can help to lower your risk of type II diabetes, by aiding in glucose (sugar) regulation and having a protective effect on your liver.

  • Reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

  • Support mental health and reduce feelings of depression.

Wow… and this is a condensed list.

Not only does coffee support our physical health but aids in our cognitive performance significantly. You know the feeling - you sit down at your disk at 9am, trying to start the day. As soon as that first sip hits your mouth, you feel a rush of productivity jolt through you and suddenly the tasks ahead of you seem much simpler. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration. However caffeinated coffee does help to improve cognitive functioning by improving focus during simple and complex tasks, improve reaction times, and improve memory. These effects are not as beneficial when studied with decaffeinated beverages, leading us to believe that this brain boost can be attributed to the caffeine, and not necessarily the coffee itself.

This segways nicely into our next segment - other forms of caffeine. Tea such as green and black tea are a great source of caffeine, and hold too many benefits to count. Green tea can support your digestive system, aid in immune functioning, reduce risk of several cancers, plus more. If you are a tea drinker, hats off to you. If you are more of a coffee fan - try mixing in some tea here and there! I personally love flavoured green teas for a nice midday pick-me-up.

Not only does caffeine have all these health benefits, but also has been shown to improve sport performance by increasing time to fatigue (aka you can exercise for longer without tiring as quickly), and showing benefits from the cognitive improvements associated with caffeine consumption. So on a day when your workout may seem impossible - try having a cup of coffee beforehand to give you that little boost.

Now, it wouldn’t be fair to talk about all these health benefits without discussing the possible downsides to coffee (don’t worry, I still love you despite your flaws). All of the aforementioned health benefits have been found in research that limits coffee consumption, and is done without the intake of additives such as milk, cream and sugar.

The overconsumption of coffee does have some harmful effects, including:

  • Increased feelings of anxiety

  • Increased restlessness

  • Possible digestive issues

  • Possible risk of dehydration

  • Can increase blood pressure

  • Possible risk of burns from the hot beverage (see Dwight for reference).

With this all in mind, everyone’s body is different and coffee/caffeine intake will have different effects on your body. It is important to note that these effects are specific to coffee - if you still need your caffeine fix, but are experiencing some negative side effects, try experimenting with tea and see how your body reacts.

Another area to be cautious of is the additives that come along with drinking coffee and caffeine. I know we all love a nice Venti Cold Brew with Sweet Cream to get us through the day, however increased amounts of milk, cream and sugar intake has its own list of adverse health effects. Not to mention the amount of added sugar that comes in caffeinated carbonated beverages (we all know which ones I’m talking about) can seriously impact our health. Energy drinks and pre-workouts can often contain extremely high doses of caffeine and sugar in a single intake, which could actually lead us to feeling jittery, anxious, more fatigues and could have negative impacts long term.

The moral of the story here is that coffee (or other forms of caffeine) can be our best friend, especially on a Monday morning. The important thing to remember is that we should be cautious of how we are consuming our coffee, and how much we are consuming. Here are some tips to reap the benefits of coffee, while reducing the risk of any adverse health effects:

1. Consume caffeine early in the day to avoid restlessness or insomnia.

  • Caffeine has a half-life of 6 hours, meaning that half the amount is metabolized in our body after 6 hours. So if you have a coffee at 2pm, half of that caffeine is still in your body at 8pm.

2. Reduce/eliminate added creams, milks and sugars.

  • Choosing milk over cream is always a good place to start when trying to reduce cream intake, or considering non-dairy options such as oat milk can limit the amount of fat and calories consumed when compared to whole milk and cream

  • Try replacing sugar and artificial sweeteners with natural sweeteners such as honey, cinnamon or maple syrup.

3. Try to limit your intake to 1-2 cups per day.

  • Some days this might be easy, some days not so much.

  • Again, everyone’s body is different! Consult with your doctor how much caffeine is too much for you and listen to your body.

4. Limit your intake of energy drinks, soda’s and pre-workouts to avoid added sugar or large doses of caffeine.

  • Try to consume your caffeine from coffee and tea primarily, and choose other options as an occasional boost of energy

There you have it, coffee lovers. The verdict is in - coffee can be our BFF when consumed in moderation. Never stop caffeinating!