Friday, September 14, 2012

Got Coffee?

Starbucks in Germany!

  (Note: As luck may have it, I came across an in-depth look all about coffee, and its benefits over the weekend. Check it out here!)

  It's Friday, so it's safe to say a few of us might have needed a little stronger cup of coffee to get rolling this morning. Or maybe an extra cup or two sufficed.

  Those of us who have picked up the coffee habit rely on it for several reasons. Whether it's that boost to get our day started or a midday pick-me-up, the comfort of a warm drink or a morning ritual, a workout enhancer, an excuse to visit with a friend, or just because we like the taste, coffee is the most common way we consume caffeine.

  And depending on who you talk to, caffeine is either beneficial, or a harmful vice. So which is it?

The Biology 
  Caffeine is a stimulant. Biologically it's revs up our nervous system, decreases fatigue, and helps us feel more alert. It does this by blocking the Adenosine (known as nature's chill pill) in our brains. So there's a reason we get a boost after consuming caffeine!

  It's fair to say that the majority of us (as adults) consume most of our caffeine in the form of coffee. So the answer to whether it's harmful or helpful, most likely, lies in how much coffee we drink on a daily basis, and how we drink it.
Always good reason to stop in for a coffee with friends!

How Much Caffeine?
  Everywhere you look, the 'acceptable' amount of caffeine per day is roughly 300-400 mgs. Because there are so many different ways to brew it (and each way yields a different amount of caffeine per serving) the range of how many cups per day is dependent on how you brew your coffee. Lucky for us, someone has already done the math!

  Starbucks is probably the most well-known and most-frequented coffee spot throughout the US, so here's a complete guide to how much caffeine is in their countless coffee drinks (there is information about other caffeinated drinks, as well). And if you brew your coffee at home, you can use it to guide you as well. 

The Benefits
  Other than the obvious, and previously talked about, boost in the morning, there are other advantages to consuming a 'healthy' amount of caffeine on a daily basis.

  Caffeinated coffee has been shown to boost cognitive function, is an anti-oxidant, inhibits insulin resistance, and can speed up your metabolism.

  There's one benefit to caffeine that I had never considered until recently. More studies have been released about the benefit of consuming just a small amount caffeine 30-45 minutes prior to exercising to performance. Again, since it's a stimulant, caffeine gives you extra stamina and increases your heart rate, which improves blood flow to the rest of your body. It helps you perform difficult physical tasks by eliminating fatigue. Caffeine also increases the amount of adrenaline in your system, causing a rush of extra glucose and oxygen to your muscles.

  Caffeine has been found to help with two kinds of exercise: endurance activities, and short, power-intensive activities. 

The Drawbacks
  As with everything, coffee (caffeine) must be consumed in moderation. When we exceed the 300-400 mgs per day suggestion we may start to see negative effects. Sleeplessness, increased anxiety, and headaches are common results of too much caffeine consumption.

  A more serious result of over-caffeinating ourselves can be the effect our thyroid function. The thyroid controls our body's metabolism. Too much coffee can, in turn, cause the release of stress hormones and burn out our adrenal glands, resulting in weight gain.

  Lastly, because caffeine is a diuretic, we must drink water alongside consumption to avoid dehydration. 

How Do You Take It?
   I know very few of us actually LIKE the taste of coffee, and coffee alone, when we first start drinking it. We need a little (or a lot) of sugar and/or cream to doctor it up a bit to our liking. So be mindful of how much sugar and cream you take.

  But one thing is certain: please avoid the artificial sweeteners!

Hanging in the coffee bar in Italy.
  Green tea is a good non-coffee option for caffeine. Stay away from the energy drinks because more often than not, they're loaded with sugar or artificial sweeteners. Get your caffeine in a 'natural' form if you must!

  Bravo to you, if you've never picked up the coffee habit! I can't say I am one of those people. For me, it all started in Italy. The Italian espresso has to be one of the best things ever! Before I moved onto playing in Europe I would occasionally have a 'coffee' drink from Starbucks. But based on my preference for strong, bold coffee, I have a hard time calling those sweet drinks, coffee, now.

  I know when I'm sitting in front of my computer, working on a post, I can mindlessly drink three or four cups in one short afternoon. It was after I thought about my new habit, that I was curious: exactly how much coffee is too much?

  To be sure, as with everything good in this world, it's all okay in moderation!

The Complete Guide to Starbucks Caffeine (and other sources)
Caffeine Before Working Out
Health Benefits of Caffeine
The Effect of Excess Caffeine


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