The Caffeine Thing

As I mentioned, I have been loving this book, except I read something curious today. About caffeine. This is another hot topic. Good or bad?

This just seems off to me...

According to the Runner’s Diet, caffeine intake is correlated with increased athletic performance in conditioned and competitive runners. And any soccer mom or college student can probably attest that caffeine is what keeps them performing all day long as well. Also other research suggests caffeine relaxes muscles and aides recovery. But is caffeine really the silver bullet for energy and stamina? What about the consequences?

I mean besides the jitters, shakes, or insanity that can follow over-consumption, what really is the harm in a little caffeine here and there? Well honestly, a lot of health professionals, athletic trainers, and nutritionist will tell you nothing. If you stay within 300 mg/day, caffeine can be a safe and healthy addition to your daily intake. In fact, there is loads of research out there stating that a regular intake of coffee and/or tea will provide health benefits coming from the good amount of antioxidants (cancer fighting substances) found in these beverages.

The following is a chart of caffeine amounts in typical beverages:

Beverage         Caffeine Content (mg per 8 oz serving)

  •        Brewed Coffee           80 – 150
  •        Espresso                    80-90
  •        Instant Coffee             50-70
  •        Soda                           25-50
  •        Tea                              20-50
  •        Energy Drinks             80-160

Some people would leave you with this information and recommendation and tell you to get on with your merry energetic way, but I will tell you some other things I have learned along the way that you might want to consider.

  1. First of all, from an athletic or racing stand point, caffeine acts as a diuretic. What does this mean? You’re kidneys are going to filter and process out any sort of fluids you have much quicker. From a long distant runner’s or endurance athlete’s perspective, you will have a tough time staying hydrated and feeling good if you are consuming a lot of caffeine before a run or even on a regular basis. Some people argue that a small amount of coffee or tea before a race will not effect you, but certainly don’t go crazy on any sort of supplements or caffeine pills. You won’t feel as great trying to cross that finish line, and you will certainly need to map out all the port-a-potties along the way.
  2. And with that being said, avoid supplements that promise to boost your energy and mental focus by increasing your metabolism, or products containing caffeine as a thermogenic agent to support weight loss. These products typically contain an absurd amount of ingredients that have never been tested for safety. Just don’t go there please.
  3. Everyone has a different response to caffeine and typical side effects can range anywhere from agitation, insomnia, headaches, and stomach irritation. In fact, migraines are correlated with caffeine intake. Use caution when consuming caffeine, even if it is just one can of diet soda.
  4. And another thing I learned while working in the natural realm, is the association between caffeine and cortisol. Without getting too far into the cortisol issue (one day I will dedicate a whole blog to stress, cortisol, and weight gain), I will say that there is some evidence that caffeine can increase cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone in our body that, when under stress, can mess with our blood sugars, thyroid, metabolism, and ultimately our ability to lose or maintain weight. When we talk about weight control we have to consider hormone control. And simply put, caffeine can work as an antagonist in this scenario.

I will not act as the nay-sayer nutritionist here, (I fear have already lost a few friends over the diet coke issue) but as always, consider these facts as drink responsibly.