Confused about Coffee? Don’t be!

Ok so I’m fully aware this isn’t a ‘physio’ related post. But anything health related works is somewhat relevant! So Please read on 🙂

I’m a huge coffee drinker; one of my favourite things of a morning is that aroma of freshly brewed coffee that wafts through my house. (Yes my nespresso machine was the best investment EVER)

Coffee is something constantly making headlines in health magazines and among health profesisonals… is it good or bad for you? Can you drink too much? Should you cut out coffee to lose weight? And like most of these hotly debated ‘health’ topics there are a thousand different opinions and theories and most of us feel like we are on a merry-go-round of mixed messages.


Let’s ponder this for a brief moment. The controversy behind coffee is of course rooted to the caffeine it contains. Many may say our society is fueled by coffee… for 95% of us our morning ritual involves  a visit to your favourite barista who knows your order, exactly how you like it brewed and exactly what pattern to pour into your froth to ensure you have a fabulous start to your morning!

The scary thing is most people are not even aware of their caffeine intake; they are just adhering to the cultural norms of arriving at work coffee cup in hand.

Now ask yourself why? Do you enjoy the taste? Is it a social thing?  (you can’t possibly bethat guy that orders a hot chocolate or peppermint tea at a client meeting) , do you need the pick me up?

For many it’s the latter, coffee is a physical stimulant that you need at 730am, and most probably again mid afternoon when 330itis kicks in. It unfortunately seems to be the compromise we all make to deal with our chaotic lives full of last minute deadlines, excessive workloads and high stress levels.

So lets explore the facts a little.

What is caffeine? An invigorating, arousing little stimulant found in coffee (duh) , energy drinks, cola etc. This substance affects all of us slightly differently, for some a decaf can leave you feeling like you’re bouncing off the walls, while others only get that same jitter from a double shot espresso. On average a person can around 200mg-300mg  of caffeine daily without causing too many problems. (100mg is in a typical cup of coffee) Bearing in mind that this shouldn’t be ingested too close to bed time (swap this one for green tea)

When you find yourself on your 4th  or 5th coffee for the day you put yourself at risk of developing a spectrum of problems from heart palpitations to muscle tremors and anxiety.

Caffeine and weight loss?

Yes caffeine being a stimulant can elevate your metabolism via its affects on our adrenal system BUT these effects are relatively short lived and no-one in their right mind should be using coffee as a weight loss tool.

Caffeine actually raises levels of the stress hormone cortisol within the body. This little sucker is responsible for storing fat deposits around the abdomen. Want flat abs?? Cut the caffeine consumption… and remember this includes soda and energy drinks too.

On top of this for those serious about wanting to lose weight, it may not only be the caffeine that’s curbing your results, but the amount of sugar and calories you’re also consuming as you sip on your 4th latte. (It’s much more fun to eat your calories than drink them) Why not try swapping one of your coffees for a long black?

Caffeine and performance?coffee 12

There is alot of talk around this topic at the moment, and study after study is being done on various sporting teams about pre-performance caffeine intake and how it can affect performance. The general trend in the result is that yes ingesting caffeine in one form or another (coffee, energy drinks) can actually improve performance allowing athletes to train for longer. It does this by stimulating the nervous system and promoting the utilisation of fats as an energy fuel whilst sparing our glycogen stores.

Please bear in mind I’m not advocating every man and his dog start taking a caffeine supplement before your regular gym workout, these studies are performed on elite athletes doing high intensity training on a daily basis.

So what’s the take home message?

  1. Yes you can most definitely continue to indulge in your morning coffee ritual because no amount of research or reading will deter me from my morning coffee. Its WAY TOO DELICIOUS.
  2. Yes you can have too much caffeine. 200-300mg (ideally I would recommend lower) is ok for the average person. 500mg plus and your putting yourself at risk of developing certain health problems. MODERATION MODERATION MODERATION
  3. If you are watching your weight. Cut caffeine intake it will do wonders for your love handles.
  4. Athletes yes studies do show that caffeine can give you a leg up BUT If you are not a regular caffeine drinker you don’t by any means need to suddenly start.

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