Every day, most of us consume caffeine in some shape or form, whether that is in our coffee on the way to work, in the cup of tea we have with friends or in the chocolate bar we occasionally indulge in. But what does effect does caffeine have on our bodies?
What is caffeine?
Caffeine is a natural stimulant found in plants, such as coffee beans, tea, and cocoa. When consumed, caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and increases alertness. It is commonly associated with a boost in energy levels and an increase in mood however, the effect of caffeine is relative to the individual. Generally, the more caffeine consumed, the less sensitive you become to the stimulant.
When consumed, caffeine increases blood pressure, stress hormones and heart rate, resulting in the common ‘alert’ feeling. Although controlled consumption is safe, it is advised to limit caffeine intake if you suffer with health conditions such as Anxiety, increased blood pressure, insomnia, and heart problems, as the stimulant can sometimes increase symptoms. Also, pregnant women are advised to limit their caffeine consumption, as there has been links between pregnancy complications, low birth weights and excessive caffeine consumption (James, 2020).
On the other hand, caffeine has been found to serve lots of health and performance benefits. Consumption of caffeine in the natural form, such as coffee or cocoa, has been linked to increased cognitive function, protection against neurological diseases, blood sugar stabilisation and a lowered stroke risk (Poole et al, 2017).
How much caffeine should you be consuming?
Caffeine sensitivity is individual to everyone however, it is advised that adults should consume no more than 400mg a day. The amount of caffeine varies in different foods and drinks, but the estimated amounts are:
- Latte – 130mg
- 1 mug of instant coffee – 100mg
- 1 can of energy drink – 80mg
- 1 mug of tea – 75mg
- Small bar of chocolate – 25-50mg
- Can of coca cola – 40mg
When consuming caffeine, it is important to avoid ‘artificial’ caffeine sources, such as sugary soft drinks and energy drinks. Opting for a filter coffee or a mug of tea is a healthier option.
How does caffeine affect hydration and health?
Hydration is crucial for human health, it regulates body temperature, prevents infections, delivers nutrients to cells, and allows organs to function optimally. The human adult body is around 60% water.
Caffeine has been found to be a diuretic, increasing fluid loss from the body in by the process of increased urination. Therefore, it is important to limit caffeine intake to prevent mineral depletion and the risk of dehydration.
Simple tips to limit caffeine intake
Controlled caffeine consumption is safe. However, if you want to reduce your intake to improve sleep, hydration levels or for health reasons, here are some top tips:
- Gradually cut back over a few weeks. Sudden caffeine depletion can lead to fatigue and headaches.
- Try decaffeinated coffee and coffee after 12pm.
- Make one cup at a time, instead of a whole teapot of cafetiere.
- Try herbal teas, which are lower in caffeine and have a host of health benefits.
- When ordering coffee, choose a smaller size.
- Limit your consumption of caffeinated fizzy drinks.
James, J. E. (2020). Maternal caffeine consumption and pregnancy outcomes: a narrative review with implications for advice to mothers and mothers-to-be. BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine, 26(3), 114–115. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjebm-2020-111432
Poole, R., Kennedy, O. J., Roderick, P., Fallowfield, J. A., Hayes, P. C., & Parkes, J. (2017). Coffee consumption and health: umbrella review of meta-analyses of multiple health outcomes. BMJ, j5024. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j5024