Depending on the time you're reading this article, you are either sipping your first cup of joe in the morning or sitting around your desk with about 4 half-filled mugs of cold coffee around you and guzzling down your 5th cup of the day; or you’re somewhere in between.
Two thirds of American adults drink about 2.7 cups of coffee per day, and 25% of people claim to be addicted to coffee. However, only about 10% of people want to cut back on their coffee-drinking. People aren’t too sad about their coffee habits and studies show that you don’t have to be. Even though coffee, mainly its active component caffeine (considered a stimulant drug), can get a bad rep., it’s actually been proven to be good for your health, both physical and mental.
Caffeine, the active ingredient in coffee, works to block the effects of inhibitory transmitters called adenosine while increasing neuronal firing and the release of excitatory neurotransmitters, dopamine and norepinephrine into the brain, essentially giving you a perk to ‘wake up’. Studies showing the effects of caffeine on the brain, observed that caffeine can improve mood, reaction time, vigilance and memory. But that’s not all, there are studies that link the benefits of caffeine with reduction to many diseases, most notably, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, liver and kidney diseases. Women who drink 2-3 cups of coffee a day are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease . Coffee also contains hundreds of bioactive compounds that have serious health benefits to keeping your body safe and clean.
Coffee is also good for us mentally. Besides for the pick me ups and energey boosts, research shows that 4 or more cups of coffee per day is linked to 20% descrease in depressive tendincies and 53% lower risk of suicide. Caffeine also boosts your memory. A study from John Hopkins tested participants' ability to remember a series of images, and when they were given caffeine tablets, they performed significantly better at recalling the images. Being prepared, alert and having a good recall are great for your productivity and using coffee to be more productive holds value.
Too much a bad thing?
But as the saying goes, too much of a good thing is bad and it’s the same with coffee and caffeine. The energy boost that coffee offers only lasts for a certain amount of time before the feelings begin to fade. It varies between people, but on average the effects of caffeine last about 6 hours. The best perks come about 45 minutes after your first intake and then we subsequently desire to pour more and more cups during the day to continue feeling those highs. For the average adult, 4-5 cups of coffee are the optimal amount per day.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, that is about 400 milligrams of caffeine per day for the average american. Too much coffee can cause short term side effects like anxious tendencies and elevated heart rates, but the studies have shown that there aren’t any long-term effects observed for overall health.
Coffee really does work to wake you up. So, one of the downsides of too much coffee can be its effect on your ability to fall asleep, and too much caffeine can lead to sleep disruption. Therefore, make sure you are drinking coffee at the most optimal times to be alert, like mornings and afternoons. Be wary of consuming caffeine close to evening, as the effects can last up to 6 hours.
When Waking Up?
That being said, it has been suggested that coffee right when you wake up is not the ideal consumption time either. Our bodies work on a 24 hour biological clock (our circadian rhythm) and many aspects of the way our body regulates is determined by this clock, including our hormone production. When we wake up, our circadian rhythm starts ordering the production of cortisol, commonly known as the stress steroid, as it brings the body to alertness and is the way our bodies naturally wake us up. So, drinking coffee at this stage in the morning isn’t all useless but it’s definitely more wasteful because our body doesn’t need the caffeine, it's already using its own mechanisms to create the same natural effects. That’s why the best time to drink coffee is after a cortisol peak, so some time in the morning, but only after you have woken up. For many, including myself, this means my first cup is at the office and not at home.
Caffeine has effects on our body and we can build tolerance to them, no matter what time of the day we are consuming coffee, even during optimal coffee times. It can be good to practice different coffee drinking schedules to help maintain better habits so that your tolerance doesn’t build too much. Essentially, it’s important to find your sweet spot for coffee intake. If you feel like your consumption is non-ideally too much the only thing you can do is cut back. Reduce the number of cups per day and even give yourself coffee free days, like over weekends where you have time to utilize other energy boosters like exercising in the morning. Cut back your coffee intake gradually during some weeks and then reintroduce those cups back in just as slowly the preceding weeks. A slow and steady schedule can keep your tolerance in check and give the best results for caffeine related productivity.
Still in Infancy!
The case for coffee is good. Even though research on the subject is still in its infancy, the studies are continuing to prove the benefits of coffee and caffeine have on mental and physical health. So go ahead, fill up that 4th or 5th cup of the day and enjoy the comfort and satisfaction that coffee has to give.