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 and guzzling down your 5th cup of the day; or you’re somewhere in between.
Two third of American adults drink about 2.7 cups of coffee per day, and 25 percent 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 are showing that you don’t have to be. Even though coffee, mainly its active component caffeine (considered a stimulant drug), can get a bad name, it’s actually been proven by many research groups 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 show 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 notable, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, liver and kidney disease. 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 you mentally. Besides for the pick me ups and energey boosts it actually gives us, research demonstrates that 4 or more cups of coffee per day is linked to 20% descrease in depressive tendincies and 53% reduction in 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 good recall are all good for your productivity and using coffee to be more productive is valuable.
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 boosts of coffee only lasts for a certain amount of time before the feelings starts to fade. It varies between different people, but on average the effects of caffeine last about 6 hours. The best perks comes after about 45 minutes after your first intake, and this makes us wanting to pour ourselves more and more cups during the day to feel those highs. For the average adult, 4-5 cups of coffee are the optimal amount per day. According to the Dietary Guidelines for American’s, 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 there aren’t any long term effects they’ve found on overall health.
Coffee really does work to wake you up. So, one of the downsides of too much coffee intake can be its effect on your ability to fall asleep and even disrupt it. Make sure you are drinking coffee at the most optimal times like in the mornings and late afternoons. Be weary of consuming caffeine close to evening, as the effects can last to up to 6 hours and may disrupt your sleep.
When Waking Up?
That being said, it has been suggested that coffee right when you wake up is not 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 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 because it's already using its own mechanisms to create the same natural effects. The best time to drink coffee is after a cortisol peak, therefore sometime in the morning but only after you have woken up. For many, including myself, it means my first cup of coffee is at the office and not at home.
Caffeine has effects on our body and we can build tolerance no matter what time of the day we are drinking coffee even when times are optimal. It can be good to practice different coffee drinking schedules to help you maintain better habits so that your tolerance doesn’t become too much. Essentially, it’s important to find your sweet spot for coffee intake. If you feel like your consumption has been 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 the weekends where you have time to utilize other energy boosters like exercising in the morning for a great way to start your day alert and productive. Cut back your coffee intake slowly during some weeks and then reintroduce those cups back in slowly the preceding weeks. A slow and steady schedule can keep your tolerance in check and give you the best results for coffee intake and 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 intake 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.