Coffee. It’s one of those things…you either love it or hate it.
Regardless, it remains one of the top sources of caffeine consumed in Australia with up to 50% coming from coffee products.
There’s no doubt we have a strong coffee culture here and for most, including myself, it can be challenging to opt out once you’ve created the habit of having one every day (or every few days)!
For some it can be the most joyous experience but unfortunately for most it can set off a cascade of events within the body. Increased heart rate, increased cortisol levels (stress hormone) which can lead to adrenal fatigue, digestive issues, energy slumps and mood disorders.
I have to admit I’ve been very on an off with drinking it this pregnancy, unlike my first where I was able to cut it out almost completely. Maaaybe it has something to do with running around after a toddler these days!? Despite opting for half strength, almond milk lattes, I know that my body is better off without it altogether. This was evident after I ditched it successfully for a few months a few years ago.
Then I had a baby.
Last year particularly, I experienced the vicious cycle of having very little sleep due to numerous night wakings with my little one, and relying on my mid morning latte to help keep me alert during the day. An all too common scenario in mum land! All the while I was severely overworking my adrenal glands which only became apparent when I had some testing done with my naturopath for my digestive issues. It wasn’t the coffee per say, but the daily caffeine hit definitely wasn’t helping my stress levels. I was in a state of perpetual fight or flight.
So with all the conflicting reports about the benefits of coffee, is it actually good or bad for YOU??
The good news is there is actual science behind why different people react differently to their hot cup of joe. Generally it’s a matter of your genetics and how much coffee you’re used to drinking.
NOTE: Coffee does not equal caffeine. Coffee contains between 50-400 mg of caffeine/cup, averaging around 100 mg/cup. Coffee is one of the most popular ways to consume this stimulant. But…a cup of coffee contains a lot of things over and above the caffeine. Not just water, but antioxidants, and hundreds of other compounds. These are the reasons drinking a cup of coffee is not the same as taking a caffeine pill. And don’t be fooled, decaffeinated coffee has a lot less caffeine; but, it still contains some. There can also be issues of how the beans were processed and the chemicals involved.
Anyway, let’s look at caffeine metabolism, its effects on the mind and body, and whether coffee drinkers have higher or lower risks of disease.
Then I’ll give you some things to consider when deciding if coffee is for you or not.
Not all people metabolise caffeine at the same speed. How fast you metabolise caffeine will impact how you’re affected by it. In fact, caffeine metabolism can be up to 40x faster in some people than others.
That said, about half of us are “slow” metabolisers of caffeine. We can get jitters, heart palpitations, and feel “wired” for up to 9 hours after having a coffee. The other half is “fast” metabolisers of caffeine. They get energy and increased alertness and are back to normal a few hours later.
This is part of the reason those headlines contradict each other so much – because we’re all different!
The effects of coffee (and caffeine) on the mind and body
Most studies look at caffeinated coffee, not decaf.
The effects of coffee (and caffeine) on the mind and body also differ between people; this is partly from the metabolism I mentioned. But it also has to do with your body’s amazing ability to adapt (read: become more tolerant) to long-term caffeine use. Many people who start drinking coffee feel the effects a lot more than people who have coffee every day.
Here’s a list of these effects (that usually decrease with long-term use):
- Stimulates the brain
- Boosts metabolism
- Boosts energy and exercise performance
- Increases your stress hormone cortisol
So, while some of these effects are good and some not so good, you need to see how they affect you and decide if it’s worth it or not.
Be really honest with yourself.
And if you’re not sure, keep a note in your phone and record how you feel an hour or so after, including how rested you felt at bedtime.
Coffee and health risks
There are a ton of studies on the health effects of coffee, and whether coffee drinkers are more or less likely to get certain conditions.
Here’s a quick summary of what coffee can lead to:
- Caffeine addiction and withdrawal symptoms (e.g. a headaches, fatigue, irritability)
- Increased sleep disruption/insomnia
- Lower risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
- Lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes
- Lower risk of certain liver diseases
- Lower risk of death (“all cause mortality”)
- Mixed reviews on whether it lowers risks of cancer and heart disease
- Weight gain (particularly around the belly!)
Many of the health benefits exist even for decaf coffee (except the caffeine addiction and sleep issues).
What’s super-important to note here is that coffee intake is just one of many, many factors that can affect your risks for these diseases.
Please never think regular coffee intake is the one thing that can help you overcome these risks. You are health-conscious and know that eating a nutrient-rich whole foods diet, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep and exercise are all critical things to consider for your disease risk. It’s not just about the coffee.
Should you drink coffee or not?
There are a few things to consider when deciding whether you should drink coffee. Just remember, no one food or drink will make or break your long-term health.
That said, caffeinated coffee is not recommended for:
- People who are pregnant or breastfeeding
- People with arrhythmias (e.g. irregular heartbeat)
- People who often feel anxious
- People who have trouble sleeping
- Children and
If none of these apply, then monitor how your body reacts when you have coffee. Tune in and ask yourself if it:
- Gives you the jitters?
- Increase anxious feelings?
- Affect your sleep?
- Give you heart palpitations?
- Affect your digestion (e.g. heartburn, etc.)?
- Give you a reason to reach for something sweet (e.g pastries, muffins, biscuits)?
Depending on how your body reacts, decide whether these reactions are worth it to you.
If you’re not sure, I recommend eliminating it for at least a few weeks and notice the difference.
Now I would love to hear from you!
Are you a coffee lover or hater? Have you ever given it up and how did it make you feel? Tell me in the comments below or head over to my Facebook page and share your favourite caffeine free beverage.
And if you’re keen to learn about what alternatives there are to your daily cuppa, then be sure to hit subscribe as I will be emailing out some of my favourites! You’ll also receive a BONUS cheat sheet that will help you to feel lighter, clear headed and reduce the belly fat by crowding out that coffee habit just by eating more veggies. WIN WIN!