Caffeine Fools You About Having Energy
So it’s good to remember that caffeine does not give us natural energy, it only conceals our tiredness. In a way, caffeine is ‘hijacking our nervous system’ by telling us we are not tired. It will ‘lie to us’ about feeling full of energy and then hit us with sudden exhaustion.
As much as I love coffee, I don’t like this ‘sneaky behaviour’ of caffeine. The idea that some external substance is bullying the molecules in my body by blocking their own receptors makes me want to start a petition for the rights of adenosine. But, of course, as soon as I smell the divine aroma of coffee, I forget all about it..!
Dopamine and the Comedowns
We love coffee because it can almost immediately improve our mood. This is caused by the release of dopamine, the ‘get going’ chemical that can cause pleasurable states that we want to experience every day, and which is the reason why the Starbucks, Costa or Nero signs have such magnetic effect on a lot of us.
But once the rush we get from artificially released dopamine is over, we can experience fatigue and low moods, even depression.
Caffeine Speeds Up Neural Activity
Do you know that jittery or even anxious feeling after you’ve had a strong coffee or any other caffeinated drink such as Red Bull?
As you already know, adenosine’s job is to slow down our neural activity. However, when it’s blocked by caffeine, it has fewer receptors available for the adenosine to ‘hit the brakes’ of the neural activity, which, in turn, will speed up instead.
So now there’s a storm of neural activity in our brain caused by caffeine, which results in the emergency production of adrenaline.
Adrenalin – the #1 Stress Chemical
Caffeine has the power to activate a number of neural circuits in our body. This causes the pituitary gland in our brain to ‘think’ that there is some sort of emergency happening, and that we are in danger.
Consequently, it will start to secrete hormones that send a signal to adrenal glands to start producing more adrenalin. Adrenalin is the hormone produced during the ‘fight or flight’ response, helping us survive by escaping danger or attacking an enemy or a predator.
To be able to get into such a state, we need an extra boost of energy and attention level – and this is exactly what we coffee drinkers get after downing a double espresso.
However, the price to pay for this heightened state is the comedown, when we suddenly feel even more tired than before drinking that coffee.
Increased Acidity: Cancer and Faster Aging
Caffeine is the culprit behind the chemical reactions of an emergency response – ‘fight or flight’ – and part of this reaction is a release of stress chemicals including adrenaline and cortisol. During the emergency response, the levels of adrenalin and cortisol in your body will increase. Both adrenalin and cortisol are acidic in nature. If we allow our body to become acidic, we are risking creation of the perfect environment for cancer.
Also, if your body is acidic, your body will age much faster!
It’s good to remember that if you drink coffee every day, your body’s’ acidity will be increasing. So this is another big reason why I reduced my coffee intake.
Caffeine Depletes Serotonin
Caffeine is also responsible for the depletion of serotonin, which is quite a big price to pay for the temporary caffeine-dopamine high. Serotonin has an important function of regulating our sleep cycles, digestion, pain control and immunity.
Lack of serotonin makes us also crave carbohydrates, so drinking too much can indirectly lead to gaining weight.
Caffeine can stay in your system for many hours and affect your sleep badly.
An espresso shot reaches a top level in your bloodstream within half an hour to up to 1 hour. Caffeine takes much longer time to process that you would think. Processing caffeine and getting rid of it from your system can take about 10 or even 12 hours!
So, it is wise to calculate when to have your cup of coffee, especially if you want to go to bed early and enjoy a deep, restorative sleep. The best thing is to have a good reserve of 12 hours before you plan to sleep. To be on the safe side, I tend to have my coffee by 10 am, so I’m ‘all clear’ by midnight.
If I had a coffee at 1pm, I would still have difficulty in falling asleep at 11pm. Other people may not – it all depends on individual metabolic system.
Is Caffeine Addictive?
Yes, you can develop a caffeine addiction. Whilst, in y case, it used to be mostly psychological, (I just could not imagine my morning bus commute to work without as comforting hot cup of soya latte) other people can develop physical dependency and experience withdrawal symptoms. A day or two after your last coffee binge you may suddenly experience a huge drop in energy, feeling extremely sleepy and weak, getting headaches, or experiencing digestion issues.