Caffeine - Yes OR No?

By Emma Judges

I’m often asked about my thoughts on caffeine. There is so much conflicting information available that it is hard to know what and who to trust.

Caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant. It is one of the most commonly used ingredients in the world. 80% of the world’s population consumes a caffeinated product each day. Caffeine works by stimulating your brain and central nervous system. It can help you stay alert and prevent the onset of tiredness, by blocking adenosine, which is a neurotransmitter that normally makes you tired by relaxing the brain.

Interestingly, caffeine on its own is not particularly addictive as a substance, but the habits around coffee can be. Caffeine may improve mood, decrease the likelihood of depression and protect against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Due to caffeine’s ability to stimulate the central nervous system, it may increase metabolism. However, long term studies don’t show significant differences in those who do or don’t drink caffeinated beverages.

As for exercise, caffeine may help increase fat loss due to the stimulation in the central nervous system. It’s not that caffeine actually burns fat, but the increase in perceived energy may help to exercise harder or longer, resulting in a higher energy output. Caffeine consumed 1hr prior to exercise has shown to improve output.

Caffeine may also help protect against heart disease and type 2 diabetes, however this will vary between individuals.

OK, So What’s The Catch?

Caffeine is sounding pretty awesome right now isn’t it, however like everything, there are side effects. Whilst caffeine is generally considered safe, it can be habit forming. Too much consumption can lead to anxiety, restlessness, trouble sleeping and irregular heartbeats. Caffeine can interact with some medications and pregnant women should limit their intake as caffeine can cross easily into the placenta, increasing the risk of miscarriage.


So how much can I drink?


As a rule of thumb, 200mg is considered safe, with no more than 400mg per day. Pregnant women should limit their intake to 200mg or less. Below is a guide of how much caffeine is in the drinks we consume. But as a side note, chocolate also contains caffeine, so don’t forget to take that into account.



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