How Does Caffeine Work Anyway?

How Does Caffeine Work Anyway

Food & Drink

Everything you consume alters your body’s chemistry in one way or another, for good or bad. Caffeine affects the body through the release of the ‘energy hormone,’ epinephrine, better known as adrenaline.

Adrenaline causes your heart to beat a little bit harder, increasing blood flow and, of course, blood pressure. This helps you feel more energetic as your cells receive more oxygen.

Caffeine also inhibits adenosine, a chemical that builds up in receptors in brain cells during the day, making you feel tired. When you sleep, your body removes them. The longer you sleep, the more it removes. But caffeine looks a lot like adenosine (chemically) and binds the same receptors.

The difference is caffeine doesn’t block brain activity as adenosine does. That’s why caffeine makes you feel more alert; there’s no adenosine (or at least less) filling those receptors and making you feel tired. 

In addition, caffeine slows the reabsorption of the ‘feels good’ neurotransmitter dopamine. This means you just feel more upbeat. In some sense, this contributes to an energy boost as well.

Creating a state of alertness and overall exuberance is exactly why so many people drink coffee or use energy drinks. The problem is, the more you drink, the more your body and brain get used to it, and you need even more to have the same effect. This is in part because brain cells respond to caffeine by creating more adenosine receptors. Now, you need more caffeine to fill those receptors for the same result that less caffeine once offered. 

So, although there certainly are benefits to drinking coffee (caffeine), there are also benefits to quitting.  

Why Should I Consider Quitting Coffee (Caffeine)?

1. Your blood pressure goes down

Now I did say that when your blood pressure goes up, you do get better blood flow and feel more energetic as a result, but that is not necessarily a good thing. Some pressure is required to circulate your blood but too much, and we’re talking heart disease, stroke, and other such problems.

2. Save some serious $$$

Some folks spend $10-$20 per day on their fancy Starbucks-type cappuccinos and such, amounting to thousands per year! The amount varies amount demographics, but of all the websites I visited, it sounds like at least $1,000 a year is about average. That’s over $30,000 over 30 years but $160,000 if it was invested in the stock market for the same amount of time (assuming a 10% annual return). Is your coffee worth $160,000?

3. Get better sleep

How Does Caffeine Work Anyway?

Like I mentioned before, adenosine makes you feel tired. So, if you have caffeine in your system, you’re likely to have trouble sleeping.

4. Experience less anxiety

Some people experience more anxiety from caffeine, and it seems that genetics is the biggest player in this effect. But if you’re one of them, caffeine will give you more energy but also more panic.

5. Less head pain

Ironically, quitting coffee (caffeine) can often result in headaches (in the short-term), but being a regular consumer can mean more consistent headaches. This is sometimes referred to as an “over-use headache.”

6. You’ll be happier!  

How Does Caffeine Work Anyway?

Oftentimes coffee/caffeine consumption can cause irritability. We’ve all been around someone that is irritable or been so ourselves and know how unpleasant it is. Don’t be that guy! 

7. It’s just easier

Imagine not having to worry about your morning, afternoon, and late afternoon coffee fix! This might sound like a bit of a lazy reason to stop drinking coffee, but think about all the time you spend on it. Even if you don’t drive to the coffee shop and wait in line every day, you still have to take the time to prepare it.

8. Pretty teeth

Have you ever noticed that heavy coffee drinkers usually have discolored teeth? It isn’t because they don’t brush as often as everybody else either. Coffee contains a particular family of acids called tannins that do this. Considering they are the same tannins used to tan animal hides, there’s no wonder this can happen, and it isn’t easy to avoid if you are a frequent coffee drinker.

9. Caffeine will work again

Remember that your body gets used to caffeine, and after a while, it doesn’t give you energy like it used to? If you go off it for a while and consume caffeine again, suddenly, even a little can make a big difference. That’s because when you quit, your brain adjusts by decreasing the number of adenosine receptors. Suddenly, if caffeine is re-introduced, these receptors are overwhelmed.

10. You won’t be a jittery mess

If you drink a lot of coffee, you are likely to experience the jitters regularly. This is likely because you drink too much, but that’s also an easy thing to do. It’s not like you have a caffeine meter to go by.

11. Less chance of diabetes

While there are theories on why it is clear that drinking coffee with sugar is pretty common. And let’s be honest, when have you ever not had sugar in some form in your coffee? Unfortunately, although the stuff makes things taste so good, it is also strongly connected to type 2 diabetes.

A Quick Recap

The bottom line is that coffee is not bad, per se. It does increase your energy and focus on getting you through a tough workout or that really boring manager’s meeting. But the problem is that very few people drink it in moderation. And it’s hard to do that anyway because you naturally build a tolerance to it, even if in relatively small doses.

So, just quitting might be the best option for your health and your pocketbook. 

Paul Claybrook
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