7 Reasons Coffee Is Good for You (but Only if You Drink It at the Right Time!)
Which type of coffee drinker are you?
When someone asks if you want a coffee, does your mind immediately jump to asking yourself whether you could do with the caffeine kick? Perhaps you’re part of the ‘no-sleep’ club who will always say yes to coffee regardless of the time of day. Or maybe you’ve unconsciously joined the club through your growing dependence on caffeine for your productivity and you’ve learned to live with the jitters because withdrawal symptoms are far less appealing.
Withdrawal symptoms are often linked with addictive drug use, and while caffeine does increase your dopamine levels, some researchers argue this surge is not large enough to result in ‘addictive’ behaviour¹. I’m no expert but I would bet that when people can start measuring their coffee intake in gallons instead of cups per day, they might have an addiction…
The withdrawal symptoms can be physically debilitating and a 170-year study on caffeine withdrawal concluded that “In general, the more caffeine consumed, the more severe withdrawal symptoms are likely to be”².
It is not advised to go cold turkey on this drug. Weening yourself off gradually is the best route³. Confusingly, taking more caffeine is also the advised way to deal with withdrawal symptoms — as long as you don’t go back to your previous levels! And, yes, it is a drug:
“Caffeine is defined as a drug because it stimulates the central nervous system, causing increased alertness.”⁴
So we should all just ween ourselves off of caffeine and never speak of it again, right? Not likely. Apart from caffeine being one of the world’s most consumed psychoactive substances⁵ (meaning, as a species, we clearly enjoy a good coffee), there are so many amazing health benefits that we can get from coffee — if we can just learn how not to abuse it!
1. Improved Physical Performance
As previously stated, caffeine stimulates your central nervous system, which results in the feeling of being energized (or shaking off feeling tired). So before you start any physical activity, swigging some coffee will hype you up.
There is also research that concludes caffeine improves both your endurance and your muscular strength⁶. No wonder caffeine is available as a supplement for athletes.
2. Energy levels
Aside from physical energy levels, coffee is also used as a mental stimulant to bring clarity and focus. The reason the effects of coffee take a while to kick in is because, first of all, it is absorbed into your bloodstream and transported to your brain. When it arrives there, the caffeine blocks the inhibitory neurotransmitter adenosine.
Now, adenosine is part of what makes us feel tired, but also, as a result of this being blocked, our bodies release dopamine and norepinephrine⁷.
Translation: the blocking and releasing of these chemicals in our brains lead to an increase in focus and energy. Win-win.
3. Helps to Burn Fat
It’s not like coffee is a super drug that enters your bloodstream, seeks out your fat cells, and destroys them, but if you drink it regularly it could help you on your quest to lose a few pounds.
Coffee boosts your metabolism and “just one cup can boost calorie burning by four percent over the course of two and a half hours.”⁸
The caveats are that you can’t only drink coffee and expect to increase your metabolism by 1000%, that’s just not how it works, and you get the most benefits if you drink your coffee black without any cream, milk, or sugars.
So, over time, a black coffee a day could keep the fat cells away.
4. Protects Against Diseases
Alzheimer’s is the most common neurodegenerative disease in the world and is the leading cause of Dementia⁹. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disease but drinking coffee could help reduce your chances of getting it.
Parkinson’s Disease is second place for neurodegenerative diseases and also in the list of diseases coffee can help fight off.
Third up is liver cancer, the chances of which can be reduced by -you’ve guessed it- coffee! Here’s what studies say regarding the numbers:
- Coffee drinkers have a 65% lower risk of getting Alzheimer’s Disease
- Coffee drinkers reduce the risk of Parkinson’s Disease by 32–60% (but this does not apply if they drink decaf)
- Coffee drinkers have a 40% lower chance of getting liver cancer¹⁰
5. Puts A Smile On Your Face
There have been many studies conducted on the psychological effects of coffee and, more specifically, how it can help depression. One study concluded that:
“caffeine, particularly when present in coffee, had a protective effect against depression.”¹¹
One reasoning suggested for this is the presence of chlorogenic acid, ferulic acid, and caffeic acid in coffee. These acids help to reduce the inflammation of cells that particularly occurs in the brains of people with depression.
6. Prolonged Life
Some studies have concluded that, no matter if coffee is caffeinated, decaffeinated, brewed, or instant, that those of us who drink 8 or more cups a day have a lower risk of early death compared to those who don’t.¹²
Granted, this is a very extreme case but I’m sure we all know someone who drinks that much coffee. I would argue that the majority of said coffee should be decaf and that, if it is, they may well get these benefits — as much as a 14% less chance of an early death! If you really love coffee that much, good health to you!
7. Essential Nutrients and Antioxidants
Black coffee, in particular, contains sodium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, riboflavin, and niacin.¹⁴ These micronutrients provide a whole host of health benefits and help the running of essential bodily functions to be smooth. Their amounts may be small but they add up as you drink more coffee.
Antioxidants are crucial for fighting free radicals, that naturally occur in our bodies, and preventing them from damaging cells and our DNA. Coffee is rich in antioxidants such as hydrocinnamic acids and polyphenols, which also help to reduce your risk of other diseases.¹³ Some studies even claim that coffee provides more antioxidants in our diets than any other food group!¹⁵
To Drink or Not To Drink?
After all that information it’s clear, I would hope, that coffee is worth having in your diet if it’s not already (who are these people?). So, why do so many people have problems with it?
The answer lies in the half-life of caffeine. After drinking coffee, that caffeine kick might help boost your energy within 15 minutes⁶ but it will stick around in your system for at least 5 hours afterward in healthy individuals⁷.
Unfortunately, we have no say in this because our bodies naturally absorb 99% of caffeine within 45 minutes⁷, so if you drink it, it’s not going anywhere fast. As a result, when we drink coffee too late in the day our sleeping patterns are majorly disrupted and we can get into a dark spiral of not sleeping, drinking more coffee to stay alert after a bad night, and getting another bad sleep.
Although there are many schools of thought, it’s generally accepted that the best time to get your Cup of Joe is first thing in the morning and that the latest you should drink any is around 2/3 pm.
So if you want to drink your tasty coffee and get all its health benefits put the kettle on first thing and make sure it’s unplugged after lunch!
As more research is done into how to optimize our health there are new developments happening all the time. One of the most recent that relates to caffeine is the study of our different chronotypes by Michael Breus, PhD.
Essentially, you can take a quick online test to discover which chronotype you are (I’m a Wolf), which will then tell you, among other things, your natural sleep pattern and what times are optimal for you to consume and not consume caffeine.
If you’re interested and want to find out more for yourself, take a look here:
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