Coffee is one of those things – you either love it or hate it. You know if you like the taste or not (or if it’s just an excuse to escape your desk for a few minutes). You know how it makes you feel (i.e. your body, your gut, your mind, etc.).
Our lifestyles these days usually call for some kind of “pick-me-up”, that little bit of something that kick starts our day, wakes us up and helps us soldier on. The fact that we even need a kick-start is a concept we will explore on another day, in the meantime coffee may be just a habit, a way to get out of the office and take a break from work, or something we grab on our way in the morning on the school run because we’ve had to deal with the kids all morning and we’re ready for our “fix”.
So, should you be drinking it? If you believe the headlines, it can actually be good for you. But wait, a couple of weeks later maybe not. So which is it…..and how much does it depend on YOU?
There’s actual science behind why different people react differently coffee. It’s a matter of your genetics and how much coffee you’re used to drinking. As with all things health related, we have to remember that everyone’s different and while we can look at the fundamentals surrounding what we do and don’t consume, you have the ability to exert free will here and decide how you really feel after that cuppa.
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 (along with energy drinks…..but that’s a whole other conversation). 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 decaffeinated coffee has a lot less caffeine; but, it still contains some.
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 metabolize caffeine at the same speed. How fast you metabolize caffeine will impact how you’re affected by the caffeine. In fact, caffeine metabolism can be up to 40x faster in some people than others.
About half of us are “slow” metabolizers of caffeine. We can get jitters, heart palpitations, and feel “wired” for up to 9 hours after having a coffee. The other half are “fast” metabolizers 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
Note: 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 aren’t, you need to see how they affect you and decide if it’s worth it or not.
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 headache, fatigue, irritability)
- Increased sleep disruption
- 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
Many of the health benefits exist even for decaf coffee (except the caffeine addiction and sleep issues).
Note: 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’re a health-conscious individual 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. No one food or drink will make or break your long-term health.
Caffeinated coffee is not recommended for:
- People with arrhythmias (e.g. irregular heartbeat)
- People who often feel anxious
- People who have trouble sleeping
- People who are pregnant
- Children or teens.
If none of these apply, then monitor how your body reacts when you have coffee. Does it:
- Give 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 drink a lot of sugar and milk?
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 a while and see the difference. If you’re really in the habit of sitting down with a hot cup of something, try subbing it out for a bone broth, or herbal tea – it may take some getting used to, but it may just be worth it :-).
If you want some other tips and simple things you can make a start on to improve your health, make sure you check out my FREE ebook >>HERE<<.