Okay, so let’s settle this battle once and for all: is caffeine bad?
It seems that everyone has their own view on caffeine. For some, they can’t live without it, while others can’t even touch it without getting the shakes. Whether you drink three cups of pure black coffee each day, or even sip on your favourite matcha latte, it is important to understand how caffeine impacts our system.
How does caffeine work?
Caffeine affects our natural cortisol curve (the hormone that is triggered by stress, and helps to establish our sleep/wake cycle). Our cortisol is naturally highest in the morning helping us to wake up, and drops throughout the day, promoting sleep in the evening.
However, when we add caffeine into the mix, it can cause our cortisol levels to rise, even at those times that it should be dropping.
So what are some misconceptions that we hear about caffeine?
Caffeine is one-size-fits all.
I think this is one misconception that has been widely busted, especially as we start to learn more about how “not one diet fits all”. Similarly, caffeine consumption will affect each person differently. For some, having a cup of coffee at 4pm won’t change their sleep, while others can’t even look at a cup of green tea without staying wide awake until 2am.
It is important to learn your body, and work with it. If you start to notice behaviours including sleep disturbances, feeling anxious without reason, or becoming quick to anger, look at your caffeine consumption.
Caffeine is dehydrating.
You have probably heard that caffeine, particularly coffee, is dehydrating.
However, studies have been done to show that drinking up to six cups of coffee per day, does not affect hydration levels. Now, when we say six cups, we mean normal sized cups - not six venti lattes.
Caffeine is bad for you.
Many people still hold the belief that caffeine does more harm to the body than it does good. However, studies have been done, particularly on brain health, to show that caffeine can improve our cognition. In fact, multiple cups of coffee per day have shown positive results for those predisposed to Alzheimer’s disease.
Caffeine causes sleep issues.
Again, this goes back to the idea that caffeine consumption is not one-size-fits all. For some people, anything caffeinated after midday means sleep disturbances that evening.
However, if your detox systems are all working properly, the caffeine in a cup of coffee should be out of your system within 4-7 hours after consumption. This means that your much-needed coffee to kick your 3pm slump, should be out of your system by bedtime.
Caffeine is fine on an empty stomach.
Do you reach for a cup of black coffee immediately after waking up? With the rise of intermittent fasting, this has become more common. However, it is particularly important to note that consuming caffeine on an empty stomach can cause a higher spike in cortisol, more quickly. This can result in a bigger crash later in the day. If you are particularly susceptible to the effects of caffeine, consuming it on an empty stomach can result in a more jittery or anxious feeling.
If you prefer to skip breakfast, but need a caffeine hit, try a bulletproof coffee!
Caffeine doesn’t impact your hormones.
Remember: caffeine impacts your cortisol levels in your body. Your cortisol also works with other hormones, including your thyroid hormones and sex hormones, to keep everything balanced.
For women, this may mean that you need to be more aware of your caffeine consumption as it relates to your menstrual cycle. For men, consider how caffeine consumption can impact your testosterone levels and muscle strength.