Does the warmth of a freshly brewed cup of coffee give you the strength to tackle the day?

We all know the feeling of relying on our trusty friend caffeine to get us through a busy day when we can’t afford to be groggy. But, at what point does our dependency start to affect our health? March is National Caffeine Awareness Month, a time to look into our daily habits and reevaluate their benefits!

What is caffeine?

Caffeine is a natural energizer that stimulates the brain and nervous system. Its appeal lies in its ability to help us stay alert and prevent the signs of tiredness. And according to historians, the use of caffeine can be traced back to the first brewed tea in 2737 BC!

Besides the obvious caffeine contributors like soda, coffee, and tea, other less-known items that contain caffeine include certain types of chocolate/cocoa, granola bars, smoothies, pain relievers, and even some ice creams.

What’s in your cup?

Everyone’s body is different when it comes to processing caffeine, but unlike carbs and calories, it’s not as clear how much caffeine we’re consuming with each product.

What one cup of tea does to some, may take 2 red bulls to do to others. According to health officials, up to 300-400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine daily is considered safe for healthy adults.

Here’s a general guide to what’s in your cup:

  • 1 can of Coca-Cola = 23-35 mg
  • 1 cup of green tea = 35-70 mg
  • 1 cup of coffee = 95 mg
  • 1 can of Red Bull = 111 mg

Pros and cons

As with almost anything we consume, there are up-sides and down-sides. The good news is certain types of caffeine have scientifically proven benefits!

For example, studies show that caffeine can serve as a natural fat-burning aid and can help boost your metabolic rate. Scientists have also found a correlation between coffee drinkers and significantly decreased risks of type 2 diabetes. One study even concludes that habitual coffee drinkers had as much as 67% less risk of developing diabetes.

Additionally, a single cup of coffee contains essential nutrients like riboflavin (vitamin B2), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), manganese and potassium, and magnesium and niacin (vitamin B3). So, it’s undeniable that caffeine has its perks, but it can have its problems too.

One common issue people run into with caffeine is the source it’s derived from. You can quickly add an unnecessary amount of calories, sugar, and carbs to your daily intake through coffee drinks and sodas. The beloved Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Latte packs 380 calories, 14 grams of fat, and 50 grams of sugar. So, when these types of caffeinated beverages are washed down daily instead of a standard, health-conscious cup of black coffee, it starts to negatively add up.   

Over-caffeinated

Another danger of consuming too much caffeine is the damage it can have on your adrenal glands. Our adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys and release hormones into our bodies when we experience stress. Adrenal glands activate our fight or flight response, which is designed to keep us alive in the face of danger.

When caffeine enters our system, our adrenal glands produce adrenaline, so the more caffeine that’s consumed, the more burned out the adrenal glands become. This interferes with the glands’ abilities to produce the stress hormone cortisol, which is responsible for keeping the body alert all day and asleep all night.

However, your morning cup of joe or 3 pm green tea isn’t necessarily an issue. As with most things, the trick to keeping your caffeine intake healthy is all in moderation. Over-stimulating your adrenal glands with caffeine can have both physical and mental effects on your body.

If you’re experiencing these things for unknown reasons, you may be over-caffeinated:

  • Raised blood pressure
  • Jitteriness
  • Increased anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Aging and wrinkling skin
  • Indigestion

Cutting back

You can help your adrenal glands by limiting the amount of caffeine you consume on a daily basis. You can ease into cutting back by switching to decaf after a cup of caffeinated coffee or tea, watering down caffeinated drinks, or ordering smaller sizes.

The most beneficial way you can cut back and lessen your dependency is by getting better quality sleep at night. The upcoming World Sleep Day on March 19 is a perfect time to get your nighttime routine on a healthier track! Everyone operates differently, but most adults require 7-9 hours of restful sleep to perform well mentally and physically. And if you do consume caffeine during the day, be sure to avoid it at least 6 hours before bedtime.

Five more helpful tips for better sleep include:

  1. Reserve your bed for sleeping and try not to spend time in it for other reasons.
  2. Block out as much light and noise in the room as possible.
  3. Invest in comfortable bedding that encourages relaxation.
  4. Stick to a set schedule of when you go to bed and when you wake up.
  5. Turn off all screens at least 2 hours before bed – we know this one’s hard, but it really helps!

Did you learn something new from this article? Share with your friends to spread the word about National Caffeine Awareness Month!