Many of you know that I am unapologetically in love with coffee. Not just caffeine, but coffee. Really good, dark, rich coffee.
I have 2-3 Americanos a day (those are the ones with hot water and 2 shots of espresso) that I make myself using my beloved espresso machine (best. investment. ever.).
My adoration for coffee is not viewed as simply that, though. When I mention it to others, it becomes a passionately controversial topic almost immediately.
Everyone has something to say about coffee, and it’s usually extreme. In fact the next thing out of the person’s mouth usually falls into one of these categories:
That much coffee is bad for you. I know because I heard it somewhere a long time ago.
3 cups?! Aren’t you all jittery and anxious?
I used to drink coffee all the time; now I just have one cup of tea in the morning and I just reached Nirvana yesterday because of it…
I LOVE coffee! What kind of beans do you use? I get mine online from a grower in Columbia who collects them out of animal dung…
You only have 3? I’m on my 5th right now (said at 7 am)!
I don’t know how people live without coffee. I can’t function without it!
Whoa whoa whoa, both sides!
Whether you’re a coffee drinker or not, you’ve likely heard the crazy debate going on around the question, “Is coffee healthy?”
Most people think it’s either really bad for you and is going to kill you in .2 seconds, or it’s Heaven-sent and makes life worth living.
Today, I’m going to wager that neither side is all right or all wrong. I want to present you with both sides of the equation so that you may make an informed decision when it comes to your own personal coffee ritual.
Is coffee healthy? Read on to find out…
Why I drink coffee
I never used to drink coffee… until I started training people at 5:00 am. I would hit up Peet’s bright and early to grab Americanos before my morning session, and it made the fact that I was up before the sun much more pleasant (for me and my clients).
I’ve since grown to love and appreciate the taste of coffee. There’s little in this world that I love more than a strong espresso in a little bit of water. My favorite places so far are Public Domain (in Portland), Philz Coffee (in the Castro in San Francisco), Intelligentsia (in Venice, CA), and Caffe Luxxe (in my neighborhood, Brentwood, in Los Angeles). These places master the art of a well-made Americano.
The effects of coffee extend past my taste buds and early morning wake-up times, though. Coffee helps me with quite a few other parts of my life as well.
Let’s delve into the coffee debate so you can see both sides of the argument…
Coffee & Mental Health
This is perhaps the most controversial area of the coffee debate: is it helpful or harmful to our psyches? It all depends on the person and his/her issues…
With my history, coffee functions as the best anti-depressant I have found, personally. It helps me focus on the positive in life, as well as on the tasks I need to accomplish during the day. Sounds like I’m not the only girl to benefit from coffee’s effects, either:
A study done by The Harvard School of Public Health found that a female’s risk of depression goes down as her coffee consumption goes up (up to 6 cups a day).
That’s crazy good news to many of us. You want more? Here, read this:
A previous study also done by Harvard indicates that a woman’s risk of suicide goes down with each coffee she drinks, up to 6 or 7 cups. (The risk goes up at the 8th)
Caffeine increases dopamine, which stimulates pleasure centers in the brain. Though this can prove to be an addictive effect, it also helps me stay on an even keel more often than not with few adverse side effects.
But wait, there’s more!
Coffee drinkers have been shown to be less likely to develop Parkinson’s (by 80%!) and dementia, as well as have fewer cases of stroke. Score!
Not to mention, coffee improves cognitive function by blocking adenosine, a brain-slowing chemical that pops up when your body wants sleep. Not the best most of the time, especially if you’re going days without adequate rest (skip the cup if you are), but if you need to be on your A game for that test, no harm in chugging that coffee beforehand if you don’t get jittery…
Coffee isn’t a miracle drink for everyone, though; every body has a different rate at which they metabolize caffeine. Many people who feel jittery and anxious after drinking coffee are slow metabolizers. It’s not a bad thing! It just might be the case that coffee could make you feel worse and even produce health problems in your body such as increased blood pressure, insomnia, or increased cortisol levels.
If you feel anxious or jittery after a cup o’ joe, keep it to 1 cup in the morning if your body can handle it without adverse effects or skip it entirely and exercise to wake up instead (which is a very good alternative, if you ask me).
Want to learn more about caffeine metabolism? There’s a great article at Precision Nutrition called All About Coffee that goes into greater detail for both parties (fast and slow metabolizers).
Coffee & Physical Health
As I mentioned above, coffee isn’t for everyone. Depending on your metabolic rate for caffeine, coffee can be harmful rather than helpful. But again, there are 2 sides to this debate.
Studies show that coffee drinkers are less likely to get gallstones or Type II Diabetes, and have fewer cases of some cancers (colon, basal cell carcinoma, prostate and liver included) and heart rhythm problems.
The questions is: does that apply to slow caffeine metabolizers as well? Since the studies weren’t broken up into groups of slow and fast metabolizers, there’s no way to truly know the answer to that question.
So let’s concentrate on what we do know…
Coffee has a high antioxidant content. In fact, a study in 2005 shows that Americans get more antioxidants from coffee than from any other source in their diet! Let’s not think about this one too much because it makes me a little sad for the American diet, but it’s good news for coffee-drinkers! Just don’t be afraid to throw some blueberries and kale into your day as well!
Coffee raises cortisol (the stress hormone) levels in those with slow caffeine metabolisms. Since cortisol is naturally higher in the morning, most people can get away with an AM cup of liquid awesome without affecting their daily levels. Habitual coffee drinkers show fewer adverse reactions to the cortisol bump. If you’re uber-sensitive to cortisol or have hypertension, however, steer clear of java altogether; it could make your situation worse.
A study done by The National Institute of Health deemed that coffee could help you live longer. Men who drank 2-3 cups of coffee over a 13 year span had a 10% lower risk of dying, and women who consumed the same amount lowered their risk of death by 13%. That’s a pretty big deal!
The Journal of The American Medical Association reported that caffeine does not cause high blood pressure (something in sugared and diet sodas does), but it could make your pre-existing high blood pressure worse. Same with anxiety and heart arrhythmias. If you have any of these conditions, it’s probably best if you steer clear of excessive consumption. If you haven’t gotten rid of your soda habit (diet included), take the 30 day challenge and start TODAY. That’s exactly what Ryan did (scroll to the comments to see his) and he lost 10″ off his waist!
It’s a mixed bag of positive and negative effects when it comes to caffeine and the body, depending on how your body reacts to it. Go by what works best for you, not by what you read (yes, even when written by me!).
Coffee & Workouts
Java’s my favorite work out buddy; she always shows up on time and she doesn’t talk my ear off while I’m trying to do sprints. ;)
There are tons of reasons why coffee is the perfect way to prepare for a workout. Here are some…
Caffeine has been shown to improve endurance in long-duration exercise. That means that you’re likely to go longer before you tire out on those long runs than you would if you didn’t fuel up with the brew.
The same is true for when you’re preparing for strength training sessions. Studies show that those who drink a beverage with caffeine can lift for more repetitions and feel less tired afterwards.
Doing sprints or another type of anaerobic activity? Good news! Coffee can help you with that as well!
You can thank the Copenhagen Muscle Research Centre for conducting the study that showed that participants who downed a caffeine pill 70 minutes before their anaerobic activity performed 16% better than when they didn’t have any caffeine. They also had less potassium buildup in their muscles afterwards if they drank coffee, which researchers believe leads to muscle fatigue.
Hold your applause, because I’ve got one more fun fact for you here: drinking coffee can improve central nervous system function during exercise, affecting mood, alertness and fine motor coordination. Doing a sport that requires you to catch, dribble, throw accurately, or kick a ball? Coffee might be your new best friend.
There’s little negative research about coffee when it comes to exercise. In fact, I didn’t find any!
All around, coffee is a good pre-workout drink (for those of you without caffeine sensitivity) without all the added sugar and chemicals that often come in pre-packaged drinks. This is especially true if you’re looking to lose weight; you want a pre-workout drink that won’t pile on the calories, negating all your hard work! Coffee and some real food are your answer to fueling up before a tough session, ensuring the most bang for your workout buck.
Now, I know not all of you out there are coffee fans. I have no personal desire to stop drinking my morning cup..ssss… of coffee, but I respect your opinion that I should or that it doesn’t work well with your body/brain. I’m curious to hear your arguments for either side!
In the comments below, tell us:
Are you a coffee drinker? Why or why not?
Don’t be scared to argue for the other side! This is a conversation, not a lecture! And hey, I’ll admit, I’m a little biased. ;)
Looking forward to hearing your side!
P.S. How’s your risk-taking challenge going? Are you still sweating, asking or creating? I know some of you are taking them all on! Updates pleeeeease!