We live in confusing times when influential bloggers and social activists are paid to promote certain causes, products or services. One day, an expert may say swear by something. The next day another expert refutes those claims. Who is right? Is coffee healthy or unhealthy? Let me relate some of my own experiences and knowledge on coffee. Yes, I’m basically a tea-drinker, but I also drink coffee regularly. In fact, when I’m doubtful about the quality of the tea served in a certain establishment, I would opt for coffee.
Coffee must be one of the most popular non-alcoholic drinks consumed all over the world. It can be taken with meals or in between meals. Many offices have coffee makers in the pantry. Most people, however, are unaware that coffee does not just keep sedentary office workers awake. It also enhances the performance of athletes and outdoor enthusiasts.
Research shows that drinking 2.5 cups of percolated coffee 1 hour before exercise significantly improves athletic performance. Some sources report a 2% increase in athletic performance after consuming coffee. Experiments on endurance training report up to 24% increase in performance. Yes, I’ve drunk coffee before exercise and found it to boost my energy level. It works. No doubt about it.
However, the exact mechanism for caffeine’s ergogenic (performance-enhancing) effect is uncertain. One theory suggests that caffeine molecules occupy adenosine receptors on nerve cells, blocking the real adenosine from occupying these slots and slowing down nerve function.
On the metabolic level, it is believed that caffeine increases fat burning and spares some carbohydrates for backup. Anecdotal evidence suggests that there may be some trust in this theory as. Some research also supports this. Athletes who consume coffee before exercise show a higher level of blood glucose after exercise than they do without coffee consumption. Fat burning greatly improves endurance. That’s why its effect on endurance sports is particularly powerful. Its ergogenic effect is maintained for 3-6 hours before it is cleared from the body. Caffeine may act directly on fat tissue or it may act indirectly on the adrenal glands to release adrenaline. It is also a stimulant and excites the nervous system.
People who are opposed to coffee (and all forms of caffeine-containing drinks) argue that tens of thousands of cases admitted to the emergency room are caused by caffeine-containing drinks. Symptoms cited include vomitting, mental confusion, seizures and death. Some of the more common adverse effects of coffee include:
- stomach upset
- increased urination
- rapid heart rate
- loss of appetite
Most coffee-haters would report these symptoms while coffee lovers dismiss them. What is worrying among young people, is an addiction to energy drinks to which caffeine has been artificially added. I have personally used these energy drinks and found that their effects are quite different from that of coffee.
Coffee does not keep me aware all night. These drinks do. Coffee does not give me palpitations. These drinks do. I would consume these drinks only if I need to stay awake all night to complete a project. I would not use them on long treks. The initial rush is great, but your energy level falls rapidly after just a few hours.
I think it’s fair to say that coffee affects different people in different ways. If you like the taste and it helps you with your daily activities, don’t bother to quit. If it affects you adversely, then avoid it like the plague. Energy drinks are stuff I would classify as drugs. Take only when necessary. Do not use them routinely. If addicted, seek help.
© Chan Joon Yee
Connect with me through my Facebook fan page.