Truth be told, university made me a coffee addict. Not just coffee: any form of caffeine. And lots of it. Energy drinks, teas, chocolate, anything I could get my hands on. In high school I had never even had a drop of it, and these days I can’t imagine going a day without. What is it about caffeinated beverages that give us that extra kick in the morning? Why has this culture of relying purely on coffee to sustain ourselves gotten so much hot press (pun intended) in our everyday society? How do I kick an intense, slightly overbearing, coffee habit? Fear not and read on for the basics, the solutions, and some tough love about your cup of joe.
Before you fill up that steamy cup in the morning, let’s take a look at coffee in the world and just how it affects your system. Caffeine is the main kicker; it can be found in teas, coffee beans, cacao beans (chocolate), and even some cold and headache medications. It works as a stimulant to your central nervous system. The reality? It’s a drug. The world’s most popular, in fact. In 2016, the world consumed over 7 million tonnes of coffee, the highest being Finland, where the residents hold the highest amount of coffee consumed per capita per annum: 12 kg. Norway and Iceland follow at second and third, respectively. Several factors could have attributed to this; in recent years, coffee has been booming with the millennials and, due to the westernization of countries, it is viewed as more of a “lifestyle” drink as coffeehouse meetups and latte art take precedence on social media.
Caffeine is a diuretic, and if you remember anything from your Grade 12 bio course you’ll know that means you definitely should regulate it: no more than 500mg of caffeine (or 5 cups of coffee) a day. Diuretics work to encourage the release of sodium into your urine, which then, through the magic of tubular reabsorption, takes in more water from your bloodstream. While this does deposit wastes more frequently and decreases the pressure of fluids in your blood vessels, it can quickly cause dehydration and become life-threatening if not monitored. Other than dehydration and increased urine production, restlessness, headaches, anxiety, and muscle tremors can also be a result of too much caffeine. In addition to coffee, chocolate and tea consumption should also be limited, though their caffeine content is significantly less. Energy drinks are even worse, with Red Bull having 80 mg of caffeine in an 8oz. can, while coffee has 40 mg for the same amount. Scary, right? They also have terrifying levels of sugar (27.5g per Red Bull) and—when mixed in with so much caffeine—can culminate to sugar crashes, energy slumps, and caffeine withdrawal. Not so glamorous, am I right?
Other than the negative effects, caffeine goes through a pretty complex path through your body’s internal systems to get you to that peak. Ten minutes after the initial consumption, the caffeine enters your bloodstream and raises your heart rate and blood pressure, making you feel more awake and experience better concentration. It does so by (more biology terminology) inhibiting the production of adenosine, which plays a part in transferring signals throughout the body including the feeling of tiredness. By inhibiting it temporarily, caffeine makes way for only the “feel good” molecules to get to your brain instead, giving you a sense of productivity and elation.