Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Real Buzz on Caffeine

This week I appeared on SCV Today to address a topic I’m asked about on a frequent basis: Caffeine.

 So, while I sip on my morning cup of Joe this early AM, let me address this very topic.


It appears that I’m in good company when it comes to commencing my days with a caffeine boost. 90 percent of Americans drink caffeine every day. It makes sense considering that it seems most people are running full steam ahead, juggling work, family, and social lives – hardly taking time to smell the roses, practice balance, and breathe.

You may be comforted to know that there’s research out there defending the world’s most used stimulant. Moderate amounts of caffeine, about 200-300mg or about two (16oz) to three (18oz) cups of brewed coffee has been shown to improve memory and alertness, prevent long term cognitive decline, and even protect against heart disease and diabetes. This moderate amount of caffeine (key word: moderate) can also help boost athletic performance in regards to endurance and speed.

Where we seem to go wrong is that moderation has proven to be difficult.

According to John Hopkins University, more than half of our population is drinking beyond 300mg on a daily basis, and up to 30 percent of individuals have reported drinking 600 mg of caffeine or more per day. That’s a lot. About six cups (48 oz) of coffee, making one susceptible to side effects such as anxiety, irritability, insomnia, uneven or rapid heart rate and stomach upset.

What makes the caffeine habit even harder to break is that individuals can build up a tolerance to it, meaning that you may eventually need to order a large cup to replace your small cup to feel the same jolt.

Even the younger population – teenagers and below – are now falling into the caffeine habit thanks to the numerous energy drinks marketed heavily towards this group. Since energy drinks are categorized as a dietary supplement, they are not regulated by the FDA, meaning there’s no guarantee the ingredients can live up to their marketing claims or can even be safe when combined together in one concoction.

You see, energy drinks combine caffeine –about 80-200 mg per 8-10oz beverage – with a variety of different stimulants, including:


·         Sugar, a simple carbohydrate that will provide immediate, but short-lived energy.

·         B Vitamins, which have several functions, including playing a role in food metabolism. Huge added doses do not provide additional benefit, as the body will use only what it needs.

·         Guarana, Kola Nut, Yerba Mate, Green Tea: all herbs that provide additional caffeine.

·         Ginseng, an herb that may amplify caffeine’s effect.

·         Taurine, an amino acid that affects muscle contraction, especially in the heart.


Since, it’s unknown how all of these ingredients work together, it’s better to rely on healthy alternatives to stimulant-pumped beverages when you’ve hit your energy low.

To keep your energy up from dawn to dusk with health in mind, eat balanced meals and snacks, stay active, get some fresh air, manage your stress, and aim for at least seven hours of sleep a night.


Even more, many of the added ingredients boasting benefits in energy drinks can be easily consumed from eating a well-rounded, balanced diet (specifically B vitamins, amino acids, and other vitamins and minerals). Even if your diet or lifestyle requires you to fill in a few nutrient gaps, a multivitamin is a much less expensive way to get in your extra vitamins, without the extra calories, sugar, and other unnecessary additives.




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