The Lowdown on Caffeine

coffeeAs a child, I remember seeing commercials for Folgers, Maxwell House, and Sanka on TV and wondering what was this hot beverage that made everyone happier when they started off their day drinking it. After begging my mother for hours, the first time I took a sip, I was thoroughly disgusted. But these days, you can get coffee that tastes like a milkshake, which might explain the popularity among a seemingly younger and younger demographic. Let’s take a closer look at this somewhat controversial drug that is found in everything from coffee to soda to chocolate and ice cream.

Caffeine is a psychoactive stimulant that temporarily increases mental processes. It helps to keep you alert while increasing your energy levels. It can mildly enhance athletic performance.

In many cases, it can make it easier for you to concentrate and improve attention. That’s a main reason why so many people consume it in the first place. Some studies have shown that coffee drinkers may be less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease. Coffee may prevent the body from losing brain cells that transmit dopamine, which are the type of cells that Parkinson’s destroys. It contains antioxidants, which protects your cells against free radicals.

If you drink 4 cups per day, you can consider yourself a heavy drinker. That’s about 500 – 600 mg of caffeine. Up to 400 mg of caffeine a day, is generally considered safe for most healthy adults. Pregnant women shouldn’t consume more than 200 mg per day.

400 mg breaks down to:

  • 2.5 – 3, 8 oz. cups brewed coffee
  • 12 cans of Coca Cola classic
  • 2 energy shot drinks

Too much caffeine can cause:

  • Headaches
  • insomnia
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Anxiousness
  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Muscle twitches/tremors
  • Upset stomach

As with most beverages that contain stimulants, people who don’t drink them that often tend to be more sensitive to its effects. Other factors can include, age, body mass, additional health conditions, medication use, and how much sleep you’re getting. Certain antibiotics like Ciprofloxacin and Norfloxacin can hinder the breakdown of caffeine, allowing it to stay in your body for a longer amount of time.

Although caffeine does have some health benefits, the root of the problem might be as simple as getting enough sleep. Ideally, adults need 7 – 8 hours of sleep each night. If your body is not getting the amount of rest it needs, it can lead to the unhealthy cycle of drinking caffeinated beverages to help you stay awake during the day which ultimately might prevent you from falling asleep at night.

See how much caffeine is in your favorite drink by using the Caffeine Calculator.

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