What caffeine does to the body
Caffeine is classed as a stimulant drug which means it increases the activity of the brain and nervous system. It also binds to adenosine receptors, preventing you from feeling sleepy and if you do fall asleep it will prevent you from experiencing a deep restful sleep.
Caffeine also keeps the dopamine in our brain, which makes us feel good, but can also lead to addiction.
The average adult can safely consume up to 400 mg of caffeine per day. The maximum dose for adolescents is much lower at 100 mg, but anyone under the age of 18 should avoid caffeine consumption where possible. This is because of the potential negative effect of caffeine during brain development. You want to give your developing brain the best chance it can get to reach its full potential.
The half life of caffeine is approximately 6 hours. So if you have a big 200 mg dose of caffeine at midday you’ll still have 100 mg in your system at 6 pm.
Why should I reduce caffeine intake? How much is too much caffeine?
Caffeine is a legal drug and is so ingrained into our society that it often doesn’t occur to us that it could have negative impacts on our health. There are many positive effects of caffeine, and like most things, it is beneficial in small doses. But if you consume too much then you are putting extra pressure on your body. Caffeine is in a lot of our food and drinks so it pays to be aware of any negative side effects in your body that could be caused by excessive caffeine.
The negative side effects of excessive caffeine include; insomnia, feeling nervous/jittery/anxious, stomach aches, headaches, muscle cramps and spasms.
Metabolism varies based on genetics. Some people have a stronger response to caffeine than others and it is actually caused by the genes you inherited through your ancestry. For example, some of my relatives can drink coffee right before bed and it doesn’t have an impact on their sleep. However, I have inherited genes that make me very susceptible to the effects of caffeine. Only one cup of coffee before midday is enough for me!
It is important to note that caffeine also has a diuretic effect so it will cause you to urinate more frequently as your body is receiving signals to rid the body of extra water and salts. However, various studies have shown that this mild diuretic effect will not cause dehydration, especially if you exercise after consuming caffeine.
How To Reduce Caffeine Intake:
Remember, caffeine is a drug so you want to reduce your intake slowly to avoid experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
Start by tracking the amount of caffeine you consume per day. Include all of the sources of caffeine in your diet such as tea, energy drinks, soft drinks and chocolate. You can keep a tally of your caffeine consumption any way that works for you, such as in your phone, a physical journal or a spreadsheet on your computer.
Then once you are aware of all of the ways you add caffeine to your diet, you can make the conscious decision to reduce your intake. An easy way to reduce your intake is by watering down your caffeinated drinks so that you are diluting the amount of caffeine in your cup. Steeping your caffeinated tea for longer will also make for a stronger cup of tea so try taking the tea leaves out of the water after just a few minutes. Or if you normally have 3 cups of coffee in the morning try reducing it to 2 cups to start with then make your way to one cup in the morning if that is your goal. And perhaps substitute that 3rd cup of coffee for a caffeine-free herbal tea or fruit juice so that you can still have your late morning treat or self care. Take that time for yourself, don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything.
The more you use your willpower, every time you refuse that extra dose of coffee, your willpower grows like a muscle. Also your mindset will help you on your way towards your goal, be gentle on yourself and remember to treat yourself as your friend when you fall off the bandwagon and drink that energy drink. Don’t think about the energy drink as a failure or a reason to give up, but flip it around and instead look at how long you went without an energy drink. Use that positive confidence to keep moving towards your goal, tell yourself “now is not the time to give up!”. (Hint: this same mindset can help you quit smoking or begin a new healthy habit).
I hope this information is helpful for you to move confidently towards your goals, and don’t forget to keep your cup full of positivi-tea! Or positivi-coffee, if that is your preference.