Is coffee good or bad for you?
The sweet scent of hot brewing coffee in the morning can be compared to the experience of god for many avid drinkers.
Coffee is at the center point for many American workers, sipping on it to help alert and bring energy to the start of their day. I’m sure if you are reading this, you are part of the large majority of coffee drinkers!
Coffee however is a bit controversial when it comes to breaking down the beans…(okay that was an attempt of a clever pun!)
In this post I’ll go over some of the pro’s and cons to you avid coffee drinkers and give tips to help figure out what will work best for you.
The magic of caffeine
I think we all know by now that the true hero of coffee is in its ability to “wake us up”, get our brains alert and aware and give boosts of energy when needed throughout the midday grind (oh that’s a better pun!)
Caffeine is the magic drug that is recognized as a stimulant that releases neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and dopamine. With these circulating in our body our mood improves, our reaction time increases, and our general cognitive function increases as well.
Studies have shown that caffeine can boost metabolism by 3-11% as well as increase exercise performance by 11-12%.
Now this all sounds amazing, a drink that can help give us all the good benefits with no foreseeable downsides.
Caffeine however works more in the short-term and with continued use, you’ll find that you build up a tolerance.
For all you 6 cup drinkers per day (I assume this is a lot?), this is primarily the reason why caffeine just doesn’t do its job as it once did. You aren’t more tired, you aren’t physically getting weaker but instead your body is becoming accustomed to the intake of caffeine on a daily basis.
More caffeine in the body might make it harder to fall asleep at night, cause more anxiety, and cause more restlessness. Let’s start to go over some of the pros and cons of coffee intake!
The Pro’s of Coffee
Within coffee we find that there are phytochemicals, or chemical compounds that are produced in plants. These phytochemicals do a range of positive things from reducing oxidative stress, improving gut microbiome, and regulating glucose and fat metabolism.
To put it simply, coffee provides great benefits to the protection against several different diseases. These benefits are true for those who drink between 1-3 cups a day.
Coffee can help to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 65%
Coffee can help to reduce type 2 diabetes by 23-67%
Coffee can help to reduce cirrhosis of the liver by 84%
Coffee can help reduce depression and suicide by 53%
Coffee can help reduce risk of death by 12-16%
These protections range depending on how much coffee you drink, however the important part to note here is how beneficial ingesting these phytochemicals and antioxidants really are.
For many western cultures coffee provides just as much of these precious nutrients to the body as does fruits and vegetables. (This is also because western culture eats less fruits and vegetables, but still the importance of coffee can’t be understated!)
So then it seems pretty clear that drinking coffee is a great thing and everyone should be doing it!
..or wait. It’s never that simple now is it!
The Cons of Coffee
Never in life are there substances that are only good. This reigns true for that hot cup of joe that fills you with happiness!
You coffee drinkers know some of the cons, and it’s all thanks to how caffeine affects the body.
If you’ve ever experienced the jitters, anxiety, agitation, heart palpitations, and even panic attacks throughout the day you might be feeling some of the negative side effects of too much coffee. (Ah yes there is such a thing!)
Not everyone will experience these impacts of coffee: some may be just fine and others will feel the effects with far less cups of coffee.
This is because we all have a gene that is responsible for the digestion of caffeine - CYP1A2 (for those who have done 23andme, look up to see if you have this gene!)
For some of us, we metabolize caffeine at a slower rate therefore, drinking more coffee will exacerbate the negative impacts of coffee. It’s also true that if you are a slow metabolizer you are actually increasing the risk of heart disease with more coffee intake.
Also for some of us, we are “fast” caffeine metabolizers who can digest and metabolize coffee at a faster rate, making it easier to drink more without it hanging around the body all day!
Now depending on if you are a slow or fast metabolizer, your sleep might be impacted even if you drank coffee many hours beforehand.
For example, if you are a slow metabolizer of caffeine and drink a cup at 3PM to give you that late afternoon pick me up - you might still be feeling the effects of the caffeine when it’s time for bed around 9/10PM. This can result in restlessness which results in worse sleep….which results in needing more coffee the next morning to give you the necessary energy!
It’s a vicious cycle that many, many people face day in and day out.
Aside from disrupted sleep, coffee can also result in:
Higher risk of miscarriage
Worsened PMS symptoms
Increased blood pressure
As with everything, this will depend strongly on how you metabolize caffeine and how much coffee you drink per day. If you only drink a cup a day, no need to worry about these potential side effects. (although still be aware of them!)
What’s a normal amount of coffee to safely drink?
So we know now that everyone digests and metabolizes coffee differently. With this however we can start to come up with some standard amounts that can help you reap those great benefits!
The standard cup size when researchers study coffee intake is 8 oz. In the research it seems to state that the best middle ground for coffee intake would be about 3 cups of coffee per day. That comes out to 24 oz. per day.
How much are you really drinking?
For those who fancy the Starbucks brew - one “venti” comes out to 20 oz. This “one” cup of coffee accounts almost fully for the recommended 24 oz. per day!
This is true in so many food, restaurants and such : the sizes that you are getting out appear to be better value (less cost for more goods) but they aren’t selling you food and drink for your health, they are doing it to earn a profit!
If you are finding that some of the negative effects of coffee are hitting you hard, you can take a good look into how much you are consuming each day and begin to slowly decrease it until you reach around 24 oz. per day.
If you aren’t feeling any of those negative impacts of coffee then you are probably a “fast metabolizer” of coffee and can afford to drink more.
As with everything, be honest with yourself and check in with how you feel to help determine if how much you are drinking is a pro or a con!
Coffee is not a substitute for sleep!
While doing the research for this blog post - it seems to me that the biggest question you would need to ask yourself about coffee must do with sleep quality!
Not getting enough sleep is as American as hot dogs, fireworks, and the white picket fence.
Many of my clients speak about getting 5-6 hours of sleep on a daily basis...this is an extremely detrimental amount of sleep and often gets circumvented by increase in coffee.
Although coffee makes you “feel” better and does provide the boosts in mental clarity, focus, and overall mood... the band-aide for lack of sleep cannot heal the underlying issue.
Yes I know - sleep is hard to get when you have kids you need to make lunches for, spouses you need to communicate with, work that consumes most of your day, and hobbies that you can try and squeeze in!
Coffee is just a band aid though - it can’t give you true rest and recovery that sleep does for you. Your brain and body need to recharge. If you are constantly burning the candle at both ends, your body will hold stress mentally, emotionally, and physically!
Takeaway here: If you are using coffee to just “get you through your day” you might want to look into other avenues that can help you increase sleep quantity and quality.
For a deeper discussion on sleep check out our sleep blog post.
The end of the pot…
(Pun fun...I’m trying here…!)
I've gotta be honest, I am NOT a coffee drinker. I never have been, and probably never will be since the smell and taste are downright...nasty to me.
This was a decision I made long ago in high school/college when I saw that other kids and adults “needed” their coffee to get up and get moving each day.
I never wanted to rely on anything to get me energized and felt an aversion to trying coffee.
However through the research I did for this post - I can see how coffee can actually provide benefits that I wouldn’t have been privy to prior to this blog post!
It does make me second guess and just think about how coffee intake at some level would be helpful for me in the future...I’m not quite to the point of roasting up a fresh batch but I can see myself introducing some caffeine type drinks like Tea in the future (also something I don’t drink at all).
For you however - I hope that this gives you an objective view of the pros and cons of coffee intake.
With everything we talk about here - there are rarely any clear right and wrongs. Such is life - there are rarely things that are always good for you and things that are always bad for you. It is just not that simple as much as we want to have concrete answers.
Coffee can provide a ton of benefits and help to reduce the chances of some nasty diseases. Coffee can also leave you feeling agitated, anxious, and disrupt your sleep patterns.
Find that middle ground and always remember that coffee is not a substitute for sleep!