Every day, 2 billion cups caffeine are consumed worldwide. But what actually happens after you take that first sip? Here are the facts you need to know about caffeine…
One of the most consumed beverages today… There is a coffee option for almost every palate, with milk, cream, special syrup, black, strong, softer drink. Some cannot do without it as soon as they wake up in the morning, and some cannot do without a coffee after breakfast or after dinner. In other words, it is indispensable for many people, from drinking it for pleasure to drinking it to sleep and work in a concentrated way.
So what really happens when you drink coffee? Although it is known to help wake up and burn more calories in sports, what effects does it actually have? What does it do to the body?
see also: The Truth About Caffeine and ADHD
EVEN THE SMELL IS EFFECTIVE
In fact, coffee starts to show its effects before you even take a sip. According to a 2019 study of 80 people aged 18-22, just smelling coffee can improve memory and induce sleep.
Another study in 2018 also found that subjects performed better on analytical reasoning tests after smelling good odours. However, researchers have suggested that this effect on odour may be a placebo.
Although there are questionable results about its odour, its effects begin to be seen shortly after ingestion. A 2008 study found that the effects of a cup of coffee can occur only 10 minutes after drinking, although it is also stated that the highest concentration of caffeine in the blood occurs after 45 minutes.
HOW DOES COFFEE WAKE YOU UP?
Caffeine acts as a central nervous system stimulant. That is; it makes people more alert and focussed, but also potentially more irritable and anxious. This is actually related to the body’s adenosine receptors, which help regulate heart rate, blood flow and sleep-wake cycles. Caffeine can trick the nerve cells and instead bind to them, preventing adenosine from doing its job.
For many people, this produces mood-elevating effects, but can also cause anxiety after high doses. While the body adapts to the effects of caffeine after a while, different people can react very differently to the same amount of caffeine.
CAN IT IMPROVE PERFORMANCE IN SPORTS?
Another effect of caffeine is to increase performance in sporting activities. A study of amateur cyclists in 2020 found that coffee increased performance by an average of 1.7 per cent. Although this value does not seem to be very effective, it is quite important for moderately competitive athletes. An older British study also reported a dose-dependent improvement in reaction times, memory and visual-spatial reasoning tests among coffee drinkers.
However, the researchers caution that such an advantage on performance comes from the caffeine itself, noting that coffee may not always be a good source of caffeine. A recent analysis found that a medium cappuccino at Costa contains 325 mg of caffeine, while an equivalent cup at Starbucks contains only 66 mg.
A 2003 study also found different caffeine concentrations in the same drink bought from the same shop on six consecutive days.
The researchers state that the roasting of the beans also breaks down the caffeine. In general, darker beans may therefore have a lower caffeine content. The team recommends that athletes take caffeine in pill form if they only take caffeine to improve performance.
HOW MUCH TO DRINK A DAY?
How often and how much coffee should be drunk per day is often a matter of debate. According to research, caffeine has a half-life of about six hours, which means that if the last espresso is drunk at 16:00, half of the caffeine will still be in the system at 22:00, the time of rest.
Sleep coach Nick Littlehales, who has worked with several football teams, gives the following advice on caffeine intake: “It should be taken in a nice, balanced way. I see a lot of people drinking three coffees in a row in the morning and by lunchtime they’re at 1,000-1,500mg. That’s not a very sensible way to go. The important thing is to keep everything nice and balanced, without big ups and downs.”
WHO SHOULDN’T DRINK IT?
One of the most controversial issues about caffeine for the scientific community is who can and cannot consume it. Some suggest that excess intake may be linked to an increased risk of cancer or heart problems, while others say a few cups a day is good for health.
Research conducted in 2017 indicates that if coffee is taken at normal levels (three to four cups), the risks associated with various health problems may be reduced. For example, it is emphasised that coffee reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as various types of cancer.
There is also some evidence that its mood-boosting effects may be beneficial in the long term. Studies in 2016 found that caffeine consumption reduces the risk of depression, while a study conducted in Finland in 2010 found a similar result for coffee. In the Finnish study, it was observed that when other caffeinated beverages were consumed, their link to mood was weaker. This showed that there was something in coffee that could particularly affect mood.
HOW TO DRINK IT?
Does it make a difference how you drink it? In short: Yes. However, there is not much research on this subject. It doesn’t matter when the beans are ground, but how much is important. A finer grind releases more polyphenols and has slightly more beneficial effects.
Paper-filtered coffee may be healthier than coffee made with a metal filter or no filter at all. A study published in 2020 that followed more than 500,000 coffee drinkers for nearly two decades found that filter coffee drinkers had lower rates of artery disease and mortality. The authors of the study concluded that substances in coffee that can raise LDL cholesterol, the bad kind, can be removed using a filter.
Surprisingly little research has been done on which of the coffee varieties is best. There is also no consensus on the effect of supplements containing milk and fat with coffee.