Coffee. Friend or Foe?

Many of us like to have a full-fat coffee through the day. Tastes good, but is it really good for us?

Coffee is an integral part of the day for many of us – it gets us up in the mornings, keeps us going until lunch, we may have a coffee to end a meal, to sober us up, or as a way to meet up and socialise with our friends.

But is coffee good for us? This is something that those devoted to their daily fix want to know and its no wonder when you consider the contradictory information we have been told.

Unsurprisingly, you could say that coffee has the potential to be both good and bad for us, depending on our state of health, stress levels and how much of it we drink. Although coffee has more traditionally been associated with negative health effects, more recently science has found that coffee may boost our brain function, help us lose weight and more, so do the benefits outweigh the risks?

Here at Short Motivation, we often turn to a quick espresso boost, early on a morning. If you’re up early to train, especially in the cold, dark winter periods, we find an espresso can give you a dual-boost. Wakes up up fairly swiftly, plus it gives you enough of a boost to help you get started with your workout, before the effect quickly disappears.

Unsurprisingly, you could say that coffee has the potential to be both good and bad for us

But, it’s easy to get hooked and we don’t want to encourage readers to believe you need a boost to get you through any workout. What works for some people may not work for others, everyone has a different caffeine tolerance and the health benefits/issues are worth looking in to in more detail.

So, let’s take a closer look…

What about the benefits associated with drinking coffee?
Type 2 diabetes protection. Research suggests that coffee drinkers have a substantially lower risk of type-2 diabetes. This applied to both de-caffeinated and regular coffee so this benefit appears to be related to a non-caffeine component of coffee. For those already suffering with type-2 diabetes, the news is less positive, as the caffeine content made it harder to keep blood sugar levels under control.
Coffee may protect against cognitive decline. Research has linked coffee intake to a reduced risk of both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease because it is thought to increase blood flow to the brain.
Coffee may also protect against liver disease. Early signs from research have suggested a protective effect from drinking coffee, with reduced liver-damage biomarkers in the blood.
Coffee is super-rich in antioxidants. This helps protect our cells from free radical damage and slows down the ageing process.
Coffee may help improve athletic performance. Research has suggested that coffee not only improves mental alertness, but also boosts physical performance, speed and endurance during exercise, as well as improving energy expenditure afterwards too.
And what about the health risks?
Coffee is a stimulant. Which is why many of us like it! But at the end of the day we aren’t designed to run on stimulants and there can be a dark side to this energy boost. For some people, perhaps those suffering with stress, poor diets, or who overdo their coffee intake, caffeine can really ‘kick’ and over-tax the adrenal glands, which in turn can increase fatigue and undermine blood sugar and hormone balance. If you feel yourself getting shaky, fatigued, suffering with insomnia, low blood sugar, mood swings and other negative symptoms, cut back on coffee or have a break from it altogether.
It can become addictive. That caffeine ‘lift’ we just talked about means it is very easy to become reliant on multiple cups of coffee to ‘get through the day’. If the thought of giving up coffee makes you feel panic-stricken, defensive or angry then the chances are that you are addicted to it and could do with a break.
Coffee can impact on sleep. Especially when consumed in the afternoon or evening. This can lead to a viscous cycle of becoming even more reliant on coffee to wake us up and prop us up throughout the day. If you regularly find it hard to fall sleep, stay asleep, or both, try cutting back on coffee and avoid it in the afternoon and evening.
Coffee can alter our mood. Caffeine in coffee can interfere with neurotransmitters in the brain, as well as hormone levels, which can increase risk of anxiety, mood disorders and irritability. If you know you are prone to these conditions, or feel they have worsened, then it’s best to avoid coffee.
It can impact the health of the heart. By increasing heart rate and also causing a steep rise blood pressure in those not used to drinking it regularly, although this association does reduce considerably after about a week or so of regular intake.
Coffee may not be suitable at all during pregnancy – research has found caffeine intake during this time may lead to lower birth weight babies, and an increased risk of miscarriage and stillbirth.

How much is too much?

Consider switching to an espresso if you want a quick caffeine boost, but do not want all the milk-related health issues from drinking too much coffee

While everyone’s different, and some people will be more sensitive to smaller amounts of caffeine, experts agree that caffeine shouldn’t pose undue risk to health and may even bring health benefits, as long as intake doesn’t go above about 400mg per day – that’s about as much as you would find in 4 normal cups of brewed coffee.

Be careful though, if you consume extra strong coffee like espresso, plus caffeine from other sources such as tea, cola, energy drinks and dark chocolate – it would be very easy to climb out of the safety zone and into the area where negative health associations become more common.

If you do need to cut back on coffee, do it gradually – caffeine is a drug so going cold turkey can promote withdrawal symptoms, including a nasty headache.

Are you a coffee drinker? Do you find you need a boost before your workout? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.


About Author

Emma is a natural health practitioner, writer, blogger and recipe creator with a love of good food and a passion for spreading the wellness word. Trained in nutritional medicine, kinesiology, energy medicine and aromatherapy, Emma offers a truly holistic, gentle and effective approach to wellbeing, offering a tailor-made blend of therapies designed to match your health needs.