Is Caffeine Good for You?

Nothing beats waking up to a freshly brewed cup of coffee. I love how the aroma permeates the house, signaling a new day. It’s a comforting morning ritual, and an energizing way to kick-off the morning.

For those of us that cannot survive without the morning-magic of a caffeinated beverage, I have good news. Caffeine does more than just combat fatigue and boost alertness. In fact, research indicates that a moderate amount of caffeine daily may help you lose weight, fend off disease and be a better athlete!

Weight Loss
As a stimulant, caffeine increases heat production and has a favorable impact on metabolism. Three hundred milligrams of caffeine (approximately 1-2 cup of brewed coffee) increases energy expenditure by approximately 80 kcal. That’s right. A moderate amount of caffeine, in combination with other weight management strategies, can help melt away those pesky extra pounds.

Sports Performance
Moderate caffeine consumption (1-3mg/kg of body weight) has also been shown to help endurance and team sport athletes work harder for longer.  Various sport-food manufacturers add caffeine to their drinks, gels and candies to delay fatigue, and enhance alertness.

Disease Prevention
Finally, caffeine is an antioxidant which neutralize disease-causing free radicals. Preliminary research indicates that habitual caffeine consumption may help prevent type II diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimers disease, stroke and gallstones– another justification for your morning cup of java.

Caffeine Precautions
While the research is promising, there’s a few things to keep in mind before treating yourself to a bucket of coffee every morning. The healthful benefits of caffeine may diminish with tolerance. That is, the benefits of caffeine may be lost if you consume large amounts of caffeine habitually.

Furthermore, too much caffeine can also increase heart rate, irritate the gastrointestinal tract and disrupt sleep. Pregnant women are generally advised against consuming caffeine, although research findings on the effect of caffeine on the fetus are mixed.

Finally, caffeinated food and beverages vary in quality and nutrition content and not all sources of caffeine are good for you. Caffeine-containing energy drinks and sodas are packed with Calories, sugar, artificial flavorings and other not-so-healthy ingredients, whereas coffee, dark chocolate and tea are cleaner caffeine-containing options.

Caffeinating Wisely
So what should you chose and how much to reap the benefits of caffeine consumption? Check out my tips to enjoy the health benefits of caffeine:

  1. Keep it simple: Choose coffee, black tea or green tea as your caffeine sources most of the time. Limit caffeine-containing sports foods such as gels, and candies to before and/or during endurance events and matches. Avoid energy drinks if possible.
  1. Limit caffeine to 400mg/day: Excessive caffeine may blunt the healthful effects and produce other symptoms like palpitations, gastrointestinal distress and anxiety.
  1. Avoid caffeine 5-7 hours before bed: Caffeine can affect sleep onset and quality.
  1. Be careful with bone health: If you are taking calcium supplements for bone health and/or have a history of bone health issues, separate caffeine and calcium consumption. Caffeine reduces the absorption of calcium.

The Good News
The superstars at Perfect Fuel have come up with a caffeine-containing chocolate bar that will knock your socks off! Check out the Dark Chocolate Espresso Energy Bite – only 72 calories and with no refined sugars, each Energy Bite contains organic coffee bean for a natural energy boost!

Be well,
Edwina Clark, MS, RD, LDN, APD (Aus)