Everybody’s heard the terrible things coffee can — allegedly — do to you. From stunted growth to abnormal heart rate, this addictive beverage is sometimes even jokingly referred to alongside cigarettes. That is, of course, because of the caffeine. Caffeine, like nicotine, is a fairly addictive stimulant. As with many substances, overuse can have some unpleasant side effects, including diminishing returns in the stimulation, resulting in further overuse.
Still, coffee — and caffeine in general — is not always the boogeyman it’s made out to be. Some health professionals have started advocating the occasional cup of joe for some surprisingly robust health benefits.
Here are some:
A primary driver in certain health trends sweeping the nation today, antioxidants can improve your life in a few fundamental ways. Their central function is neutralizing free radicals, which can cause an increased chance of cancer and other nasty diseases if left unchallenged. Foods rich in antioxidants — primarily fruits and veggies — are attributed to greater health, though the exact role antioxidants play in that is not entirely clear.
Either way, coffee is rich in antioxidants, and can undoubtedly help neutralize any damage free radicals might cause on your system. Studies have found that coffee drinkers have lower chances of getting liver cancer, which is definitely a plus. While antioxidants and caffeine are not directly related, many foods and drinks rich in caffeine also feature antioxidants.
- Mental Performance
One of the few benefits attributed to caffeine, memory and reaction times are characteristically heightened while drinking coffee or ingesting other forms of caffeine. This mental improvement balances out with the subsequent crash that leaves the user feeling drained, irritable and unable to focus.
In actuality, this crash is exacerbated by frequent overuse of caffeine in short, sporadic bursts. If used sparingly and regularly, caffeine can ease the user into higher mental functionality, then let him or her down relatively gently. Benefits during periods of caffeine use include increased productivity and creativity as your brain kicks into gear.
- Physical Advantages
Coffee — and other forms of caffeine — can help with your workouts. While overusing caffeine can raise your heart rate to a dangerous level, especially when paired with exercise, a moderate intake can increase adrenaline. Adrenaline motivates physical exertion, which will push you to greater feats of strength and endurance at the gym.
Weight loss has also been attributed to caffeine. By increasing metabolism, coffee and other caffeinated drinks will help you burn energy at a faster rate.
All that being said, caffeine still has some questionable side effects. Pregnant women should not overdo their intake, as fetuses are susceptible to caffeine and will respond to heightened levels within their mother.
Overuse of caffeine can cause dependence, which is dangerous in and of itself. While recent studies have found caffeine withdrawal is easier to kick than initially thought, it can still be an unpleasant and inconvenient experience for the day or two it takes, especially for habitual coffee-slammers.
Insomnia and sleep-related abnormalities can also be attributed to overuse. Drinking too much caffeine before bed will inevitably keep you up, but moderate use can actually stimulate your sleeping brain and allow you to wake from naps feeling refreshed.
Moderation Is Key
Too much of anything can be bad, and that definitely applies to caffeine intake as well. While most coffee-related myths have become exaggerated, overuse of a stimulating substance can result in sleeplessness and difficulties in future moderation. Research puts a good level of restraint between one and four cups a day. We know you can do it.