We are going to start by saying, caffeine is a double-edged sword!
What is Caffeine?
Caffeine, a natural stimulant most commonly found in tea, coffee and cacao plants stimulates the brain and central nervous system, thereby helping to stay alert. It is also found in energy drinks, chocolates, some prescription and non-prescription drugs, such as cold, allergy and pain medication. Caffeine helps to reduce tiredness and makes us more alert and active. Consuming caffeine before an exercise, sport, work etc can hence be beneficial.
How does caffeine affect the body?
This socially acceptable psychoactive component once consumed gets immediately absorbed into the blood and travels to the liver where is it broken down. Caffeine affects the brain primarily by blocking the function of adenosine. Adenosine is the neurotransmitter that relaxes the brain to make us feel tired. It also increases the adrenaline levels and increases the secretion of happy hormone – dopamine (Read ). This makes us more alert & focused, with reduced tiredness. Because of this effect on the brain, caffeine is known as a psychoactive drug
Even though caffeine consumption in moderate amounts through tea, coffee etc is considered to be safe, it is definitely an addictive component. It is generally safe to consume, up to 300 mg of caffeine per day. This is equivalent to 3-4 cups of coffee.
Excess intake of caffeine can result in anxiety, restlessness, irregular and rapid heartbeat, tremors and trouble getting sleep. An increased amount of caffeine intake makes our body slowly adapt and get caffeine resistant – this is why some of us can go to sleep in spite of a cup of coffee! Since caffeine can pass through the placenta easily and can cause low birth weight or even miscarriage, pregnant women are recommended to limit the caffeine intake to less than 200 mg per day.
Your source of caffeine also matters! Coffee, tea, dark chocolates etc are good sources of caffeine as they also contain anti-oxidants (be sure of not putting too much sugar and cream and increase calories!). Cola is one of the worst choice of caffeine as it contains a very high amount of caffeine in a single serving and is also loaded with sugar and other unhealthy additives