Coffee Addict? Here Are Some Things You May Want to Consider

Image: Getty

Image: Getty

We’re constantly being reminded that to optimize our health and wellness, we need to cut back on all the fun stuff like sugar, salt, caffeine and alcohol (well…maybe not alcohol). And while there are some benefits to elimination diets, there’s also a considerable amount of wiggle room. Case in point: coffee. Trying to separate fact from caffeine fiction can be dizzying, so we asked Nicole Fasules, RD, CD, board certified sports dietitian (CSSD) and certified personal trainer and Sarah Skalzub, registered holistic nutritionist, personal trainer and educator at Vega, to break down the pros and cons. Turns out, like most other things in life, the key to success lies in moderation.

PRO: Disease Prevention

There are many reports about the benefits of coffee for prevention of certain cancers, heart disease and diabetes. “Coffee has thousands of chemicals, including antioxidants which help potentially change DNA, break down calcium deposits and regulate blood sugar levels. Portion, however, is the main factor,” says Fasules who explains that most studies indicate that three to five 8-ounce cups is the sweet spot. “Unfortunately, research also tells us that the body can only handle 400 milligrams of caffeine per day comfortably, beyond this there are very adverse effects, including poor sleep, neurological issues, GI disturbances and heart issues, such as palpitations and high blood pressure. Three to five 8-ounce cups of regular coffee gives us about 300 to 500 milligrams of caffeine.”

PRO: Workout Enhancer

As Fasules mentioned, caffeine can pose a problem if it exceeds 400 milligrams a day. But, she says, below that number, it can potentially benefit your workout by giving you a boost of energy, allowing the body to spare carbohydrate usage and quite possibly give you a higher caloric output. “The key is to stick to about 80 milligrams of caffeine about 20 to 30 minutes prior to your workout. Many sports supplements add caffeine in excess of 100 milligrams per serving, so don’t be fooled.”

PRO: Motivation

“Sometimes all we need is a little pick-me-up from time to time and this is one of the reasons why I love coffee,” says Skalzub. “It’s great for helping your rise to the occasion when needed to get the job done. Just be sure you’re not using this as a crutch.”

CON: Sleep Issues

“It’s important to note that caffeine has a half-life,” underlines Skalzub. What that means is that even though the effects of caffeine seem to wear off after about two hours or so, one-half of that caffeine will still be in your system six hours later. So, if you start your day with a Venti, then have a caffeinated beverage with your lunch and again mid-afternoon, by the time bedtime hits, you could still have over 200 milligrams in your system. “Your body will not only have a difficult time relaxing, hence restless legs or leg cramps or twitching, but that you’ll have a more difficult time entering your REM sleep, which is where all of our healing occurs. You’ll wake up not feeling rested, feeling like you have to pound the caffeine again and the cycle continues.” Skalzub adds that this can be especially problematic for those that suffer from anxiety or sleep disturbances. 

CON: Dehydration

“Coffee is a diuretic causing you to lose fluids in your body,” explains Skalzub. “When we lose fluids in our bodies we’re not only losing water, we’re also losing electrolytes. It’s important when leading an active lifestyle that you’re properly hydrating your body to keep it functioning at its best.”

CON: Highs and Lows

While coffee may help you rise to the occasion, it can sometimes be followed by an even heavier drop in energy, which is why Skalzub cautions us to not use coffee as our sole source of energy. “Make sure you’re providing your body with long lasting sustainable energy coming from your food. Some of my favorite energy-boosting foods are dark leafy greens and fresh fruit.”

Beyond coffee Fasules is quick to point out that anyone who’s feeling low on energy should look at their diet and ask themselves what they can start including that could clean it up or round it out a bit. “Are you including high antioxidant containing fruits in your diet like berries and citrus? How about greens? What about other colorful vegetables? Consistency with a healthy diet will help ward against disease and decrease inflammation in your body to help you feel your best.”