To Coffee or not to Coffee? That is the question
The Legend of Kaldi has it that Coffee was discovered by his herd of Goats in the Ethiopian highlands. It is said that Kaldi (or technically his goats) discovered coffee after noticing that upon eating berries from a certain tree, his Goats became so energetic that they did not want to sleep at night.
Kaldi then reported his findings to the abbot of the local monastery who then made a drink with the berries and discovered that it also kept him awake for long hours. The Abbott shared this discovery with other Monks of the Monastery and the origin of Coffee began.
So although it can never be proven that this story is entirely true it forms part of the Coffee Associations history and is yet further evidence following on from last week that Goats are in fact magic! I have as yet not tried feeding my Goats coffee as to be honest they are spritely enough and I dread to think the consequences-perhaps in the summer I shall share an iced Macchiato with them. I’ll let you know how that goes.
Anyway in terms of health and nutrition Coffee is a bit of a split subject. As Personal Trainers it is the actual law that we are obsessed with coffee. I’m not sure why it just is.
And in honesty Coffee does have many health benefits, but it also has a downside.
We will start with its good points.
Firstly Coffee contains a huge amount of anti-oxidants. These are the things we usually associate with fruit and vegetables (which you do still need!). Anti-Oxidants clear our body of free radicals gained from chemicals ingested either via food or from the environment. It is because of these anti-oxidants that Coffee has been shown to help protect against some cancers, namely Colo Rectal and Liver Cancer. Coffee also actually contains vitamins! It contains although in small doses B3, B5, Manganese and Potassium, so you know definitely a health food.
As I am sure most people are aware Coffee can increase your energy levels and improve your mental focus. This is because of the caffeine, which blocks an inhibitory neurotransmitter in your brain called Adenosine (the brain fog stuff). This then increases the firing of other neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and dopamine which effects, most importantly your movement patterns which is why it has also been shown to increase sporting performance; but also your brain reward centre which is why Coffee can make you happy. You can’t look sad in Starbucks can you!
Caffeine has been shown to boost metabolic rate and thus aid fat burning. Studies have shown that it could increase fat burning by around 10% however studies suggest this may be diminished in long term coffee drinkers. I imagine if this were not the case I would be a matchstick as my metabolic rate would be soooo high from my caffeine intake.
Now for the Bad News………………………….
Coffee is actually one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the world. For this reason I would highly recommend opting for Organic Coffee where possible, Clipper do a nice one and it can be found in most supermarkets. It has a parrot on the jar!
As so many of us do (by this I mean me!) grabbing a coffee on the run first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, stimulates hydrochloric acid production. This is problematic because HCl is used to digest meals and the cycle of constantly over producing may mean you struggle to produce enough to digest actual meals later in the day.
Coffee can also have an acidic effect on the gut walls which when combined with the potential for less HCL to digest food can mean food, protein in particular is not digested properly and also the increased acidity can irritate the Gut lining which in turn can cause digestive upset such from bloating and gas to IBS, diverticulitis, Ulcers and exacerbate Chron’s disease.
Studies have shown that Coffee (even Decaff) relaxes the lower oesophageal sphincter which can lead to Acid reflux and heartburn due to the contents of your stomach being allowed back into the oesophagus and burning it’s lining.
Drinking coffee can stimulate peristalsis (that’s doing a number 2) , unfortunately it can mean it is done too quickly leaving little time for the nutrients to be absorbed by your body meaning you will be deficient in vitamins and minerals (iron and magnesium in particular). Again this early peristalsis also has an irritating effect on your gastrointestinal tract.
Drinking lots of coffee will promote the release of the stress hormone cortisol. This can increase your body’s heart rate, blood pressure and tension levels. Some people are more sensitive to this than others. But if you find you are increasingly jittery or anxious it may be time to cut back.
So I guess it’s still a split case. But I for one will definitely not be giving it up – I think I would actually die and my 6am sessions would not thank me! But I think it is important to consider your intake and notice any issues that me caused by it.
It is a great pre workout on it’s own and many branded sports supplement pre workouts contain caffeine, but plain old Espresso will do the trick for a lot less money.
And as stated it is great for keeping you alert and getting stuff done, but if your edging over 4-5 cups per day you may find you actually start to feel more tired (and then increase your intake to counteract it) and if that is the case you need to cut back. And of course any jitteriness, heart racing etc is a definite message!
But if like me you just enjoy one or two cups a day, avoid it a few hours before you go to bed and have no side effects then I would say keep going with your tasty healthy drink!
PS. NS-PT provides mobile Personal Training across Liverpool, Wirral, St Helens and surrounding areas. NS-PT provides Personal Training to help you with weight loss and Personal Training to improve your health and well being.