Worried that you may need to ‘give up’ your addiction to coffee? Leisa explains that there is more to it than you might think.

Originally published here, this article has been republished with permission.

The world is in love with coffee. One of my friends daughter trains at the AIS and I recently had a chat to her about what she takes before they race… it was buffers and yes you guessed it – shots of coffee! It sure does get that blood pumping! We feel energised, can focus and give it all we’ve got, a perfect performance enhancing solution.

So how does this differ from the everyday use of coffee as a stimulant and drug (albeit legal)? Modern life is overly busy, hectic and we are always ‘on’. Coffee seems to, in the short term, help us get through but at what cost?

What does caffeine do?

Caffeine stimulates neuron activity in the brain in which neurons send messages to the pituitary gland to stimulate the adrenal gland to produce adrenaline and cortisol. These famous hormones are involved in ‘fight or flight’ which is great in emergencies. This was particularly useful to our ancestors when faced with a Sabretooth tiger, yet in modern life we use caffeine to keep ‘fighting on’.

Pros and cons

We are not saying don’t drink coffee as there is increasing evidence to suggest coffee protects against diseases such as Altzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, type 2 diabetes and liver disease. On the downside, coffee is acidic and can cause indigestion, heartburn and an inbalance in your gut flora, not to mention burnout from over stimulation which can lead to fatigue and undesirable mental health states. Too much caffeine interacts with medications, increases blood sugar levels, raises blood pressure and can lead to bone loss due to the acidic and diuretic nature. It also depletes the body of magnesium and B vitamins that are necessary for muscle contraction, energy levels and managing stress.

In short, respect coffee. If you’re going to have it, its best not to have it after exercise when the body needs winding down from the ‘high’ state. Interestingly after approximately 20 minutes after exercise we are producing adrenaline and cortisol to keep us going.