Is coffee the healthiest beverage there is?
Well.. At least if you are using it right, it can be! For me and many of you, a great morning usually starts with a cup of coffee in a relaxed and calm environment. I know that I am not alone in enjoying this beverage.Johann Sebastian Bach loved coffee and so did Voltaire, and many other great minds. Coffee is arguably the most popular beverage on earth besides water. The World Bank estimates that several hundred million people make their livings directly or indirectly in the global coffee trade, and coffee is today very integrated in the western culture and a big part many people’s daily rituals. Actually as we will discuss, if you don’t drink coffee you might experience ostracism, and become a social outcast. Coffee is truly powerful! But what is coffee and how can it help us be more FLAWD?!
|Reading time: 18min 49 Seconds |
- What is coffee?
- What are its benefits?
- What are the risks?
- Should we drink coffee at all?
- And how can we use it to our advantage?
- Lets find out!
What is Coffee?
Coffee is a drip-brewed beverage, and it is originated from the roasted seeds from the ripened fruit from a bush/tree native to tropical and southern Africa, and tropical Asia. The species of this bush/tree is called Coffea. It grows best in tropical climates at higher elevations and is cultivated commercially on five continents.The two most common sources of coffee beans are the highly regarded Coffea arabica, and the “robusta” form of the hardier Coffea canephora.
Coffea arabica (most common 70%)
Coffea arabica (arabica coffee), originally from Ethiopia. It is also known as the “coffee shrub of Arabia”, “mountain coffee” or “arabica coffee”. Coffea arabica is believed to be the first species of coffee to be cultivated, for well over 1,000 years. It is said to produce better tasting coffee than Coffea canephora (robusta), because robusta cherries contain twice as much caffeine as arabica. Caffeine itself has a bitter taste, making robusta more bitter. C. arabica contains less caffeine than any other commercially cultivated species of coffee.
Coffea canephora (robusta)
Coffea canbephora (robusta),is a species of coffee that has its origins in central and western sub-Saharan Africa. It is widely known as Coffea robusta, the plant is scientifically identified as Coffea canephora, which has two main varieties – Robusta and Nganda.
Difference between robusta and arabica
There is a lot of hype around coffee, most people’s daily mugs still get filled with subpar brews. Expensive coffee capsules and pods dominate the market. For most of us, real coffee remains intimidating, overly precious, or just confusing – this is the reason for writing this post.Coffee plants are cultivated in over 70 countries. Once ripe, coffee “berries” are picked, processed, and dried to yield the seeds inside. The seeds are then roasted to varying degrees, depending on the desired flavor, before being ground and brewed to create coffee.
What is Caffeine?
Caffeine has a bitter taste and is a stimulant drug. Caffeine can be found in Coffea as we covered above in the article. In us humans, caffeine acts as a stimulant to CNS (central nervous system), and temporarily wards off feelings of drowsiness and makes us feel alert! Caffeine is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug, and it is legal and unregulated in almost all parts of the world. Beverages containing caffeine are very popular, in North America about 90% of adults consume caffeine daily.
What does the caffeine do to your brain?
To explain this I will paraphrase this article: When we are awake, neurons in our brain goes back and forth with information. Every time a neuron fire, they produce adenosine as a byproduct, but adenosine is not a waste product. The nervous system monitors adenosine levels via receptors, and when adenosine levels reach a certain point in your brain and spinal cord, your body will start nudging you toward sleep, or at least indicating that you should take it easy. There are several different types of adenosine receptors in the body.
Caffeine puts a block of wood under the brains primary brakepedals
When we put caffeine in our body (caffeine is found in several plants and also in our body, since we have not mention that yet), it functions as a very talented adenosine impersonator. It heads right for the adenosine receptors in your system and, because of that it is very similar to adenosine, it’s accepted by your body as the real thing and gets into the receptors. Caffeine takes control of those receptors and binds them very efficiently, but it does not activate them, it blocks the receptors. With the receptors blocked, the brain’s own stimulants, dopamine and glutamate, can do their work more freely.
In the book, Buzz: The Science and Lore of Alcohol and Caffeine – by Stephen Braun, he likens caffeine’s powers to “putting a block of wood under one of the brain’s primary brake pedals.” Continuing this metaphor, you might note that caffeine does NOT press on the “gas” on your brain, it only blocks a “primary” brake.
Only as effective as your neurotransmitters
There are other systems and receptors that have an effect on your energy levels. BUT! Caffeine is a crude way of preventing your brain from bringing things to a halt. Therefore as Braun suggest, you only get “wired” to the extent that your neurotransmitters support. And as always, the effects will vary, in length and strength of effect, from person to person, depending on genetics, other physiology factors, and tolerance. What’s important to take away is that caffeine is not as simple in effect as a direct stimulant, such as amphetamines or cocaine; its effect on your alertness is far more subtle.
Check out this video for the effects on caffeine on your brain 8.30 Min
One takeaway from the clip, as we already discussed but I want to emphasize:
Caffeine does not boost you above your normal performance, what it does it removes the negative effect and brings you back up to your normal performance. If you don’t drink caffeine there is no reason to start.
The Oatmeal has a simplified infographic about coffee; 15 things worth knowing about coffee
The positive health effects of Coffee
Coffee makes you smarter and improves memory
Coffee doesn’t just keep you awake, it can make you smarter as well. Caffeine has also been seen to improve memory creation and retention when it comes to “declarative memory,” the kind students use to remember lists or answers to exam questions.The active ingredient in coffee is caffeine, as we discussed above. And here caffeine’s main purpose in the brain is blocking the effects of an inhibitory neurotransmitter called Adenosine. By the blocking Adenosine, caffeine increases the firing of neurons to the the brain and the release of other neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine (which is more commonly known as Adrenaline and Noradrenaline). An interesting study about this Adenosine, Adenosine Receptors and the Actions of Caffeine – by a swede : Bertil B Fredholm.
Many controlled trials have examined the effects of caffeine on the brain, demonstrating that caffeine can improve mood, reaction time, memory, vigilance (I just love that word! Vigilance!) and general cognitive function.
- Etymology of the word: Vigilance – It stems from the French word vigilance, originally from Latin vigilantia which means “wakefulness,” from vigilia and Latin vigere “be lively, thrive,”.
Coffee Can Help You Burn Fat and Improves Physical Performance
Why do you think that you find caffeine in almost all fat burning supplements? Caffeine both raises metabolism and increases the oxidation of fatty acids, which is what we want our body to do! Sources: american journal. Caffeine can also improve athletic performance by several mechanisms, including by mobilizing fatty acids from the fat tissue. In two separate meta-analyses, caffeine was found to increase exercise performance by 11-12% on average. Lifehacker has written a great article about this, check it out: the science behind coffee. I found this to be very effective during my morning sessions. I am more vigilant and alert and positive during those very early morning sessions if I get caffeine compared to those days without caffeine. If it is very early I prefer to take caffeine in pill form, to save time, usually 100mg which is a lot and I recommend splitting it in half if you never tried caffeine pills before. Read more about why you should train in a previous FLAWD article. For an easy on the eyes take on this topic, check out this article: Drinking coffee, is it a safe way to loose weight
Coffee reduces risk for type II diabetes
Drinking coffee is associated with a drastically reduced risk of type II diabetes. People who drink several cups per day are the least likely to become diabetic.
Coffee May Lower Your Risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
Coffee drinkers have up to a 60% lower risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Coffee may lower the risk of Parkinson’s by 32-60%. Coffee is associated with a much lower risk of dementia and the neurodegenerative disorders Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.P
Coffee May be Extremely Good For Your Liver
Coffee appears to be protective against certain liver disorders, lowering the risk of liver cancer by 40% and cirrhosis by as much as 80%
Coffee May Decrease Your Risk of Dying
Who does not want to live longer? Coffee consumption has been associated with a lower risk of death in prospective epidemiological studies, especially in type II diabetics.Also Drinking Coffee can reduce the risk of suicide, which makes you live longer as well. :)
Coffee is Loaded With Nutrients and Antioxidants
Coffee isn’t just black water. Many of the nutrients in the coffee beans do make it into the final drink, which actually contains a decent amount of vitamins and minerals.
A cup of coffee contains (30):P
- 6% of the RDA for Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5).
- 11% of the RDA for Riboflavin (Vitamin B2).
- 2% of the RDA for Niacin (B3) and Thiamine (B1).
- 3% of the RDA for Potassium and Manganese.
May not seem like much, but if you drink several cups of coffee per day then this quickly adds up.But this isn’t all. Coffee also contains a massive amount of antioxidants. In fact, coffee is the biggest source of antioxidants in the western diet, outranking both fruits and vegetables combined. Coffee contains a decent amount of several vitamins and minerals. It is also the biggest source of antioxidants in the modern diet.
The science above can be read with pubmed and other science reference if you want to nerd down, read the article here: The Science behinde coffee.
WARNING! Negative effects
Even though coffee is great and makes you smarter, thinner, happier, makes you live longer it should certanly not be used excessively. Like all drugs and supplements, too much is contraproductive.High amounts of caffeine can cause issues, as for example
- decreased insulin sensitivity,
- impaired brain function,
- stomach discomfort, and
- decreased exercise performance.
As with any drugs you can overdose. To make sure to preserve the health benefits, don’t put sugar or anything nasty in your coffee! If it tends to affect your sleep, then don’t drink it after 2pm.
As one starts to regularly take in caffeine, the body and mind build up a tolerance to it, so getting the same kind of boost as the “first-ever” cup, takes more caffeine. Just as with any drug addiction, the brain strives to return to its normal function while under “attack” by creating more adenosine receptors. Regular caffeine use has also been shown to decrease receptors for norepinephrine, a hormone akin to adrenaline, along with serotonin, a mood enhancer.
The average half-life of caffeine—that is, how long it takes for half of an ingested dose to wear off—is about five to six hours in a human body. It affects us in different ways. Women generally metabolize caffeine faster than men. Smokers process it twice as quickly as nonsmokers do. Women taking birth-control pills metabolize it at perhaps one-third the rate that women not on the Pill do. Asians may do so more slowly than people of other races.
Getting Out of the Habit and Learning to Tame Caffeine
You start to feel caffeine withdrawal very quickly, anywhere from 12 to 24 hours after your last use. That’s a big part of why that first cup or can in the morning is so important—it’s staving off the early effects of withdrawal.The reasons for the withdrawal are the same as with any substance dependency: your brain was used to operating one way with caffeine, and now it’s suddenly working under completely different circumstances, but all those receptor changes are still in place. Generally, you’ll be over it in around 10 days—again, depending on your own physiology and other factors.
Why I stopped drinking coffee for 2 years
I stopped drinking coffee as a challenge from a colleauge during summer of 2011 and did not start drinking until this year (2013). One of the reasons being that I am easily converted to an overconsumer in whatever I do, and this affected my sleep quality. Soo I had to put in boundaries, like for example, it was not allowed to drink coffee after 2PM and similar rules, which I broke all the time. I should perhaps write a post about this experience, but lets summarize the lessons learned;
- Going cold turkey from coffee, the first week was extremely hard and I felt really bad, like being hungover all the time, then it gradually got better and after 2 weeks I was “back to normal”.
- Social- It was hard to say: no thank you, do you have tea? And then also explain the whole story why I stopped and all the benefits of stopping, like:
- Sleeping. My sleep got much better already after the first week! I woke up more refreshed and rested.
- A problem with waking up and getting the “boost” for training in the morning. I solved that with “happy pills” :) (caffeine tablets).
- Learned to drink and love tea. There are more tea drinkers and tea coonoisseurs than you think. By the way A connoisseur stems from French spelling of connaisseur, then connaître meaning “to be acquainted with” or “to know somebody/something.” is a person who has a great deal of knowledge about the fine arts, cuisines, or an expert judge in matters of taste – Wikipedia.]
- Got the perspective – always interesting to let things go and see the world from another perspective.
- Got to appreciate the feeling of just warm beverage, sometimes I even heated up water to get that “cozy” feeling.
Leo Babauta explains in this article, that he went without coffee for a month, and I agree with some of his observations: ”
- I really thought I’d have a harder time watching others drink coffee, but it wasn’t difficult at all.”
- “The only time I had urges was from the smell of coffee, which is really an amazingly enticing aroma”
- Having a great replacement habit makes it much, much easier. When you focus on the sacrifice, you are mentally suffering all the time. But when you focus on the good thing you’re getting instead, it’s wonderful.
BioHacking is a relatively new phenomenon. For me “Biohacking” means that you are using food and technology to your advantage, similar to Lifehacking, but with biology. Example: eating red beetroot to improve your oxygen intake, a must reed article for the health benefits of beetroot
Real BioHacking is however explained by Ellen Jorgensen in this TED talk:
Beer vs Coffee – the ultimate combination?
Check out this article and infographic To summarize: Beer is good for coming up with good ideas, coffee is good for executing those ideas. Don’t forget beer has gluten in it. And gluten is not really good for us.
Want to know more listen to the bulletproof executive episode: #61 Gluten Sensitivity, Celiacs & Bulletproofing Your Gut, with Dr. Tom O’Bryan – Podcast
How I use coffee to win!
Take some time off! (from coffee)
All that we have learned above makes coffee a fantastic drink. BUT! We must not forget that it is a drug and a stimulant. A while back I got inspired by Ben Greenfield that mentioned in his podcast a that he every 3rd week or so go off coffee for 7-14 days to “reset” the adenosine receptors as we have discussed. This is a great tactic, it keeps me humble and also informs me of how addicted I am to coffee and that I can quit if I want to. And even though the first day is heavy it is important for me to feel a sense of control.
My absolute favourite biohacker Dave Asprey, behind the blog and lifestyle: Bulletproof executive has created a coffee that he call: Bulletproof coffee this truly helps me perform and creates an instant and almost magical energy boost that lasts for a long time.
All the different kinds of coffee
Mental floss explains the different kinds of coffee sorts you can order>:
Espresso = a shot of espresso is made by blasting hot water through compact and finely grind beans coffe by , espresso doppio
latte 4 shots is called Eye of the tiger” :) babycciono
Well.. Coffee is not for everyone, In this article Ben Greenfield mentions some alternatives to coffee. Dave asprey from Bulletproof executive summarize it best in his article about coffee
Moderate amounts of coffee will do nothing but good for most people:
- Coffee can improve memory and brain function.
- Coffee is an excellent source of antioxidants.
- Coffee can improve insulin sensitivity.
- Coffee can accelerate fat loss.
- Coffee can improve exercise performance.
- Regular coffee consumption is beneficial as long as the coffee is mycotoxin-free.
- If you need coffee to function – you’re addicted and need to find a better solution.
- One cup a day is perfect.
- Two cups a day is okay.
- Three cups a day is the maximum.
- Use this guide to make sure your coffee isn’t toxic. Or watch this video.
- If you want to get the most out of your coffee, read this and make Bulletproof Coffee.
If anything, coffee may literally be the healthiest beverage on the planet. How do you like your coffee?
If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.
I like cappuccino, actually. But even a bad cup of coffee is better than no coffee at all.
You don’t need coffee. Nobody needs coffee. You can get along without it.
Gordon B. Hinckley
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Thank you for reading and listening! You are awesome! :)