How many cups of coffee equal your morning coffee in the commonly repeated statement: I cant function without my morning cup of coffee? For many Americans, the day starts with a quick switch of the coffee machine or the drive-thru run at Starbucks. But the caffeine fix doesnt end there: as the affects wear off from your morning caffeine, you can start to feel lethargic, irritable and, in some cases, depressed. As a result of these negative effects, you turn towards more caffeine-induced substances like colas, energy drinks, or even more coffee to get you going again. While many health studies suggest caffeine consumption, particularly in coffee, can lead to health benefits, the debate continues on the concrete effects of caffeine.
Adenosine is an important factor in the process of energy transfer and promotes sleep or a decrease in arousal. According to Discovery Health, the binding of adenosine to adenosine receptors causes drowsiness by slowing down nerve cell activity. Caffeine closely mimics adenosine in appearance to a nerve cell, and therefore, caffeine binds to the adenosine receptor instead of an adenosine. The only difference between the two is caffeine speeds up the nerve cells activity instead of slowing it down. As a result, the pituitary gland responds to the increased neuron firing by releasing hormones that tell the adrenal glands to make adrenaline. This hormone increases physical performance for a short period of time and is commonly referred to as the fight or flight hormone. Usually when adrenaline is pumping through your body, you can experience dilated pupils, faster heartbeat, rise of blood pressure, and your muscles tighten up, ready for action. Another hormone released is dopamine. This hormone is a neurotransmitter that activates pleasure centers in certain parts of your brain, ultimately making you feel happy.
So when statistics claim that 90% of Americans consume caffeine daily, and more than half of American Adults consume more than 300 milligrams (mg) daily, you can understand the why factor for the appeal of caffeine. Not only does caffeine essentially make you feel alert by blocking adenosine reception, but it also injects hormones such as adrenaline and dopamine into your system, making you feel boosted and happy.
But with alertness and the constant attraction to maintain the adrenaline boost, consumption of caffeine increases. The amount of milligrams inclines with every mug of coffee and every ounce of caffeinated soda. So what's the long-term effect? As previously stated, adenosine reception is an important factor in sleep, and more specifically, deep sleep. According to the same Discovery Health article, the half-life of caffeine in your body is about 6 hours, even if you feel the effects wearing off after 3 hours. This means caffeine is still lingering in your body at 9 p.m. if you consume at least 200 mg of caffeine (large mug of coffee) and it is 9 p.m. As a consequence of lingering caffeine, and the blockage of adenosine reception, you may be able to fall asleep, but your body could miss out on much needed deep sleep. Thus, you wake up still tired and reach for more caffeine throughout the day: the caffeine cycle continues.
To prevent you from the cyclical nature of caffeine dependency, MedicineNet helps bring caffeine content awareness about single-serving beverages. A low to moderate consumption amount is between 130 to 300 mg of caffeine daily, and heavy caffeine consumption equates to an average of over 600 mg to a gram of caffeine daily. Some examples of caffeine content in common beverages include:
While the exact effects of caffeine can be debated and many doctors of both sides agree that small dosages are good for the body, the amount you are taking in is important to note. Using sites such as Discovery Health and MedicineNet can help you calculate caffeine consumption and the length of time it stays in your system. Ultimately, with this knowledge, you can get an idea of what your average consumption number is and be the judge on what your preferred consumption number should be.