Has caffeine been your savior when you’re going through the misery of a slow Monday morning? Or your knight when you needed to stay super focused for an upcoming project? Well we’ve all had such weak moments when caffeine infused drinks come to the rescue to keep us from shutting our eyelids.

Even though caffeine has no nutritional value by itself, the need for caffeine has increased so much that 90 percent of people in the United States consume it in some form every single day! Majority of the caffeine consumed is in the form of coffee or tea. But it’s also easy for caffeine to seep into your diet in other forms such as energy drinks, chocolate bars, hot cocoa, and much more. Sometimes a small percentage of caffeine could even manage to camouflage itself in your decaffeinated drinks.

Which goes to say that the caffeine kick is in demand and surely does a good job at knocking out the non-optimal lapses of productivity out of the court for many. But then, what are the actual cons of consuming stuff with caffeine? It does provide us with a focused buzz but is it really a good idea to call caffeine your spirit animal? Let’s look at the good and bad so you can decide if it should continue to be a staple part of your diet.

But First, What Exactly Is Caffeine?

Without twisting words – Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant and the most widely consumed psychoactive drug found in coffee beans, tea leaves, cocoa beans and various types of tree nuts. Yes, caffeine is a drug but a socially accepted one that’s also safe to have at  work too.

How does it work?

The chemical compounds in caffeine work towards stimulating the central nervous system and fights off a substance called ‘Adenosine’ which you can consider as your productive arch enemy because it loves getting you to sleep. But your true friend caffeine works at blocking the adenosine receptor, and in the process, it tricks your mind into feeling less sleepy. When adenosine receptors are blocked, the body also happens to release dopamine, which is the chemical responsible for us feeling more positive. Remember when you couldn’t stop blushing because your Tinder date called you cute? Yup, that was the release of dopamine! And that’s how caffeine works it magic at keeping us awake and leaving you feeling a bit more euphoric or pumped.

In other words, Caffeine makes it difficult for adenosine molecules to continue its job of slowing down the central nervous system and preventing us from the temptation to hit the bed.

Keep in mind that everyone would react differently to caffeine and it all depends on the quantity of caffeine you’re consuming. You could probably feel more of an adrenaline rush with an energy drink like Red Bull than 2 cups of coffee. Simply because your body has achieved a level of tolerance for caffeine from coffee but isn’t used to energy drinks yet. The coffee jolt also depends on things like your diet, age and body mass index. Avid coffee drinkers usually have a need for more caffeine compared to those who are just starting out their journey with caffeine.

Why Do We Rely On Caffeine?

Simply put, people are drawn towards the kick of caffeine since there’s something in it for them. Moreover, caffeine infused drinks are like Instagram Influencers – they’re available a dime a dozen, even if you don’t live in close proximity to Starbucks. Caffeine also serves as crutches for when you don’t have the mental energy to get through work.

Among all the caffeine infused products, Coffee in particular often assumes the role of the group’s Alpha Dog and gets a lot of attention. As the easiest and most accessible option, it’s easy to see why everyone turns to a cup of Joe to keep them on their toes.

For some, coffee is a lifestyle choice! It’s a way of brewing up long hours of productivity for those highly demanding jobs. And if you have a bit of a wild child in you, then caffeine could also be an instant fix for those hungover mornings. Oh and let’s not forget, it’s often like the protagonist’s loyal best friend who makes things happen – conversations being one of them.

It’s the difficulty in resisting the smell of a freshly brewed cup of coffee and the obsession to keep having more of it for the caffeine jolt that causes the addiction. When you develop a high dependency on coffee and other caffeinated beverages, you could face withdrawal symptoms, and that’s when things start turning bitter – which brings us to the cons.

What happens when you consume caffeine excessively?

Caffeine is ultimately a drug so it does have a few negatives to it if it isn’t consumed in moderation. 400 grams which could also mean 4 cups of coffee is the moderate amount of caffeine that is considered safe. Few of the side effects of excessive consumption are –

  • Feeling agitated quickly
  • Restlessness
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Bad sleep cycle and insomnia
  • Muscle tremors
  • Migraine
  • Depressed mood
  • Low energy levels
  • Anxiety

Caffeine has addictive properties and which is why although the office coffee machine might seem like the solution, don’t be taking too many trips to it or you could find yourself becoming dependent on more quantities of caffeine.

Caffeine Alternatives

1. Matcha Tea

Matcha Tea might be an acquired taste but the way it does have a way of coddling you by increasing your antioxidant intake and gently calming you down. Also, you’re bound to have fewer “head scratching” moments considering how Matcha Tea is packed with L-theanine which improves your memory.

2. Peppermint Tea

Ever met a flavorful, edible reincarnation of the soothing electric hot water pad? That’s kind of what the Peppermint Tea is – a great way to soothe your stomach. The cooling sensation and rejuvenation from sipping on this tea can help you get through a tiring and long day of meetings. It’s even quite relaxing to have one after the day ends. Step aside, hot water tub, you got competition!

3. Go Nuts

Various studies have shown that nuts like almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts and walnuts have a direct impact on the health of our brains. It keeps you energized and is considered to be a great option for snacking.

Also read: 8 Nuts to Eat for Good Health

4. Smoothies

Most athletes turn to smoothies instead of caffeinated drinks to get a good boost of energy. Even if you aren’t an athlete, it could work out to be a great alternative to put some pep into your step to work.

The Bottom Line

Overall, the caffeinated state of mind surely has its perks but things could also backfire if you’re consuming too much of it. Having caffeine in moderation is key. The trick is to keep a track of the amount of caffeine you’re consuming and put a cap on it so you’re not having way more than you should.

See also: You are What You Eat. Why are Food Choices Essential and How they Affect Us?