Is Caffeine Bad for You?
If you are wondering “is caffeine bad for you?”, you probably already know you are overusing it. No one ever asks if caffeine is a problem until they start experiencing some of the effects of too much caffeine like increased anxiety and irritability. Or trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Or maybe headaches, muscle twitches or restlessness. Some people complain of stomach upset and digestive issues. Others have issues with increased blood pressure over time. The list of bad things caffeine can do when you consume too much is pretty long. And they all come from overconsuming caffeine not because you consumed just once a month ago.
When you consume too much it’s easy to blame caffeine and see it as evil. But you didn’t start out to overconsume, that came with time. Caffeine is a tool. And if used properly, it will give you stimulation when you need it and not stalk you like a bad date when it’s over.
A big part of the problem is the mystery of how much you consume. Manufacturers are not required to label the caffeine content of their products, so you are lucky if you see it on packing. That mystery can easily lead to consuming too much.
Before You Ask "Is Caffeine Bad For You?", Ask "How Much Caffeine is Too Much?"
While how much caffeine is too much is very personal, depending on factors like age, weight and metabolism, there are general guidelines you can use. In general, the level of caffeine that is probably okay without triggering caffeine dependance is around 100mg a day. Again, that’s a guideline and can’t be applied to everyone, but if you feel jittery, sleepless, or restless an hour or more after consuming caffeine, you are probably past your limit. Used properly, you feel alert and focused but never jittery or restless. And the thing you need to remember is digestion is going to slow down how quickly you feel the impact of caffeine.
When you start drinking coffee or energy drinks some of the caffeine will act fast because it’s being broken down in your mouth. That first sip tells your body the good stuff is coming and it can ease up on the caffeine withdrawal symptoms. But the majority of the caffeine goes into your stomach and it can take 50 minutes to digest. So while you might feel better with that first sip, the hidden caffeine in your stomach will take up to an hour to fully react. That’s how you overconsume and become jittery, anxious, and overstimulated.
But when consumed with the intent to control your caffeine consumption, and not overconsume, you can reap the rewards of caffeine, without bearing the weight of caffeine dependence. The phase “everything in moderation” comes to mind. It’s not about giving up caffeine, although you certainly could if that’s your preference, but at its heart, it is all about taking back control of were and when you want to consume caffeine as a benefit instead of a burden.
Coca vs Cocaine vs Caffeine
Consider cocaine from the South American Coca plant. While we think of cocaine as the party drug that feud the disco era it started out with much more humble uses.
The leaves of the coca plant don’t do the same thing as the synthesized cocaine. When the leaves are chewed, coca acts as a mild stimulant that suppresses hunger, thirst, pain, and fatigue. Sounds a lot like caffeine. In fact, both work on the same pleasure centers of the brain. Am I advocating cocaine as a substitute for caffeine. Absolutely not. My point is, before coca was synthesized into cocaine, the leaves of the plant were being used as a tool, much like caffeine, that allowed people to work harder and avoid fatigue. It was only after it was supercharged into what we know as cocaine that it became a societal problem. Moderation was the key.
When caffeine is used correctly, it does help you work harder and avoid fatigue. But overused you become dependent. That triggers things like exhaustion, anxiety, irritability, and moodiness that hurt, rather than help you make it through your day. Caffeine in itself it not bad for you. Caffeine is not the villain of this story; caffeine addiction is.