Thursday, April 7, 2011

Caffeine - How Much Is Too Much?

Is too much Caffeine wrecking your diet ? Check out this post from guest blogger Ms. Maxine


Who's really in shape? We have to admit that between wanting to love our bodies the way they are, bulgAdd Imagees and all, there is a little twinge of envy when we see celebrities with their perfect figures.

I'm not saying that we should strive for stick thin physiques and the six pack abs we see on TV, which were either achieved via religious dieting regimens or plastic surgery. In all honesty, exercise is more than taking interest in more than just aesthetic appeal; buckling down and getting in shape is actually good for our bodies and our minds.

Taking our fitness to a whole new level can take a certain amount of discipline, meaning breaking bad habits (I'm talking to all you smokers out there, each stick you puff lessens four minutes of your life) and vices, and for most people, a hidden vice that may be hindering your best shape is caffeine.

A few facts about caffeine:

  • It was first found as a chemical in 1820 by German chemist Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge then by French chemists Robiquet, and then again by Pelletier and Caventou.
  • Pelletier named the substance caffe, from the drink it was distilled from.
  • Caffeine mostly consumed by Americans in the form of coffee, tea, and other drinks and food containing cola.
  • Often paired with sugar in products like soda and energy drinks, the high from caffeine is given a boost, making caffeine that much more enticing as a drink.
  • Caffeine is consumed by 90% of North Americans every day, usually in the form of coffee.

The supposed weight loss effects of caffeine have been chronicled in an article by the Mayo Clinic wherein it is explained why people assume that caffeine might help them lose weight:

  1. Caffeine works as an appetite suppressant: Different studies have found caffeine to work as an appetite suppressant for those who do not have a tolerance for it already. Small doses of caffeine work to suppress appetite, but the Mayo Clinic affirms this fact only until the consumer has built up the tolerance for it. When the consumer has had enough caffeine that they would need more and more for it to feel an effect, the appetite suppressing qualities of the chemical subside.
  2. It boosts metabolism: Stimulating thermogenesis, the body's process of producing heat to burn off calories, caffeine is a metabolism booster. But, depending on the amount you drink, there will not be enough of an effect to burn enough calories to cancel out the coffee you just drank to suppress your appetite or get a boost before a workout.
  3. It acts as a diuretic: Until the body has built a tolerance to caffeine, the body expels it as liquid, increasing loss of water weight. This short term diuretic effect of caffeine only last until you have built up a sufficient tolerance to the chemical.

While there are many attractive benefits to taking in caffeine, like alertness, loss of drowsiness, there are clear downsides to ingesting:

  1. It can affect our sleeping habits: Too much caffeine can over stimulate our nervous system, causing insomnia and irregular sleeping patterns.
  2. It can cause anxiety and nervousness: As our bodies become more tolerant to caffeine, this tolerance causes us to drink more and more to produce an effect. The constant stimulation of chemicals in our brains can cause bouts of sweating, nervousness and anxiety.
  3. It is addictive: Affecting the same parts of the brain that illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin do, caffeine can cause people to become dependent on it (in line with a building tolerance), which can only lead to more consumption. In fact, there are even withdrawal symptoms found in people who quit caffeine after years of drinking a few cups a day. These symptoms include headaches, drowsiness and lethargy as well as mood swings and possible depression.
  4. It can put a strain in your heart and circulation: Those with heart problems and hypertension are advised by their doctors to abstain from caffeine, as this stimulant causing stress on the blood vessels due to over work.

As with any chemical or drug, caffeine has its tentative upsides and its clear downsides. Taking care not to have too much and not to rely on caffeine will help you get in better shape and increase your energy levels. This hidden vice of national (if not global) caffeine dependency may actually be the barrier to a fitter, better world.

Maxine is a mother and wife who is dedicated to going green. The more she has learned, the more important she has seen it is for her family's health and well-being as well as that of the earth. When not with her family, she works for Treetopia, a seller of artificial Christmas trees.

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