Caffeine- Buzz or Bust?

by Dec 4, 2015Healthy Lifestyle, Nutrition

Caffeine is one drug that I definitely can appreciate.

Specifically an excellent cuppa’ joe on a cloudy Newcastle morning whilst reading a good blog.

However, there are mixed views about the effect of regular caffeine intake that we should consider. Here is the need to know.

Caffeine has a marked effect on Adenosine.

Those of you who did A-level biology may remember Adenosine is a component of ATP or Adenosine tri phosphate.

ATP is the currency of all movement and thought. The more movement and thinking you do the more ATP you will use. In order to use ATP as fuel we need to break Adenosine from the phosphates (I always joke that adenosine and the phosphates sounds like a MO town band- and sometimes people laugh …I digress)

When this reaction takes place adenosine builds up in the brain and we experience a lack of “wakefulness” and alertness and drift off to the land of nod.

Caffeine however blocks our brains ability to sense we are tired by blocking the adenosine receptor.

People don’t simply drink coffee and other caffeinated drinks so they won’t fall asleep. There is of course a “high” to be gained from ingesting caffeine and drinking the black stuff.

Human behavioural psychologist’s tell us this occurs due to the blocking the dopamine receptor. I don’t want to over simplify this too much but lets just say that in most regions of the brain Dopamine acts as a “feel good” and is associated with feeling of reward.

Now its not that we produce more dopamine its just that we let less out of our brain so the total of free dopamine increases.

So if you are still following me we have two factors here:

  1. Dopamine goes up, as do the associated feeling of reward and a high.
  2. Adenosine or the ability to sense adenosine goes down, and alertness and a feeling of wakefulness goes up.

The problem is the more caffeine we take on the less effect it has on our dopamine receptors so in order to get the same high we have to have more and more…and more.

The same is NOT true of adenosine. There is no dose response and the same dose that first made us alert and unable to sleep will still do so even when we are trying to heard dopamine into our brain like we are selling Plasma tellies on black Friday.

You may say “well I drink tons of coffee and I sleep just fine”.

Sleep hours and sleep quality are two different things and I’ll be posting about some of the ways to know whether your sleep is the absolute tonic it should be and sharing a few tips on how to make the most of your long wave sleep cycle and return to the energiser.

In the meantime here is a challenge for you. If you believe a coffee intake of 3 cups per day or more is not artificially effecting your level of alertness, try 1 cup per day for 2 days then go COLD TURKEY, when you feel tired… go to sleep!

Even if that means getting your head down for 20 minutes in the car (parked of course) or a super early bed time. I was surprised my sleep debt and the 30 athletes who I did this with had, and how much their performance increased when they serviced the debt.

Give it a go.

Next week I’ll look at sleep in depth and the different methods of decaffeination and clear up whether there are actually petro-chemicals in all de-caff coffee’s as people say there are.

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