What About Coffee?
At Exercise Inc, we coach our clients to focus on consuming simple, unprocessed foods that will improve their health—lots of fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, and nuts. We also ask our clients to focus on drinking plenty of water, while avoiding sugary processed drinks. But where does coffee fit into a simple lifestyle? Is it good for you, bad for you, or does it matter?
Seventy percent of Americans drink coffee, and the average coffee drinker consumes about three cups a day. The global coffee industry is a $100 billion-a-year empire. Caffeine, the most naturally occurring stimulant in coffee, is the most consumed and most accepted drug in the world.
Caffeine has good and bad effects on your body. But the good far outweighs the bad (within moderation, of course, and assuming you don’t have underlying health concerns that caffeine exacerbates). Its main effect is stimulating your central nervous system in a way that makes you feel more awake, more focused, and more energized. I’m having my second cup of the morning to increase my focus while writing this article. I love doing a pourover with freshly ground beans and adding some heavy whipping cream (about a teaspoon, but I never really measure it).
Most of us drink coffee to wake up or for a boost of energy, but the benefits of coffee go far beyond the obvious. Coffee is our biggest source of phytonutrients. Gram for gram, coffee ranks behind most berries. But in the real world, where most people drink several large cups of coffee a day, coffee is our primary source of antioxidants.
Those antioxidants have some pretty profound effects. A recent metanalysis from over 200 studies found that people who drink 3 to 4 cups of coffee a day have a lower risk of death and getting heart disease compared to those who drink no coffee. Coffee drinkers also experience a lower risk of some cancers, diabetes, liver disease and dementia.
The study found that 3 cups a day seemed to provide the most benefit in preventing all-cause mortality. Drinking more than three cups didn’t provide much additional benefit.
But another study found that 4 cups a day provided the optimal effect for improving mitochondrial function of the heart.
One thing to keep in mind as we discuss these studies—a cup equals 8 ounces. But most of us drink 12- or even 16-ounce cups of coffee. So 4 cups in research will usually equate to 2 or 3 of our conventional cups of coffee.
Coffee has been shown to significantly reduce the development of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. It is also great for dealing with depression.
Want to optimize your workout? Drinking coffee half an hour before your workout will allow you to perform better and increase fat burning.
However, if you’re pregnant, don’t even think about it. Caffeine crosses the placenta. Even moderate amounts of coffee during pregnancy can lead to smaller birth size and increased childhood obesity.
The negative effects of coffee seem to show up when we cross the 4-cup threshold. Beyond this level of caffeine consumption, some people experience headaches, insomnia, nervousness, irritability, frequent urination, and fast heartbeat.
Of course, all of us have different tolerances for caffeine. Some people are sensitive to caffeine and start to encounter negative side effects after a cup or two. Others of us can handle more than 4 cups without any problems. Bottom line—if you experience headaches, nervousness, fast heartbeat, or irritability, cut back on your coffee.
Also, unless you plan to stay up all night to study for a test or drive to Chicago at 10:00 pm, avoid caffeine consumption after noon. Drinking coffee at night actually impairs melatonin secretion, which prevents you from falling asleep. Caffeine can have an active effect on your body for up to 6 hours. Protect your sleep and stay away from coffee after noon.
You should avoid several types of coffee. They all fall under the same category—coffeehouse-crafted drinks full of sugar. A Grande (16 oz) Cinnamon Dolce Latte from Starbucks has 340 calories that include 40 grams of added sugar. Combining a large sugar buzz with caffeine will only leave you crashing a few hours later.
Enjoy your coffee black, or add some heavy whipping cream, half-and-half, or whole milk. Stay away from skim, which is nothing but water lying about the fact that it’s milk.
Coffee offers a lot of great health benefits. In fact, the benefits of coffee seem to outweigh the benefits of not drinking coffee. Stay around the 3- to 4-cup mark for the best benefits. Don’t drink it after noon. Consume it before a workout to get amped up. Stay completely away if you’re pregnant. And avoid the sugary stuff.
Stay Strong and Keep it Simple,