You know how it goes. There are plenty of little habits we embrace in the Western world. One such daily habit is coffee; one glance at the booming coffee industry confirms you aren’t the only one relying on your daily caffeine hit. And who can blame you? Most of us have a reason; whether we are stressed-out, round-the-clock moms or high-flying corporate executives, lives can get pretty manic. That caffeine boost may be the one thing keeping the engine revving when we’ve hit the reserve tank.
We know that caffeine helps us to wake up in the morning, which is a common reason for consuming it. It’s jump-starting our metabolism. Boosting your metabolism also means burning more fat (provided that you aren’t piling your coffees full of sugar and fatty milk) and more available energy.
It’s all about the fat burn
Coffee isn’t the only source of caffeine, of course. If you want to get your caffeine hit from a drink, you can go for tea, or specifically green tea; green tea does contain less caffeine than coffee, but it also has catechins such as EGCG that further boost your metabolic rate. Studies have concluded that when combined with moderate exercise a few times a week, green tea is more effective at blasting belly-fat than drinks that contain only caffeine.
Photo credit: Eneas
Caffeine is an alkaloid that blocks the inhibitory neurotransmitter Adenosine, which enables the caffeine to fire neurons and release neurotransmitters Norepinephrine and Dopamine. This stimulates your central nervous system, and sends word to your fat cells that it’s time to break down. It is actually the fat burning that increases the metabolic boost.
Your ‘Resting Metabolic Rate’ is getting a boost
What you might also notice as your caffeine kicks in is that you get an adrenaline rush of sorts. Adrenaline is a hormone, also (less commonly) called Epinephrine. That is what’s responsible for the slightly agitated feeling some people get when they go overboard on the Starbucks, or take fat-burners that contain high amounts of caffeine. It’s our ‘fight or flight’ mode being activated (albeit at a low level) with the increased adrenaline in the blood. Just like the Norepinephrine and Dopamine, it too is coursing around your body dishing out orders to the fat cells, which respond by breaking down and releasing into the blood in the form of free fatty acids.
We all have what is known as a ‘Resting Metabolic Rate’, and it’s different for each person. We also each know at least one enviable/annoying person who can wolf down a cake every day and still look exactly the same. Those people already have a high metabolic rate; if we can boost ours to the same level with a caffeine hit here and there, we too might feel more energized and burn more fat. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, caffeine is able to increase your metabolic rate by between 3 and 11%. It is also reported to boost your performance by up to 12% when exercising.
Caffeine boosts your mental activity too
Caffeine boosts your metabolism, but that’s not all. We may not have metabolic rates at the forefront of our minds when we’re gearing up for our morning coffee, but even if we do, there’s a pretty good chance we’re doing it for the spike in mental alertness we know we’re going to get. We associate caffeine with not only energy, but also mental performance; i.e. clarity, drive and focus. Who wouldn’t want these mental attributes to be part of their daily life?
Caffeine is actually classed as a ‘nootropic’, meaning that it is known to enhance your cognitive functions. Studies have shown that as little as 75mg of caffeine increases the sustainability of your mental attention over an extended period — that’s if you’re a non-habitual caffeine consumer. However, caffeine consumers with a regular habit may need to take up to 400mg of caffeine in order to achieve peak performance. According the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority), caffeine has positive effects on reaction time, which is useful for people in jobs that require long periods of driving, for example.
Memory is another mental function that gets a ‘leg up’ from caffeine. Students were able to recall words better than placebo samples after 200mg caffeine (equivalent to two regular cups of coffee), according to a 2009 study. You could be forgiven for thinking that if you want to win that habitual argument with the other half, a habitual pre-debate double espresso might be in order! If you do lose the argument, however, be reassured by the studies that concluded caffeine is instrumental in the reduction of depression, thanks to its mood-enhancing qualities.
There are other ways to get caffeine than just drinks
Not everybody loves coffee, or green tea for that matter. Caffeine occurs naturally in around sixty plant species, such as cocoa beans, kola nuts, or tealeaves; you can also find it in guarana berries, guayusa, yerba maté, and yaupon holly. OK, so those probably aren’t the most accessible or easy to prepare products, which is why it can help to get your caffeine from other consumer-ready products. There are a lot of nootropic products on the market, and if you can find one that has a balanced amount of metabolism boosters in it, all the better; for example, a caffeine source like a Nootropic Energy Gum containing natural, healthy ingredients is a winner.
So there you have it. Provided that you’re not over-doing it — which is the same for pretty much every substance available to you — caffeine can be a handy little ally to have. It revs up your metabolism, improving physical performance, waking you up and burning off a bit of extra fat. While it does this, it revs up your mental capacity too; your mood, memory, attention span, ability to focus and think clearly are all improved with a couple of hundred milligrams of caffeine. You aren’t so likely to nod off at your desk — or worse, at the wheel — and you are more likely to trim up the waistline and actually manage to catch that bus you did the hundred-meter sprint for.