Caffeine does not need an introduction. Just like your car needs fuel, so do you, and since keeping your energy level up is an all-day-challenge, the dark-brown brew is the favorite pick-me-up people reach out for in the morning (and then several times during the day). Caffeine is also considered to be ‘au naturale’ since it comes from cocoa beans. But the benefits of caffeine are far greater than simply turning humans from zombie-like grumps into semi-functioning breadwinners. While caffeine has a slew of well documented health benefits, it still seems to get a bad rap. Here, we are going to take a closer look at caffeine to do away with all the confusion.
The word ‘caffeine’ has originated from the French word ‘Café’ and the German word ‘Kaffee’ both of which directly translate to ‘coffee.’ While much of the modern population uses caffeine in beverages and supplements, it has actually been around for thousands of years, with each country having its own eccentric folk story passed on from generation to generation. The native origins of coffee can be traced back to the 11th century and the medieval kingdom of Ethiopia where the coffee plant with its white blossoms was referred to as “the magical fruit.”From there on, the journey of theseberries, known for their medicinal properties,began, extending luxuriantly to the Arabian Peninsula, and then, the world. Today, coffee is grown worldwide from Brazil to Indonesia, and many countries in between. The purest form of caffeine was first extracted from cocoa beans in the 1820s by German Scientist Friedrich Ferdinand Runge.
Coffee is the biggest dietary source of caffeine (hence the history), but now, let’s get down to the fun part – the science (1). The chemical formula of caffeine is C8-H10-N4-O2. It is a naturally occurring chemical stimulant and an alkaloid which belongs to a class of compounds known as methylxanthines. Methylxanthineis a stimulant that’s found naturally not only in the human body but in many plants as well. It is estimated that up to 80% of adults in the US consume around 300 milligrams of caffeine a day, which is roughly the equivalent of five sodas. Caffeine is recognized by the US FDA as a stimulant and a food additive for the strange relationship it develops with the function of the brain once consumed.
Benefits for Weight Loss
In weight loss supplements, caffeine is a staple ingredient since its considered to have significant fat burning properties through boosting metabolism. While the studies that link caffeine to weight loss are not definitive, there are certain theories that make sense, such as appetite suppression and calorie burning. It may be useful in reducing the desire to eat and feel hungry for a while. A moderate amount of coffee can help suppress appetite. Following are the details on how exactly caffeine helps in healthy weight loss:
Increases Metabolic Rate
The amount of calories we burn during rest is called the Resting Metabolic Rate or RMR. The higher our metabolic rate, the easier it is to lose weight. Studies indicate that the use of caffeine can increase our metabolic rate by up to 11% (2). The increased mobilization of fatty acids from the fat tissues due to caffeine has also been linked to improved athletic performance. Studies (3) have linked caffeine to better exercise performance.
Caffeine can stimulate the process of thermogenesis. It is also able to stimulate the nervous system, sending direct signals to the fat cells to tell them to break down the fat. In this way, it mobilizes fat from the fat tissues and makes them available for use in the blood as free fatty acids. The production of heat can burn fat, leading to weight loss. When it comes to using caffeine for weight loss, there is one major caveat. The people who use caffeine have been found to grow tolerant to its effects after some time, which would hinder its weight loss effects. Whether caffeine helps you lose weight or not, there have been studies that have linked the use of caffeine consumption to appetite reducing effects in men. Since hunger is a challenge while trying to lose weight, caffeine could be effective in curtailing hunger.
Caffeine has been shown to boost lipolysis or fat burning through a complex process which leads to a synergistic increase in epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline). These two chemicals are releasedthrough a combination of caffeine and exercise. Norepinephrine is the main regulator of fatty acid release from the fat cells that are then burned to produce energy.
Caffeine in Sports Supplements
Since caffeine is mostly used to provide a boost in energy, it does provide the body with multiple benefits as a sports supplement. The following are just some of the reasons why many athletes choose to use supplements containing high amounts of caffeine:
The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research recently published a study which demonstrated the effects of caffeine on the body while doing exercise. The study proved that using a caffeine supplement just an hour before an intense workout can significantly boost that training volume. Other studies also indicated that the use of a caffeine supplementation can boost bench press strength (1RM) far better than the effects of using a placebo. Elite athletes use caffeine supplements to enhance strength and flexion power.
Helps Fast Recovery
The benefits of caffeine have also been recognized after workout. In an article that has been published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers found that taking a high-dose of caffeine post-workout combined with dextrose results to a 66% greater glycogen repletion. This is far more than what can be achieved by using carbs alone. The study concluded by stating that the augmented rate of glycogen replenishment which was observed after taking the combination of the two was the highest ever reported under normal physiological conditions. But, those who are looking forward to trying out this technique might want to temper the caffeine intake pre-workout.
Why Most Sports Supplements Contain Caffeine?
It has been found that many workout and fat burning supplements contain caffeine in large doses. In fact, caffeine is the primary ingredient in many of those supplements and has a lot to do with the instant rush of energy the user feels when they pop the pill, before workouts. There are also four different variations of caffeine that’s used in supplements:
This is the most commonly found caffeine source and is used in most sports supplements.
Dicaffeine Malate is a combination of malic acid and caffeine. The ingredient is considered to be easier to digest and is also commonly used in health supplements for both men and women.
This is a combination of caffeine and citric acid, which is said to have fast acting results. Caffeine Citrate is also being used as a treatment for severe migraines and asthma.
Caffeine Pterostilbene Cocrystal
This ingredient is the combination of caffeine and pterostilbene which is a naturally occurring compound found in blueberries. Caffeine Pterostilbene Cocyrstal has the opposite effect of the previous two caffeine ingredients since its compounds are released slowly into the bloodstream over a long period of time.
How Much is Too Much?
With many supplements containing around 300mg of caffeine, users who are caffeine intolerant need to be careful, especially if they frequently use other beverages and edibles that contain caffeine. As a result of its molecular structure, caffeine when ingested is transported quickly throughout the body which is the “hit” we experience after drinking coffee. At the end of theday, caffeine can be addictive since many people end up “needing” that pick-me-up to function. There are also other negative effects of using too much caffeine, such as, anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, headaches, restlessness, irritable bowel syndrome and highblood pressure. Since caffeine has a different impact on different people, there is no specific time that can be given for the person to feel its negative impactonce ingested. It is important here to note that caffeine intolerance is classified as an intolerance and not an allergy, mainly because people are affected differently, some are more sensitive while in others the effects of caffeine take time.
Generally speaking, taking anywhere between two to five cups of coffee per day is fine, but again, it could be far too much for some individuals who are caffeine sensitive. There are also three classifications of caffeine sensitivity. Hypersensitive, Normal and Hyposensitive to caffeine.
Hypersensitive to Caffeine
The first are those whose body reacts to small amounts of caffeine (100mg or less). This group of people is known as being hypersensitive to caffeine, which means an overdose could easily lead to jitters or an above normal heartrate.
Normal Sensitivity to Caffeine
Normal sensitivity to caffeine means those who use 200mg to 400 mg of caffeine per day without their bodies reacting negatively to their caffeine intake. This group of people has no trouble sleeping at night, as long as the caffeine was not consumed later on in the day.
Hyposensitive to Caffeine
It is estimated that around 10% of humans are hyposensitive to caffeine. This means that their bodies are able to efficiently process caffeine without trouble. This group of people is also prone to using much more caffeine during the day, but still experiences none of the negative side effects that the other two groups experience.
Those who are hypersensitive to caffeine need to stay clear from caffeinated drinks and supplements. Moreover, people need to evaluate their need for using products containing caffeine. For instance, if you find that you are hypersensitive to caffeine and you want to use a caffeinated supplement for losing weight, it’s not going to do you much good since your body will be reacting negatively to the caffeine. In people who are hypersensitive to caffeine using these supplements could lead to side effects such as lightheadedness, irregular heartbeat or jitters.
So, at the end of the day, does caffeine work for weight loss or not? Apart from the sudden boost in your blood pressure and heart rate, caffeine also has another effect on the body. Caffeine can increase the metabolic rate, suppressing appetite, while at the same time increasing adrenaline levels, signaling the body to breakdown and burn fat tissue for energy. While the effects of caffeine on weight loss are modest at best, using it can be beneficial if it is paired up with a healthy diet and exercise routine.