What does caffeine do to the body tracy malone
What does Caffeine do to the Body? by Dr. Tracy Malone, B.Sc., N.D
Caffeine consumption in its various forms has increased significantly in our culture. Lattes, macchiato,
cappuccino, caffeinated energy drinks the list goes on and on. It has become a comfortable social habit
for us to have a nice little caffeine buzz to carry us through our over scheduled days. I was a little
shocked the other day when I was waiting for a friend at a local star bucks when a fleet of 12-16 year olds
from a local secondary school streamed in and ordered frozen cappuccino’s and coffee drinks,
commenting on how ’starving’ they were, as they devoured their pastries.
The two area’s of major concern with this dietary practice is that caffeine alters your bodies release of
catecholamine’s like adrenaline which influence both your insulin release, but also your muscles ability to
respond to the insulin released. This essentially spells out glucose or carbohydrate metabolism
impairment, which can have significant impact on the types of food you crave and choose to eat.
Your morning coffee is also an appetite suppressant and can encourage you to push off breakfast for
longer than you should. This creates a state of hypoglycemia which causes physiological stress. This
practice wil also encourage you to binge eat high glycemic foods that contain refined sugar, later in the
day when you get ‘too hungry” and just “have” to eat something.
We like our caffeine because it makes us more mentally alert, and increases reaction time. This would
explain its effects as well on athletic performance. However the ‘fight or flight’ reaction that occurs in with
the adrenaline rush of caffeine consumption, occurring over and over can cause an individual to suffer
unnecessary levels of ‘stress’ related hormones. Over long periods of consumption I have clinically
witnessed this to cause depletion in natural energy levels, sleep disturbance, and anxiety. Caffeine
consumption can also contribute to osteoporosis, fibrocystic breasts, impaired glucose metabolism,
dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.
It is this point that would be most applicable to athletes, dehydration combined with impairment of your
lean muscle to take up glucose during a workout, effects not only the workout efficiency itself but also
delays muscle recovery time. Serious side effects are possible when caffeine is combined with certain
drugs. For example, taking caffeine with the decongestant phenylpropanolamine can raise blood
pressure. Very serious heart problems may occur if caffeine and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO)
are taken together. Coffee also acts as a diuretic, increasing urine production by as much as 30 per cent,
so caution must be observed in athletes that sweat excessively or train in intense heat to avoid
As far as athletic performance is concerned: temporary benefits of caffeine include: increased alertness
and reaction time, and delayed onset of perceived fatigue. Dietary considerations for regular caffeine
users include eating a healthy mineral rich diet (Ca, Mg, and K+), frequency of meals, glycemic index of
carbohydrates and maintaining hydration levels are important things to keep in mind.
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