Do you know how Caffeine works?

Over 90% of the adults in the western world consume caffeine every day.

Coffee consumption is a huge contributor to this statistic. In fact, Australians alone are able to fill an olympic size swimming pool with coffee pods every week. Whether it be for habit, for social reasons, for an energy boost or athletic performance were swimming in coffee. However I believe about only 5% of adults in western society actually know the physiological effects caffeine has when it enters our system. To make it clear I am neither against or for the consumption of caffeine but merely want people to realise what it does when it enters the body.

If you asked an athlete what their percentage intake of macronutrients was or how many kilometres they rode or ran last week I bet they could tell you. Yet many of us have no idea how caffeine works in the body. If we are ingesting this into our body everyday, and I’m sure if you’re reading this you have a lot of self care for your health, why don’t we know this?

How caffeine goes down to get us up!

Caffeine stimulates the pituitary gland to send a signal to the adrenal glands to release adrenalin. Adrenalin tells every cell in your body that your life is in danger, activating your Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) or also known as our ‘fight or flight’ system.

Adrenalin communicates to your body that you are NOT safe, as biochemically in Paleolithic times the only time we produced adrenalin was when we were under attack from another tribe or a tiger had just jumped out of the jungle at us.

We are wired with century old technology and our system hasn’t caught up to contemporary times. Our bodies cant decipher that we are producing adrenalin simply because we just had our morning coffee or that we pressed snooze on our alarm clock and we are running around frantically trying to get to training on time. No, our automatic nervous system is not linked to our conscious mind and so our bodies only answer to the production of adrenalin is that our life must be in danger.

Adrenalin is what causes your heart to beat faster, your core temperature to rise, the down regulation of non-vital functions such as reproductive hormones, digestion, repair and immunity and additional blood is diverted away from vital organ and directed to our peripheral limbs, tensing ready for action. It is the stimulation of adrenalin secretion which makes caffeine prominent and beneficial in most sports gels, foods and drinks allowing for the enhanced availability of glucose (the molecule required to make energy in the human body) to the working muscles.

However repeatedly placing such demand on your adrenals to secrete adrenalin can place a massive stress on your body. If you’re an athlete you will induce adrenalin secretion when you train, if you have a stressful job, rush around or worry about things and lastly if you consume caffeine. Can you imagine if you are living with most hours of everyday telling your body you are under attack. This type of stress has its toll.

Although I just went on a rant of what seemed like all the bad things caffeine and its secretion of adrenalin can do to you, coffee catchups can be a great social occasion and soul soothing drink for many, as well as its role in mediating metabolic stimulation. If you live a calm and fairly stress free life where your parasympathetic nervous system (our rest and repair system) and sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight system) are balanced, a cup of coffee a day is likely to do no harm.

Be real with yourself in why you drink or eat caffeinated foods and drinks. Does it truly nourish your soul and has no real impact on your system, or do you rely on caffeine to get you through everyday. I have personally experienced the effects off too much adrenal stress (which was not solely due to caffeine consumption but multiple factors) and its a messy journey. Perhaps try swimming in purer liquid sometimes.


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The Furious Gazelle

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An American in Quirky Johannesburg


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