Coffee doesn't actually give you energy; how to maximize the benefits of coffee


How to Enjoy the Benefits of Coffee without the Anxiety

Coffee for most people (including most of us on the PYM team!) isn’t just a drink that gives us an easy energy boost, it’s a way of life, and it’s very difficult to think about managing our days or to-do lists without it.

But does caffeine actually give you energy?

We hate to burst your bubble tea, but caffeine doesn’t actually give you energy, it tricks your brain into thinking you’re not tired. And this comes at a cost.

Now, this article is not to convince you to stop drinking your beloved coffee, don’t worry! There’s substantial evidence that coffee is incredibly good for your health and extends your life.

According to a meta-analysis of 127 studies, drinking coffee:

  • Reduces your risk of cancer up to 20%
  • Reduces your risk of heart disease by 5%
  • Reduces your risk of Type 2 diabetes by 30% and
  • Reduces your risk of Parkinson’s disease by 30%

It’s worth noting that if you’re more of a green or black tea drinker, the same benefits apply!

All that being said, caffeine CAN have more negative effects than positive if you aren’t drinking it the right way.

So in this article we’re diving into what caffeine actually does to your brain and body, evidence-based ways to drink your coffee to increase positive outcomes and decrease negative outcomes, and what else you can do to naturally increase your energy.

This is your brain on caffeine

First we need to understand a little-known neurotransmitter, adenosine. 

Occurring naturally in the brain, adenosine is an "inhibitory neurotransmitter" that puts the brakes on other neurotransmitters that have stimulant effects (like cortisol and adrenaline) and helps regulate our sleep-wake cycle.

Essentially, adenosine builds up as you're awake and attaches to its receptors on brain cells later in the day (and through the night) to slow them down, making you feel sleepy. 

Caffeine shares a very similar molecular structure to adenosine. So when you drink your cup of coffee, tea or soda, caffeine enters your blood stream and heads to your brain, where it locks in to the adenosine receptors and blocks adenosine from coming in.

This means excitatory neurotransmitters like cortisol and adrenaline can have a free-for-all in your brain because there's nothing to blunt them. This is why you may get the jitters or anxiety when drinking too much caffeine, and it's also the reason why we feel more "energized" when drinking caffeine.

It's not really energy though

In the case of nutrition, where calories define metabolic energy, caffeine doesn't provide that type of energy at all. Despite what it may feel like, consuming caffeine does not increase cellular energy production or provide fuel (i.e., protein, fats, carbohydrates) for muscles to perform.

What does actually help boost cellular energy production is methylated B complex vitamins, like our Mood B Complete. 

Methylated B vitamins help the body break down the food you eat and turn it into actual energy. They also help reduce stress, balance moods, regulate the nervous system, and boost the immune system.

PS: It's worth noting that caffeine decreases absorption of nutrients, so give yourself a buffer of a few hours between taking Mood B Complete and drinking caffeine.

Why you get an afternoon crash after drinking caffeine

Even though caffeine is temporarily blocking adenosine from its receptors, adenosine is still accumulating throughout the day.

Eventually, the caffeine molecules fall away from the receptors and the accumulated amount of adenosine swoops in all at once, giving you that sleepy crash.

This crash may also come as a result of a blood sugar crash, depending on whether or not you're eating food with your caffeine, and what kind of food (we'll get into this more soon!).

How to drink your coffee for maximum benefits and reduced side effects

Whether your coffee becomes a health risk or a health benefit comes down to when you drink it, and what you drink it with.

When to drink caffeine

You want to time it so that you're drinking caffeine when your cortisol levels are lower, to avoid side effects like jitters, agitation, and anxiousness. This can vary from person to person, based on your unique circadian rhythm.

For the average person who wakes up at 6:30am, your cortisol levels peak at:

  • 8-9am
  • noon-1pm and
  • 5:30-6:30pm

The ideal time to drink caffeine for the person who wakes up at 6:30am then, is between 9:30 and 11:30am. If this isn't your schedule, basically give yourself three hours after you wake up before consuming caffeine.

Because caffeine can remain in your system for up to 12 hours, it is wise to avoid drinking caffeine past this time so it doesn't interfere with your sleep.

For women, caffeine metabolizes even more slowly in the body, so it's especially important to not drink caffeine later in the day if you don't want it to affect your sleep.

What to drink with caffeine

Drinking caffeine on an empty stomach can lead to some negative outcomes, such as:

  • Digestive issues: The bitterness of coffee may promote the secretion of stomach acids which irritates the gut lining and leads to symptoms like IBS, bloating, acid reflux and more 
  • Blood Sugar Dysregulation: Coffee consumption first thing in the morning may have a detrimental impact on blood sugar regulation, according to researchers from the University of Bath in the United Kingdom
  • Mood Swings: Due to the high cortisol levels, coffee on an empty stomach can lead to stress, jitters, anxiousness and irritability

To protect yourself from these negative side effects, have a balanced breakfast complete with a protein, carbohydrate and fat before drinking caffeine. For example, 2 scrambled eggs with a slice of sourdough bread toast and a bit of avocado.

Many people often eat just carbs with their coffee, like a bagel or a muffin. This will cause your blood sugar to spike and lead to blood sugar dysregulation.

If you're really in a rush, at the very least, include some coconut milk or regular, whole fat milk in your coffee (but don't make a habit of it!).

And there you have it. Now you can enjoy your caffeine, and drink it too!