As a final year medical student, online coach, fitness blogger and relatively social human being, I’ve developed what I always thought was an unhealthy relationship with coffee. When my alarm goes off, the thing that gets my sleepy body out of bed is knowing my Nespresso machine is there to wake me up (if only George Clooney came with it!). I have a coffee whilst getting ready for the day, maybe one in the car and definitely one when I get into clinic…before I know it I can easily have had 4-5 per day and until now, I’ve always felt slightly guilty about this quite apparent addiction.
However, it seems the stars have aligned and someone is watching over me because as I sat down in my break with a frothy cup of steaming hot coffee yesterday, I stumbled across an article that immediately had my eyes wider than the caffeine in my cup. The article was reporting a study published in the highly regarded British Medical Journal (BMJ) which looked at the health benefits of coffee. In terms of levels of evidence, it was an umbrella review of studies looking at the association of coffee to different health outcomes.
Before the green tea enthusiasts pipe up, I will add that this study looked at coffee not caffeine.
The outcomes they looked at was the association of coffee on different diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and liver disease. The results showed a significant reduction in these events and the benefits increased with every extra cup compared to no coffee.
Seen as though I like to analyse what I put in my body, I thought I’d sum up the benefits and downsides of my beloved coffee for you!
Always good to start with the positives as I’m a ‘cup half full’ kinda gal (no pun intended).
1. Coffee contains antioxidants which help fight against toxins and harmful molecules produced in our bodies called free radicals, reducing inflammation and cell damage.
2. Coffee can help boost energy levels which increases mental and physical performance (although I’m not saying this should ever be used instead of sleep!) Caffeine can increase adrenaline in your body switching on the ‘fight or flight’ mode, helping you power through that essay, revision session or long shift at work!
3. It’s a good pre-workout, and in my opinion, often better than some of the chemical-laden pre-workouts you can buy from supplement companies, that are usually filled with sweeteners and chemicals that your Nan can’t pronounce.
4. Coffee can boost your metabolism. The ingredient caffeine can boost your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) to help you burn your stores of body fat when resting and when working out! More studies are required to see if caffeine has a place in weight-loss regimes.
5. Recent studies such as the article in the BMJ mentioned and others such as Annals of Internal Medicine show positive associations between coffee and health outcomes including all-cause mortality, cancer, liver disease and diabetes (NOTE: these positives are not applicable to pregnant women and negative effects on antenatal outcomes were reported).
1. It can be an addictive substance. I am living proof of that. If I forget to have a coffee on a Saturday morning, or have one later in the day, I genuinely get symptoms of withdrawal such as the dreaded ‘weekend headache’.
2. Excessive coffee can raise the stress chemical in your body cortisol – even if you don’t feel stressed! Doesn’t seem fair does it? that a drink that’s causing you happiness can be telling your body different things. Conversely to raising BMR and burning fat, excessive cortisol can prevent fat breakdown (lipolysis), cause anxiety and cause your heart to beat faster, which can be felt as palpitations.
3. Coffee can affect your ability to fall asleep, especially if you drink it too late in the day. I try not to drink coffee past 4pm.
4. Caffeine is a diuretic. That means it draws water out of your body and dehydrates you. Many people think having a cup of tea or coffee is having a drink, but it is advisable to drink a glass of water alongside every caffeinated drink to ensure good hydration (that includes fizzy caffeinated drinks!).
5. Too much coffee can unsettle your GI tract and have a laxative effect, making common conditions such as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) even worse. If you think you are particularly sensitive to caffeine, try keeping a diary of intake and see if it matches the timing of your symptoms. Additionally you could (try) cut it out for a few weeks and see if you see any improvement.
6. Your daily latte could be hindering your weight loss. A ‘skinny’ gingerbread latte can contain 28g of sugar – that’s 7 TEASPOONS of sugar. You wouldn’t dream of putting that in your coffee would you! That’s an extra 150 calories a lot of people don’t even think they are consuming. Remember liquid calories can often be the secret hindrance to your progress!
Hope you found this post useful!