Jul 16 , 2018

Many of us enjoy our daily cup of coffee. We like the flavour and the energy boost the Caffeine "lift" gives us. We know there are a few 'ups' and 'downs' and sometimes, when the caffeine has dissipated we feel a little tired. But what other effects does caffeine have on us that we may not immediately be aware of?

Why do we like it and admit to a daily fix or two? It stimulates the central nervous system and cardiac muscle, increasing the secretion of gastric acid. It relaxes the smooth muscle and acts as a diuretic.   Essentially Caffeine prolongs the activity of adrenaline, which is the hormone initiating the release of sugar into the blood.  The heart races, blood vessels dilate, blood pressure increases.  This provides a definite stimulus or "lift" experienced 15 minutes to an hour after ingestion, followed by a reversal or decline in stimulus within 3 hours.

The effects of Caffeine are numerous and generally overlooked, although it must be recognized that tolerance or reaction does vary with each individual. For example, a hangover effect in which mental efficiency having been improved, drops significantly below normal and can occur within 1 to 3 hours, may occur. A period of good stimulation can be followed by reduced concentration which may continue for hours until the caffeine is taken again.  Factors such as caffeine strength and body weight can affect the highs and lows duration of this.

Caffeine can also mask symptoms of fatigue caused by poor nutrition, vitamin or mineral deficiency.  In addition people may rarely experience constrictive pains about the heart, or loss of rhythm of the heart muscle (mild cardiac arrhythmia.)   

An example of a patient with bouts of extreme nervousness ascertained that when the patient was given a placebo and tea, followed sometime later by coffee ,  the pulse rate jumped from 70 to over 100 after the coffee had been given. Some reports have linked Caffeine with a disorder known as fibrocystic breast disease. This benign ailment is characterized by fibrous tissue and cyst fluid in the breasts. This is unproven but there are reports of breast pain relief when caffeine is elimated. 

It has been reported that by increasing the flow of blood plasma through the kidneys, Caffeine can cause a loss of "B" vitamins in the urine as well as causing other vitamins to be rapidly expounded through the system without being absorbed, heavy coffee drinkers frequently manifest "B" vitamin deficiency symptoms.  In acting as a diuretic. High intake of caffeine also forces potassium out of the body which may cause magnesium deficiency and associated muscular abnormalities, such as back pain or muscular twitching, e.g. cramps, also cardiac irregularities. But on the other side of the coin, caffeine does have anti-oxidant properties that have been said to lower rates of diabetes and, colon cancer. And it certainly helps people stay alert on the job or at work.

As far as the effect on athletic performance is concerned, Caffeine does have an ergogenic effect, particularly during endurance exercise.  Several experiments have shown that Caffeine will stimulate the utilisation of free fatty acids, resulting in a more prolonged energy supply for the muscles, reducing the body demand on precious muscle glycogen.  This has shown a delay in total exhaustion time of up to 20%.For sport  1-3 mg of caffeine per body weight ,or  70 -210mg in a 70kg person is the typical dose used.

However it should not be overlooked that stimulation of the central nervous system can produce unwanted side effects and this should be taken into account before taking Caffeine before or during an athletic event.

For competitive sport when nervousness and excitability predominate, and an increased flow of urine, as well as the other unpredictable side effects may cause discomfort, and could affect overall performance or recovery.  More advantage could be gained through taking a properly constituted electrolyte solution or carbohydrate pre-event loading solution, scientifically designed to adequately supply the correct nutritional demands of the body.

Additional supplementation using Caffeine in high potency has produced adverse effects, particularly among cyclists.  This has led to a ban on supplementation of Caffeine in certain international sports events or where drug tests are required. During a marathon I have monitored and seen heart rates spike to high risk levels with some competitors and would not recommend its use in drinks and squeezes.

Finally, it is as well to known that Caffeine may increase the occurrence of hypertension or detrimentally affect borderline cases manifesting this problem. Withdrawal symptoms have been experienced among heavy Caffeine users who suddenly gave up the habit.  This may occur for 2 - 3 weeks and can be extremely difficult mentally as well as physically, but certainly is evidence of the significant chemical dependence by the body on CAFFEINE. It is better to progressively reduce the amount and frequency over a month and users revert to dandelion Tea as the nearest taste equivalent

Taken in moderation Caffeine may be acceptable, but overuse will be determined by each individual daily body reaction.  It could make your day or your event, or ruin it!