Caffeine, caped crusader or crucible of corruption?


Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant chemically similar to adenosine. Which sounds very fancy, but what does that actually mean for you? Should you use it, drink it and consume it? 

For thousands of years humanity has used caffeine to enhance cognitive acuity, prevent drowsiness, hold off sleep and also medicinally both in ancient and modern medicine. Which is great, but there's drawbacks like any drug, especially addictive ones. There's also a hero worship culture with caffeine, it's often misappropriated with benefits it doesn't have. Can a coffee sober you up? Well actually no, studies show it can actually make you worse, you can be more inebriated with a combination of caffeine and alcohol, further it's shown that alcohol will reduce the beneficial effects of caffeine but caffeine will not reduce the negative effects of alcohol. You're still drunk, just a jittery drunk. 

In fact, in a study which compared multiple legal and illegal drugs, caffeine repeatedly fared badly in comparison when looking at benefits such as alertness, cognitive reasoning, and creativity. But, it did still increase alertness, cognitive reasoning as well as many other conditions, just not for as long and as much as was thought. 

Now that all sounds negative but caffeine does have some redeeming qualities other than the above mentioned, caffeine is used in the treatment and prevention of respiratory illness in neonatal medicine and pediatrics, my own premature son was treated with caffeine for Bronchopulmonary dysplasia and I would like to think he's strong and healthy now in some way because of it. But we aren't children and you want me to help justify your addiction. 

As stated above caffeine is chemically similar to to adenosine, this is a chemical that is naturally produced in your body throughout the day and it's ONE of the reasons you can drift off to sleep, it's why you slowly wind down through the evening, adenosine makes you sleepy as it binds on to your adenosine receptors. It's a part of the extremely complicated sleep cycle and process. Whilst you sleep your adenosine levels reduce and you wake up feeling as fresh as a daisy. 

Although you don't do you? You wake up feeling groggy. That in itself may have something to do with caffeine, caffeine can also bind to adenosine receptors and block them, preventing adenosine from doing its thing, this keeps you alert for longer until the caffeine is metabolized by your body. It wont keep sleep at bay forever, in fact it's common that as soon as caffeine is removed from your system the adenosine will fill all those gaps, causing the overwhelming urge to sleep. In turn when you wake up, due to the sleep process and the interruption caused by caffeine your body has not processed all of the adenosine, so you wake up groggy and then you go and get some coffee. 

Caffeine when used as a tool correctly can keep you alert temporarily but not without a sacrifice. 

That’s not what you wanted to hear, so let's talk about its performance enhancing effects, 

Caffeine makes you stronger for short periods of time. That's actual proven science. Multiple studies into athletes have shown that it can delay muscle fatigue, increase the basal metabolic rate and increase performance in anaerobic and aerobic trials. Now that's better. 

A recent American study has shown that people who drink coffee on some days and abstain on others walked on average 1000 more steps per day on the days when they drank coffee, but slept 30 minutes more on the days that they didn't.

So now we know, caffeine won't make you sober, will increase alertness and focus temporarily, will mess up your sleep but may make you last a little longer and go a little faster. Friend of foe the choice is yours.