Caffeine is the most commonly used psychoactive drug in the world
The active ingredient in coffee is caffeine which is a naturally-occurring, bitter, white, crystalline alkaloid. Alkaloids are compounds that have a lot of nitrogen such as morphine, cocaine, and nicotine.
According to National Institute on Drug Abuse, nine out of ten people in the U.S. get their caffeine through coffee, tea, weight-loss pills, sodas, chocolate, energy drinks or supplements. Unlike other psychoactive drugs, though, caffeine is largely unregulated.
Caffeine has some great effects on your body. Caffeine blocks adenosine in your brain which is the hormone that causes you to feel tired. Adenosine builds up in the brain throughout the day, and when it reaches a certain concentration, you start to feel tired. It’s your brain’s way of telling you that it’s nappy time.
Sleeping will clear adenosine from the brain naturally. If you nap for longer than 15 or 20 minutes, your brain is more likely to enter deeper stages of sleep that take some time to recover from. But shorter naps generally don’t lead to “sleep inertia” — and it takes around 20 minutes for the caffeine to get through your gastrointestinal tract and bloodstream anyway. So, if you nap for those 20 minutes, you’ll reduce your levels of adenosine just in time for the caffeine to kick in. That’s the reason you feel a lot better and fresher from your 20 minutes’ nap.
Caffeine also tells your brain to release natural stimulants like glutamine and dopamine. These hormones help to boost your mood and generate sense of euphoria, much like cocaine.
Normally, your body burns its main source of glycogen first and then it burns fat. Caffeine disrupts this process by telling the body to burn fat earlier and preserve your glycogen store for later. That’s why your body can work harder without feeling like it is making caffeine the most common performance-enhancing drug used in sport.
If you’re little tired, studies have shown that caffeine will improve focus by enhancing reaction time and memory recall. If you are not feeling well, caffeine can fix that too. It speeds up the body’s ability to absorb aspirin and acetaminophen, making them work faster and last longer.
But, it’s not all good news. Do you ever realize the more coffee you drink, the more you need it? That’s your body building up a tolerance. With each cup, your body produces more receptor for adenosine. As a result, you need more caffeine to block those receptors in order to feel energized. Also, you produce more stomach acid after consuming caffeine which can lead to heartburn. Too much caffeine and you’re likely to start feeling anxious. That anxiety comes from the adrenaline your body releases when caffeine excites the brain cells. Over time, you can even develop a caffeine addiction. Quitting cold turkey can cause withdrawal symptoms like headaches and fatigue.
Most healthy adults safely can take 400 milligrams of caffeine which is equivalent of roughly four cups of coffee. Pregnant women and people taking certain antibiotics should avoid it or limit their intake. For adolescents, the suggested daily intake is much lower, 100 milligrams. That’s not a lot if you compare it with a single shot of 200 milligrams energy drink. Red Bull has about eighty. A 12-ounce can of Coke has thirty-four.
Caffeine also has a long shelf life in the body. It can take over four hours for just half of the caffeine to wear off. So, you might want to reconsider that afternoon cup of joe.