Ahh! The good old cup of joe. But wait, isn’t caffeine supposed to be bad for you? Lets set the record straight and end your caffeinated guilt for good.
Did you know that moderately high caffeine intake can get an Olympic athlete stripped of their medals and thrown out of the Olympic games in disgrace? Yes, it is true, and for good reason. Only 300mg of caffeine (3 six once cups of coffee) is proven to:
- Increase your strength by 7%
- Increase your endurance by 20%
- Significantly reduce your chances of making mistakes when fatigued
- Speed up reaction time and improve short term memory
All of which can mean the difference between fame and fortune and “what was her name again?” The same ban holds true for the Tour De France. One french cycling team was ejected from The Tour for getting caught with 1500mg caffeine suppositories. A 1500mg caffeine suppository is the equivalent to downing 12-15 cups of brewed coffee all at once!
The world’s drug of choice is not only good for the pros, it is good for your workouts. Caffeine’s effects make exercise feel easier, and therefore more fun! This taps into the number one behavior change law of the universe – we do what makes us feel good. Caffeine will also make you go longer and perform better. This taps into the number two behavior change law of universe – we do what we are good at.
But the world’s drug of choice is not only good for your workouts, it is good for your health:
- Harvard researchers have proven that men who drink 4 cups of caffeinated coffee daily are half as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease. Other studies have indicated that coffee drinkers are 80% less likely to develop Parkinson’s, with some indicating that the more they drank the better the odds.
- Harvard researchers have also proven that 5 cups of coffee a day can slash your risk of developing diabetes in half! You do know, however, that I am not referring to a carmel frap-o-latta, right?
- Researchers from Brooklyn College have shown that men who drank 4 cups of caffeinated coffee daily cut their risk of heart disease by 53 percent compared to the non caffeine group
- Other studies indicated that coffee drinkers have 25% less risk of colon cancer plus an 80% drop in the risk for liver cirrhosis
- Italian researches have found that coffee intake can help reduce dental cavities from being formed
- Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition in March 2006 indicate that moderate caffeine intake of 300-400mg shows little evidence of health risk.
Caffeine is Not for Everyone
While caffeine may be good for you, excess caffeine is certainly not, and for some caffeine is not advised at all. Pregnant women, heart patients, people with high blood pressure, children, the elderly, and those at risk for osteoporosis may be advised to avoid caffeine. If that means you, check with your doc first.
Caffeine affects us all a bit differently. Some people can just look at coffee, start jittering and not sleep that night. Others can do a triple speedball espresso with five packets of sugar right before bed and have no trouble falling asleep (they will not sleep well, however). In my experience, the number one reason most men have trouble sleeping well is far too much caffeine throughout the day, but especially late in the day. While poor or no sleep can be a serious side effect, the worst gotcha with caffeine is that it can over stimulate your stress response. If you are a high stress person, be careful that caffeine is not making your stress worse. Caffeine allows you to push yourself beyond your normal limits, which can be a good thing if you are under deadline or on the starting line, but if that is your status quo, then cranky, fat and no fun is your future. Even those who are not highly stressed (yes, there are a few), will get cranky with too much caffeine, so be careful. But Andy, how much is too much? Well, it depends.
If you exhibit any of the following symptoms, then ease back the caffeine or cut it out completely; insomnia, tremors/jittery, nausea, vomiting, chest pains, and heart palpitations. Be sure, however, that it is due to your caffeine intake and not something else. As I am usually the morning Keynote speaker after a Casino night or similar party, many in my audiences are having those symptoms before they even hit the coffee bar!
Speaking of the good, bad and the hung over, next on the chopping block for this blog is on how alcohol can fit into a high performers diet, and it is NOT two glasses of wine a night!
The Bottom Line
300-400mg of caffeine a day has been shown to significantly increase performance and health. Do you have to use caffeine? Of course not, but if you do be careful with the amount, keep up with your water and your other healthy habits, and caffeine will not abuse you.
A Game Plan
Here is how I use caffeine to be at my best when I need it most, as well as maximize my caffeine endurance (how long the effects last):
- Morning coffee: 12 ounces. This helps me hit the office running, but also saves a little for overcoming the post lunch lull.
- Post lunch re-boost: either 6-8 ounces of coffee or 24 ounces of ice brewed green tea (same caffeine content).
This keeps me in the caffeine sweet spot of around 300-400mg a day. Through experimentation, I have also found this amount will not turn me into the cranky caffeine guy by the end of the day… if I keep up with my water, healthy snacks and exercise.
So, the next time a health expert tells you coffee or caffeine is bad for you, suggest they grab a cup of joe, sit down, and re-read the research!
Andy also wrote the book Change Your Day, Not Your Life, a guide to sustained motivation and more productivity.
See Andy's speaking schedule for an event near you.
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