Scientifically speaking caffeine is a drug, but for many reasons it may be the best drug to get addicted to. Millions of people across the globe use caffeine as a pick-me-up drug. Not only in coffee but in energy drinks, chocolate, caffeine gum and soda.
What Happens when Caffeine Enters the Body
When caffeine enters the body it breaks up into three similar yet different molecules which each have a different effect on your body. Theobromine increases oxygen and nutrient flow to the brain; Paraxanthine increases the rate of fat breakdown fueling muscle activity and thus enhancing your physical ability and Theophylline increases your heart rate and helps you concentrate. The combined effect is to make you wide awake.
Caffeine has a similar shape to adenosine, a natural chemical in our brains. Adenosine’s job is to slow down nerve activity and give our bodies the message to calm down by regulating neurotransmitters like dopamine. Adenosine would normally bind with adenosine receptors to make you feel drowsy. Caffeine mimics adenosine prohibiting the adenosine receptors from doing their job and binds with the receptors instead of the adenosine. This increases the activity in neurotransmitters like dopamine and ultimately heightens brain activity giving you energy.
Scientific Facts about Caffeine
In moderate doses caffeine can be good for you, it increases alertness. However if we have too much caffeine it reduces our fine motor coordination, causes insomnia, headaches, nervousness and dizziness. If you drank 80 cups of coffee in succession it could be lethal.
When you wake up your body is already flooded with a natural chemical called cortisol that makes you want to wake up and be alert. So you don’t actually need that first morning cup of coffee you could wait until later in the day for your first caffeine hit.
It takes only 10 minutes for caffeine to affect your body after you drink your coffee/energy drink/tea and it reaches its maximum effect after 45 minutes. Depending on your body you could still be feeling the effects of caffeine 3-5 hours after you have drunk your coffee.
Bees also love caffeine. Some flowers have low levels of caffeine which get the bees hooked and coming back for more. The caffeine no doubt gives the bees a buzz!
Your brain is a very clever organ and soon learns to adapt creating more adenosine receptors. This means that over time you would feel the need for more caffeine to have the same effect – just like a drug addict’s need increases. With the increased need to get your “fix” the body can have withdrawal symptoms and a need to stimulate your nervous system with another cup of coffee. The most prominent symptom of caffeine withdrawal is depression.
Scientists have found that the ideal amount of caffeine intake per day to give you the benefits but not the negative effects is the equivalent to 3 cups of coffee or 5 Red Bulls or 8 cups of black tea. And one last interesting scientific fact about caffeine – did you know scientists are the biggest coffee drinkers!