I know there are a great many of you who are coffee lovers, as well as soda or energy drink lovers. For most of us, giving up or limiting any of these are like throwing the baby out with the bathwater; we’re throwing something good away when trying to eliminate something bad.
For most of us these drinks are that essential crutch between making it through the day or crashing. It’s probably nice to know that I am not going to be asking you to cut out all caffeine, well not coffee. Energy drinks and soda are a different thing, so let’s talk about coffee first.
The subject of coffee and caffeine is one that I often have to tread carefully with with so many women, because firstly they are often petrified that I am going to ask them to cut it out entirely.
Caffeine is not all bad, it has some great qualities and benefits. What happens is less positive effects occur dependant on how often we drink it, how late in the day we have it, what we add to it, why we are having it and the length of time we spending drinking it.
Coffee has been shown to increase blood flow to the brain which does support cognitive function, and can improve your exercise performance. As well as these, a good quality coffee can have large amounts of antioxidants in it. These are all dependant, of course, on you as an individual and also the lifestyle that you lead.
So why is that one of the “Red food focus” is to decrease the amount of coffee you drink?
Many of you may be on this challenge because you want to lose weight, or, you want to get back into being fit, strong and healthy, with better energy levels or weight management. When it comes to all of these elements, it really does just boil down to managing what your hormones and systems are doing. Coffee affects your hormone and systems in different ways.
- Coffee elevates our stress hormone. Too much stress hormone in our system and our body starts to deposit body fat around the tummy area.
- Coffee also stimulates our fight or flight mode, which is why we get the jitters and feel more ‘alert’.
- This fight or flight system (otherwise known as your sympathetic nervous system) decreases digestion and increases heart rate and blood pressure. Too much of this is not beneficial to our body or our goals.
- You have another system called your parasympathetic nervous system which stimulates rest and relaxation, which actually switches digestion on.
The fight or flight system, promotes the ability for us to be active, we use it when we go to work, travel, talk, watch TV and so on. Coffee stimulates our fight or flight system so it can help us feel more alert and awake for this reason. However, the difficulties come when we are looking for results such as weight loss, fat loss, energy balance and better sleep. For all of these we need a good balance between our fight and flight system and our rest and relaxation system. Most of us nowadays run quite high into our fight or flight system, which again, minimises digestion (which we need), and increases the stress hormone (which can increase the deposit of body fat around the tummy area). Things such as work, watching TV, travelling, eating and exercising stimulates our fight or flight system, which is fine. But, rarely do we get down time, even 10 minutes where we simply have some relaxation time. Having this down time can support your body fat levels, energy and improve your digestion.
It is very difficult to fight your bodies own mechanism that are is it’s survival tool
If you are looking for weight management, loss, fat loss, energy balance or even better sleep then there are a few things to possibly think about with your nutrition, one being caffeine intake and regularity. It doesn’t mean take it out altogether, but simply to try to work on it so that you rely on it less.
Here are a few tips to think about and why…
Work with how late you decide to drink it
Most of us are chasing energy, for work, working out, relationships, just generally being happy and confident. Caffeine can have a life of between 9-12 hours, meaning it can stay in your system for this length of time. A big part of your energy battle is balancing your hormones. Later in the evening around 10:30 pm you want your body’s melatonin and human growth hormone to increase. These are your rest, repair and relaxation hormones. Melatonin cannot and will not elevate if there are high levels of cortisol in your system (remember caffeine elevates cortisol). Think of it like a light switch, either it’s on or off, and the same goes for these two hormones, one is off when one is on. So, drinking caffeine past 1-2pm isn’t a smart move to help those rest, repair and relaxation hormones elevate later on in the evening.
Work with when you drink it
Often we want coffee first thing in the morning and most of us want it again at around 1:30/2pm. Technically, early morning is when your cortisol levels should be higher, when you should feel awake, but for those of us who are chronically fatigued, this can be a time of day your levels are lower than they should be. Try switching to matcha green tea which has strong anti-oxidants and also contains caffeine but in a more natural and beneficial way. Then around 11am have a coffee, which will give your body that kick mid afternoon when generally everyone’s cortisol levels begin to lower. Drinking a caffeinated coffee at the time we desperately need it is more psychological than physiological. Drinking it slightly before you desperately need it will allow it to be digested and for the effects lead in in time to work.
Manage what you have in your coffee
You know this one, so I don’t really need to tell you. Energy balance and weight management rely on your blood sugar levels, if you are spooning in the sugar to your coffee this will impact your blood sugar levels and play havoc for your energy and weight loss. So, curb out the sugar. A bullet proof coffee might be your way out as it contains coconut oil and grass fed butter, both of which make the coffee sweet tasting but instead of sugars, your body is taking in good sources of fats.
So, just to go over your food focus for this one.
- Try not to drink you caffeine drink post 12-2pm.
- Try and drink it around 11am – use another drink in the morning to help you through, and start to allow your body to use it’s own cortisol levels to keep you awake. If you’re really struggling switch to matcha green tea on a morning. We have a few recipes below for this, it does take a bit of getting used to but you get used to it very quickly.
- If you ARE having these drinks and been having quite a few things in your drink such as sugar, manage what you have, try to decrease these as this will help with your blood sugar management system and ultimately energy and fat loss.
- Try and have good quality coffee when you do have it.
- If you are trying to decrease soda and energy drinks, be kind to yourself, you will miss them, but again, try and swap it out for something like matcha green tea or there are some really good herbal teas below (don’t turn your nose up at “them” – you will get used to them!)
Just to finish here are some stats for energy drinks and caffeine…
- Pepsi zero sugar 600ml bottle has 155ml caffeine, which is the same as a Nespresso Kazaar capsule.
- Energy drinks can have double this amount of caffeine, almost the same or stronger than the strongest coffee.