Ah, coffee…. I try to imagine how different my life would be without caffeine. I don’t think I like it. But in all seriousness, caffeine plays an important role in many people’s daily routine. I remember consuming coffee for the first time when I went to college. To be honest, I remember thinking that it didn’t seem to be doing much to lift the tired fog from my mind. But then again, I also had blood sugars to contend with AND the college’s cafeteria coffee was mostly brown and water. So, there’s that…
More than half a decade would pass and energy drinks had become a new trend, although I had never tried them. Then one day, a Red Bull representative came knocking (not literally) while I was managing a big box pharmacy. The company had agreed to provide some shelf facings for the product to be displayed and the rep wanted to offer me a sample so that I would be able to speak to the product’s quality, flavour and effectiveness. When I mentioned I had Type-1 Diabetes, he surprised me by offering me a can of sugar-free Red Bull. It was all down hill from there…
Over the years, caffeine has played an integral role in my effectiveness in karate, work and even my personal life. I’ll admit there are a few times I may not have made it home if I hadn’t downed a cup of coffee before getting behind the wheel. For the past 20 years or so, I’ve had a roller coaster relationship with caffeine, often trying to quit at the most inopportune times (like taking a course or travelling for long distances). So, what is the good, the bad and the ugly of coffee?
According to an article by Healthline.com, caffeine actually works due to its effect on the brain. It “functions by blocking the effects of adenosine, which is a neurotransmitter that relaxes the brain and makes you feel tired.” Well… f$%k me…. Here, I thought it just jacked up one’s heart rate, causing increased blood flow, which makes you more alert. See, even an old dog like me can learn new tricks. Moving on…
Caffeine can kick in quickly with the average cup of coffee often taking only about 20 minutes to kick in. Another article by Healthline.com lists a number of benefits related to caffeine consumption, including but not limited to improved energy and reaction times, weight loss, improved physical performance, protections from certain health conditions (including Type-2 Diabetes) and coffee just happens to be very high in antioxidants, making it the ideal beverage to consume on a daily basis.
You’re probably thinking, “Alright, Shawn…. What’s the other side of the coin? You never list all the benefits of something without listing what’s bad…”. Well first of all, thank you for paying attention. I love that shit. Secondly, according to the Mayo Clinic, “Up to 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine a day appears to be safe for most healthy adults. That’s roughly the amount of caffeine in four cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of cola or two “energy shot” drinks.” Bear in mind that exact amounts vary from drink to drink and the key words are “most” and “healthy.” But we’ll get to that…
Drinking more than what’s basically indicated in the article can lead to side effects including but not limited to:
– Frequent urination;
– Fast heartbeat; and
– Muscle tremors.
I don’t know about you, but none of those sound like a spa treatment. Not least of which is the fact that caffeine can be addicting. You start by consuming a cup in the morning before work and months later, you’re downing a full POT while getting ready for work, then grab an extra large through the drive-thru on your way to work, followed by more coffee during coffee break. And that’s all before 10 am…. I may or may not be speaking from experience.
For the most part, energy drinks have become my go-to caffeinated drink and have been for the past few years. This is for a number of reasons, including the fact that it’s cold and I can get it down my gullet way faster than a hot coffee. there’s also a slightly higher caffeine content than your average cup of coffee, which can help when you’ve spent had the night up due to your insulin pump or fluctuating blood sugars keeping you up. There’s also the fact that energy drinks usually carry a whole bunch of extra stuff on board, like increased B vitamins and minerals.
The down side is that depending on the energy drink, you can find yourself consuming ingredients that could affect blood sugar levels. Further, besides making your urine a weird fluorescent colour, you start getting addicted and needing the additional stuff you get out of energy drinks. So, it’s important to mindful. Why is this important? Well, I usually only allow myself the luxury of energy drinks because I get them on special at my local corner store for cheaper than a cup of coffee. Otherwise, cheap, stubborn Shawn won’t buy them. Last Thursday, I went into the store and noticed they weren’t on special so I didn’t buy any. It’s been a few days. I fear for society’s well-being…
Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with caffeine consumption, provided you don’t take in more than what’s recommended and safe for you and that the side effects don’t outweigh the benefits. If you find yourself experiencing some of the side effects listed above, it may be a sign that you need to cut back. We’ll see how long I hold out without my daily energy drink. Just one more vice to work on…☯️