Depending on whom you consider an authority, coffee is either a delicious treat that also has a variety of health and performance enhancing properties, or it’s a dangerous and highly addictive substance that literally shaves years off your life, one sip at a time.
When the GMB team gets together once or twice a year, the amount of time and money we spend in coffee shops borders on the ridiculous.
So… I guess you could say we’re firmly in the pro-coffee camp.
Here’s a brief testament:
With that said, though, there are certain considerations to keep in mind when it comes to the black stuff.
There’s a time and a place for everything in life, including coffee, and there are even certain times you may want to take a step back and examine how you respond to coffee.
Why You Should Drink Coffee
There are many reasons to drink coffee. Here are just a few:
- Because you have a crush on your barista
- Because it stimulates the nervous system
- For its cognitive-enhancing effects
- For its fat-burning properties
- Because of its effect on insulin sensitivity
- Because it’s freaking delicious
Seriously. If loving coffee is wrong, I don’t want to be right.
Coffee is amazing for you, so don’t let the nags shame you into giving up something you love.
When You Should Drink Coffee
Best Times for a Caffeine Injection
- Before training - Drinking a cup of coffee about 30 minutes prior to exercise has been shown to increase testosterone level and nitrous oxide production during training (e.g., it’s “anabolic”). It also increases pain tolerance and focuses the mind.
- After training - Caffeine decreases insulin sensitivity in the short term, allowing you to give your muscles the carbohydrate they need to grow without some of the other nasty effects of eating a ton of sugar.
- When you get hungry between meals - Recently, coffee has been shown to suppress hunger signals, which can be extremely useful when fasting, or simply trying to make it to your next scheduled meal time (because consistent meal times are hugely important for metabolism and energy levels).
Times to Lay Off the Shaky Sauce
- Within a few hours of when you plan to sleep - This one’s a no-brainer, right? You’ll never get any rest if you’re all hopped up.
- When you haven’t been sleeping well - Your body needs sleep, and when your sleep cycle is out of whack, it can take some time to restore your natural circadian rhythms. Artificially stimulating your energy systems will only make it harder on your body to adjust.
- When you’re under stress - Everyone’s under too much stress these days, so don’t exacerbate matters by overstimulating your nervous system when you should really be taking some time out to relax and breathe.
- When you feel sad or angry - Caffeine can intensity aggressive or negative emotions, so think happy thoughts before you pour.
- When you feel tired - This one might surprise you. Isn’t that what coffee’s supposed to be great for? Sure, a cup of coffee can boost your lagging energy in the short term, but using it this way is a crutch for lacking nutrition or sleep. Crutches turn into dependencies, so you’d do best to avoid drinking coffee when you’re tired.
What About My Morning Cup?
You may notice that drinking a cup of coffee first thing in the morning isn’t listed on either list above.
To many people, myself included, a cup of coffee in the morning is part of a daily ritual. Mine also includes pig’s blood and chanting, but none of that gets underway until I’ve made use of my excellent home espresso machine.
Rituals are great, and I’m a big believer in building healthy habits into your lifestyle.
But some people take things too far. Rituals become obsessions, and habits become addictions. This isn’t what we want for ourselves, but it’s hard to see our own weaknesses sometimes, so here’s some things to watch out for:
- “Needing” coffee to wake up - This is straightforward enough. You should be able to wake up in the morning and function in the world even if you don’t have any coffee.
- A cup turns into a pot - For “daily ritual” purposes, a single cup is usually sufficient. Unless it’s the weekend and you just happen to have time for a second cup, it’s best to keep to a limit.
- You rush trough your coffee while doing a dozen other things - Reading the morning paper while you enjoy your brew is one thing, but gulping back your coffee while running around the house like a crazy person isn’t a great routine.
- You get headaches if you skip your coffee - A sure sign of either psychological or physiological dependence. Coffee, like most things, should always be an option – one you can do without if need be.
Coffee’s Place in a Healthy Lifestyle
Health breaks down to three main components overall:
- Nutrition – The food you eat and how efficiently your body makes use of it
- Work – Your training and other daily activities
- Rest – Sleep and active recovery
Coffee affects your body on all three levels, so be aware of how each cup is going to either play for or against your goals.
The same can be said for a lot of other things in our lives too. When it comes down to it, being healthy means making good lifestyle choices on a daily basis. In anything you do, consider the outcome on your health and decide if the thing you’re about to do will move you forward or back.
And it’s OK to take a step back, as long as you know what you’re doing (so stop lying to yourself).
The choice to consume or avoid caffeine is just one small part of a larger discussion about the nutritional choices you make a daily basis.
Nutrition is a sensitive topic that people tend to way overcomplicate. We’ve made things as simple as possible in our comprehensive article on nutrition.
Image via Linh Nguyen
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