Morning routines have changed significantly for the average person in the past 50 years. The morning paper has been replaced by morning podcasts and scrolling the news on your cell phone. While these aspects of the typical morning routine have changed, one aspect has stayed the same and that is the consumption of caffeine.
Caffeine has become a household name that nearly everyone is familiar with. While it is general knowledge that caffeine induces a sense of wakefulness, there are many more aspects of caffeine that are known to a lesser extent such as its clinical use in premature infants.
From caffeine’s many forms to its effects on your mind and body, caffeine is truly an interesting molecule that deserves a closer look. Below is a look at the different forms of caffeine, how caffeine affects your body, as well as other ways that you can elevate your energy levels.
The different forms of caffeine
Caffeine is conventionally thought to just be a molecule that is a part of coffee, tea, and chocolate. While caffeine is naturally occurring in these products, there are many other forms of caffeine. Caffeine can be isolated, dried, and can even be added to other molecules to provide therapeutic benefits.
Below is a closer look at caffeine, caffeine anhydrous, and caffeine citrate. Knowing more about the types of caffeine can expand your knowledge of the mild stimulant and could open the door to new ways of utilizing the molecule in your day-to-day life.
Standard caffeine has a chemical composition of C8H10N4O2 and is arranged in a double fused ring structure. The unique structure of caffeine is what allows it to affect the human body well. Caffeine in its basic form is typically found in plants like coffee and tea plants. In plants, caffeine has many complex functions.
One of those functions is to ward off invasive insects. Caffeine can paralyze or kill insects when ingested so by the plant incorporating it into its leaves and fruit, caffeine is utilized as an effective natural pesticide. Another proposed function is that the caffeine present in leaves is to reduce plant competition. When the leaves fall to the ground it produces surrounding soil that has high amounts of caffeine which are not conducive to new plant growth. Without competing plants, caffeine-producing plants can get as much sunlight and resources as they need to thrive.
In humans, caffeine has a drastically different effect. In doses under 400mg a day, caffeine can offer increased alertness and the stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system which can improve performance.
Caffeine anhydrous is a derivative of standard caffeine that has been isolated and dried into a powder. It has the same chemical composition and effects on the human body, but it is in a solid form.
As a dissolvable solid, caffeine anhydrous can be included in pills, energy supplements, and beverages with ease. Pure caffeine anhydrous should be used with caution as the chance of caffeine overdose can increase significantly.
A standard cup of coffee can have about 98 mg of caffeine while a caffeine anhydrous pill could contain upwards of 150mg. If not monitored, a person could easily have too much caffeine anhydrous and experience caffeine intoxication which can lead to severe cardiovascular issues. The FDA recommends sticking to 400 mg or less of caffeine a day. With caffeine anhydrous, it is important to be more conscientious of your caffeine consumption to ensure you are not overdoing it.
Caffeine citrate is essentially caffeine anhydrous that is combined with citrate. The two molecules are readily dissociated in water which leaves caffeine to function as normal.
Caffeine citrate, unlike caffeine anhydrous, caffeine citrate is not utilized recreationally. Caffeine citrate is utilized for the treatment of premature babies that experience apnea. Caffeine can stimulate parts of the nervous system that help a premature infant to breathe normally without interruption.
How caffeine works
Having your cup of morning coffee can give you the energy boost you need to get through the day. While you don’t need to be a biochemist to enjoy the effects of caffeine, understanding how caffeine is able to accomplish this boost in energy can be helpful. Understanding what bodily systems are impacted can better prepare you for any potential negative side effects.
If you have ever had caffeine too late in the day you most likely have experienced caffeine’s effects on wakefulness firsthand and had trouble falling asleep. This effect of caffeine has to do with its structure and ability to interact with chemicals in your brain.
The structure of caffeine closely resembles the structure of adenosine which is a neurotransmitter found in your brain. Adenosine is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for inducing tiredness and the transition to sleep. When you wake up the adenosine receptors are empty and as the day goes on adenosine begins to bind to these receptors which signal your body to become tired. When you are asleep adenosine is broken down and you wake up and start the cycle all over again.
The similarity in structure allows caffeine to bind to adenosine receptors and block the binding of adenosine. Because of this, caffeine can delay adenosine binding and therefore delay feelings of tiredness. The breakdown of caffeine is slow and can take anywhere from six to ten hours to fully be broken down. This long period is why drinking caffeinated beverages late in the day can inhibit sleep and quality sleep. To get the perfect night’s rest you should aim to not have caffeine in the afternoon to allow your body’s natural adenosine accumulation to occur and allow you to sleep peacefully.
Sympathetic nervous system
The sympathetic nervous system is the part of your nervous system that is responsible for the fight or flight response. When your brain perceives a threat or stressor your body reacts by elevating cardiac output and increasing respiration to get your body ready to take action.
Caffeine can stimulate parts of the sympathetic nervous system which circumvents the needs of perception and cognition. The increase in blood flow and oxygenation is advantageous when exerting yourself and is a reason why some utilize caffeine as a means of increasing performance.
Simply taking a caffeine pill or taking a morning swig of coffee can get your body primed to tackle the day through the sympathetic nervous system arousal.
Pitfalls to caffeine
Caffeine may seem like a wonder molecule but it doesn’t come without its fair share of downfalls. Understanding these pitfalls can allow you to make a more informed decision about your caffeine consumption and understand its risks.
One downside to caffeine is that it can increase anxiety or feelings of anxiousness. The sympathetic nervous system activation discussed previously can back fire if you are prone to anxiety as an elevated heart rate and increase in breathing closely mimics the sensations of anxiety.
Another downside to caffeine is that your body can develop resistance and reliance on caffeine. When used routinely, the body adapts by creating more adenosine receptors so adenosine can bind. More adenosine receptors mean that more caffeine is required to get the same effects. This is also detrimental when caffeine consumption is stopped because your brain will have a ton of empty adenosine receptors which results in withdrawal symptoms like headaches.
If you have decided that caffeine is not right for you or are looking to support a more natural and sustainable level of energy, there are other supplements and actions you can take to boost your energy. Getting energy without using caffeine can be difficult at first, but over time you will be able to have a more sustainable level of energy without having a dependence on a stimulatory molecule.
One of those supplements is MitoQ. MitoQ is a highly bioavailable form of CoQ10 which helps support the energy centers of your body known as the mitochondria. As you age the mitochondria can become less efficient at producing energy due to a decline in CoQ10 levels. MitoQ can restore CoQ10 levels in your mitochondria which allows them to work at their best. Having a strong cellular basis for energy ensures you are supporting your energy levels from the bottom up.
Another way you can boost your energy levels is to take charge of your blood sugar levels. Having fairly consistent blood sugar is linked to better mood and more perceived energy throughout the day. Through diet and supplements, you can effectively support your blood sugar levels to get the most energy out of your day.
In summary, caffeine is a potent molecule that has a number of uses in both humans and plants. With many usable forms of caffeine, humans are able to utilize the molecule to help stay awake, get their workouts started, and even help neonates with apnea. Knowing about caffeine can place you in a better place to decide if caffeine is right for you or if you are wanting more out of your supplements.