It is important to acknowledge that caffeine is considered to be a drug; specifically a stimulant. While I leave it to the readers of this posting to decide whether or not caffeine consumption should be part of your diet, I do want to point out that pregnant women need to be aware that there is research that associates an increase in the risk of miscarriage with caffeine consumption.
With that out of the way, I’ll disclose that I am a coffee-holic. I will defend my right to drink coffee until the day I am no longer here on Earth. However, if this stuff is eventually going to kill me, I wouldn’t mind knowing so I have been pouring over what seems like an insurmountable amount of research trying to determine if coffee is actually my friend or foe.
For years there have been correlations made between caffeine and cardiovascular disease and in my research I was able to find several older studies that support the hypothesis that caffeine consumption increases the risk of heart disease.
These studies for the most part are focused on “heavy” coffee consumption (which I will define as five or more 8 oz cups per day) and the role caffeinated drinks play in regards to increased blood pressure. When coffee drinkers ceased drinking coffee, they experienced significant reductions in measured blood pressure, thus reducing their risk for a cardiac event.
A little discouraged I dug a little deeper and found research published this past summer in the Annals of Internal Medicine. This study concluded that regular coffee consumption was not associated with an increased mortality rate in either men or women, and may actually be associated with lower cardiovascular mortality.
These findings are supported by research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition which suggests that in adults older than 65 without existing high blood pressure, caffeine intake may be associated with reduced cardiovascular mortality.
As stated earlier, it is not difficult to find research to support your side of the argument.
Caffeine and Fat Loss
Consumed ‘wisely’, caffeine can have a positive impact on fat loss.
A recent study documented in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning supports the use of caffeine as an ergogenic aid in untrained to moderately trained individuals.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers reported that weight-trained men who took a supplement containing about 200 mg of caffeine (equivalent to 16 fluid ounces of regular coffee or a 12 fluid ounce cup of Starbucks regular coffee) before working out, increased their one rep max (1RM) on the bench press by about 5 pounds. An earlier study also found that caffeine increased subjects’ 8 RM. In addition, researchers from the University of Georgia found that when subjects consumed caffeine about an hour before intense cycling exercise that was designed to make their thighs sore, they reported significantly less pain than when taking a placebo.
This means that caffeine can increase muscle strength, as well as your ability to endure more reps at the end of a grueling workout. Over the long, this can lead to greater fat loss and increased muscle growth.
My Two Cents
It is likely that an individual’s response to caffeine will vary and the amount of caffeine which improves performance in one individual may result in negative side effects in another.
Clearly, if you are pregnant or prone to hypertension, drinking coffee may be harmful to your health. Similarly, if you have high cholesterol it would be advisable to limit whole egg consumption, and if you suffer from vertigo my recommendation would be not to climb the Statue of Liberty.
The point is, there are a myriad of factors that dictate how something we consume interacts with an individual. We need to stop trying to neatly fit foods into a “good” or “bad” column and instead look at the big picture to determine what is best for ourselves, at a given point in time.
Ultimately, as with just about everything we consume, my take-away is that moderation is key.
Train hard; stay strong.