Hi. This is Dr. Steve Gangemi. In the last part of Foods That Hinder, I want to discuss something that’s actually not really a food, but is contained in a lot of foods. And that’s caffeine.
So caffeine is found naturally in many foods like cacao, which is used to make chocolate. It’s found in teas and it’s obviously found in coffees, big source of caffeine in our society. Obviously, caffeine is put in a lot of foods especially energy drinks, these drinks that people are drinking every day, like Blue Cow and the other, you know, certain types of energy drinks that are promoted to give you a stimulatory effect for a certain number of hours to get you through the day or your work day, or studying, if you’re up late studying throughout the night. So that’s a stimulatory effect that can also have a performance-enhancing effect as well as a diuretic effect, which is actually one of the reasons why it’s banned in many sports because you can lose some weight quick if you’re trying to make a certain weight.
But the thing to know about caffeine is that, again, it is a drug and it does affect your nervous system. Not only it is the caffeine in there a stimulatory effect, but also there’s chemicals naturally present in where the caffeine is, again, in the coffee, and the teas, and the cacao that are naturally central nervous system stimulants.
So the interesting thing about caffeine is, is that at the time when you really feel like you need it to perform a task, skill, or even just get you through the day, is actually the time when you really shouldn’t be using it because if your body is run down so much that you can’t perform that event, task, or whatever, again, without the stimulatory effect, it means that your body is way too stressed out and the caffeine is going to have more of a detrimental effect than if you want to say, a beneficial or positive effect.
So in other words, if everything is working correctly in your body and you’re under a low stress, if you’re performing well, if you’re sleeping well, if your lifestyle is in balance, as I addressed in previous videos, then using caffeine at this time for an ergogenic aid which means like a performance-enhancing type aid, can be beneficial to you. But what happens is most people just use caffeine all the time, all day long. They use it to, again, not just to perform physically and mentally, but unfortunately, they end up needing it to keep away that caffeine withdrawal headache.
So caffeine is very individualized for each person. And while one person might be able to handle, say, two cups of espresso per day and have no problems and actually function okay with it, someone else might only be able to handle maybe an ounce of chocolate or 80 or 90% cacao chocolate that’s very high in caffeine, and they might have a problem with it. Maybe they get jittery. Maybe it affects their blood sugar. Maybe it actually affects how they sleep at night. So it’s very individualized.
You have to sort of see how much caffeine you can handle. And it’s not like it’s a bad thing, but if you’re going to use caffeine, make sure you’re not abusing it, like you could any other drug. And basically if you don’t use caffeine for a period of time, even if it’s just the morning cup of coffee and you get that typical classic caffeine withdrawal headache or a migraine, then it’s a sure sign that you’re actually addicted to the caffeine of whatever source you’re using, the coffee or the tea. Usually people aren’t eating that much chocolate to have a withdrawal effect. But you slowly want to wean down on that. You don’t have to just eliminate there 100% right away but slowly wean off. I usually have people cut it in half for a few days, then cut that dose in half and see how they do.
So the final thing I want to mention about caffeine other than it being individualized which is very important is that it’s even better to get your caffeine from its whole source. In other words, getting a drink or drinking something that has several hundred milligrams of caffeine just added into it from a synthetic source is a huge stimulatory effect on your body, but also it’s no longer in the context of nature where the vitamins and minerals contained within that source, say the cacao bean or the tea leaves, to help you detoxify it.
So the nice thing about when you eat something, especially if it’s organic but at least all-natural, is the caffeine is contained with the substances that your body needs especially your liver, to properly detoxify that caffeine. And when you obviously take that out of the context of nature, you isolate it, you use a synthetic form, and now you put massive amounts of caffeine in with an energy drink, which is typically loaded with sugar, then you get an artificial sympathetic drive. In other words, like a fight or flight reaction to your nervous system that ends up doing a lot of harm over time with many people. And the abuse of energy drinks today is huge.
So think about how much caffeine you can really handle. Think about what you’re using it for. Think about why you need it, and if and when you want to use caffeine. That’s fine, if you can handle it. But try and stick with the natural source of coffee, organic whole bean coffee. There’s so many good effects from it and cacao, or tea. And the chocolate in coffee beans, especially the chocolate beans are loaded with antioxidants, which is very good for you. Natural source of caffeine is the way to go.