An incredible 70 million coffees are consumed in the UK every day and coffee is the world’s most popular drug.
Many people “need” a coffee to start their day, but to gain the benefits from caffeine and avoid its negative effects, it’s important to consume the correct amount of caffeine at the correct time.
However, this will be different for all of us, since we are all different and we metabolise caffeine differently. Some people are fast caffeine metabolisers, meaning that they have a variant of the gene (CYP1A2), which breaks down caffeine particularly fast. In fact, some people have a version of the gene that can break caffeine down up to four times faster than others. If you’re a fast metaboliser you are able to obtain many of the benefits of caffeine such as a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s, heart attacks and strokes. But, if you are a slow metaboliser it stays in your body longer and can make you more susceptible to its negative effects such as anxiety, fatigue, interrupted sleep and irritability.
A big reason to shun caffeine and opt for a caffeine-free alternative is the simple fact that caffeine does interrupt sleep. This happens since caffeine blocks adenosine receptors -adenosine is a chemical produced by the body and this chemical increases the longer we are awake. The more adenosine = more tired we feel. But caffeine, through its action of blocking the adenosine receptors, tricks the body into making it appear less tired than it actually is. This is how caffeine can lengthen the time it takes to fall asleep, decrease sleep quality, and overall sleep time.
Therefore, it is advisable to drink caffeine early on in the day and avoid all caffeine containing drinks and foods after 12pm. Drugs have a “half-life” – the time it takes for its first stage of effect to decrease by 50%. Caffeine’s half-life is approximately six hours - there is some flexibility, which is down to certain lifestyle factors and also your genes.
So, if you are having a 3pm expresso pick-me-up, there is a good chance that when you go to bed it is still in in your system and therefore, will impact sleep.
To reduce your caffeine and opt for a healthier alternative here are some suggestions:
- Try chicory root instead of coffee. Often, I get asked if there is if there is a healthy caffeine-free substitute for coffee that actually tastes like coffee. The closest alternative I have found is the deep, dark flavour of roasted chicory root.
- Choose non-caffeinated herbal tea, there are some fantastic flavours out there at the moment, packed with very high levels of health-promoting antioxidants, which are so beneficial to our health on many levels.
- Opt for camomile tea in the evenings, which is a great alternative to coffee as it induces relaxation, which is exactly what you want before hitting the pillow.
- Reduce your consumption of sugar as this will give you more energy and decrease the chance of you wanting a coffee in the afternoon as a quick pick-me-up.
- Choose sparking water with lemon or lime instead of your caffeine beverage of choice to promote hydration, which is needed for energy, glowing skin and optimal cognitive function.