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Fancy a Coffee?

Yasmine Shaban

Coffee is everywhere! Every corner you turn there’s a new pretty coffee shop, a Starbucks, a Costa, or a Pret. Not to mention the choice of actual coffees we have now, different styles, different milks, different flavour syrups to add! I mean, how do you even decide?!

A year ago if I fancied a coffee, without a second thought I would make or buy one, sit down, and sip away. Didn’t matter what time it was and I really didn’t put much thought into why I was drinking it. There did seem to be a rough routine to my coffee fix though: in the morning before I spoke a word to anyone, mid morning because, well why not? after lunch for a treat, and of course about 3pm to stop myself from falling asleep at my desk! You could say it became a bit of a habit… right?

Here’s the first and very important thing to highlight here, I am not about to tell you not to enjoy your favourite Frappuccino from time to time. I’m suggesting that you take note on when and why you’re drinking it. Is it for the feeling of enjoyment, or are you feeling like it’s necessity? 

We all know that coffee contains a high amount of caffeine and this comes with a list of benefits from improving energy levels to providing you with powerful antioxidants. So let’s be clear, caffeine isn’t sin! What you need to be aware of is when coffee/caffeine is becoming a habit and something that you are relying on. Much like most things, knowledge and moderation are key here, because something as innocent as coffee can very quickly turn into your worst enemy! 

So here are the facts.

Caffeine is a stimulant and it gets to work really rather quickly. I see it at the gym all the time (although not quite sure how people work out with a Costa Coffee cup instead of water, but each to their own), people need a boost for optimum performance and what better and quicker way to get it than coffee? It works on your central nervous system to boost your energy and mood (great!) and can also increase your heart rate and blood pressure (maybe not so great!). But again, let’s remember moderation, it’s probably not going to kill you, but if you need this boost every single time, you should really be focussing on why you need it instead of opting for a short fix, because prevention is better than cure…

There are several reasons why you lose energy quickly throughout the day, or tend to generally have low energy, these include things like: diet, exercise, mood, workload, and sleep. Sleep is what we’re going to focus on here, because I believe that’s where it all starts! If you’re not sleeping well it can effect literally….. everything!! No exaggeration here! Not sleeping well or for long enough has a huge impact on diet, productivity, mental health, mood, performance, reaction times, honestly the list does go on! And the reason why we are focussing on sleep is because — DRUMB ROLL PLEASE — caffeine can have a direct influence on it. 

Of course there are variables in this but roughly speaking, caffeine has a half life of up to around 5 hours. To put simply, half of the coffee you had at 10am is still partying on down inside you at 3pm. Although its peak effects are within about an hour, the dancing slows down but hasn’t stopped. The remaining half, will start to get tired but is still standing even hours after that. So you may not feel what’s left but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. 

If you’re having your 5th cup of coffee at 6pm after work before the gym, by 10pm when it’s time to sleep, whether you can sleep or not isn’t the issue, it’s the lack of quality in your sleep that will make you feel like you need 5 cups again tomorrow. Before you know it, this cycle becomes a habit. Bad sleep = Low energy/low mood = More coffee = Bad sleep again and so on… 

The guidelines for healthy caffeine intake suggests that if you intend to sleep at 10pm, your last coffee should be had no later than 4pm and limited to 2 cups a day. 

There are other ways you can improve on your energy levels day to day, taking short walks outdoors when you can, having a healthy and balanced diet rich in Iron, listening to uplifting music (seriously on your way to work, school, gym etc try this!), stretching even if it’s at your desk, and staying hydrated. Good sleep is of course where it all starts, keep an eye on your caffeine intake to improve your sleep, and I promise that your coffee will be a treat you enjoy every time, rather than a necessity. 

So the moral of the story is, reaching out for coffee to wake you up now and again is ok, but if you can hear yourself saying “I NEED A COFFEE” every day, try and analyse other components of your day that may need tweaking. 

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