Coffee can be both beneficial for health, performance and fat loss as well as detrimental. The world’s most popular drink packs a variety of positive punches but if consumed at the wrong time and by the wrong people, coffee can have just as many negative effects. Often thought of as a vice, it really depends or your individual genetics to how much you can beneficially drink. There are also smarter times to consume this social liquid to avoid negative health and performance outcomes.
What does caffeine do?
Caffeine acts by mimicking a compound called adenosine and binding to its receptors before the real thing can. By blocking adenosine, caffeine increases cognitive function and counters sleepiness. Caffeine also inhibits widening of blood vessels (vasodilation) and stimulates a cortisol response. Cortisol is our fight or flight hormone, fuelling a high-energy response to danger or perceived danger (stress).
Observational studies have concluded that caffeine can protect against and fight cancer, slow the rate of mental decline, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, lower oxidative stress, reduce risk of stroke and Parkinson’s Disease and its high antioxidant (polyphenols) content is associated with protection from sun-damaged skin.
Coffee can help you lose fat, as it’s packed with compounds that have been shown to increase metabolic rate, improve exercise performance, stop cravings, and make you more effective at burning fat.
There is a very important genetic element to whether coffee is good or bad for you. The gene CYP1A2 encodes an enzyme from the liver to metabolise caffeine. A slow metaboliser has the CC variant of the gene, a moderate metaboliser has the AC variant and a fast metaboliser has the AA variant.
The effects of caffeine last longer and are stronger in slow and medium metabolisers. Whereas, fast metabolisers can process caffeine very efficiently so it affects them less. Slow caffeine metabolizers who drink more than two cups per day appear to have higher rates of hypertension, glucose intolerance and heart problems.
Rules for Consumption
1) Don’t drink it first thing in the morning
Coffee produces a cortisol response. High cortisol levels are closely related to high levels of belly fat. Cortisol is your body’s natural wake-up hormone.
Right before you wake up, cortisol spikes to prepare you for the day. Right after you wake up, it spikes again, pushing you to the highest levels of the day. Drinking coffee when cortisol is high is somewhat redundant and can lead to an excess of circulating cortisol and cause fat storage.
2) Drink coffee when you don’t need it
Coffee is not a good solution for lack of sleep or tiredness. If tired, instead of having a coffee, you should get more sleep. Coffee will work best when your adenosine receptors are functioning well and not under stress. If you are tired, caffeine only really equalises energy rather than providing a boost. Drinking too much too often can make you dependent on coffee, and fatigue your natural energy producing system.
3) Don’t drink coffee post-workout
Again, this is related to cortisol. Cortisol is a catabolic (muscle breakdown) hormone and the minute you finish training you want to promote an anabolic (muscle building/repair) state. When you drink coffee post-workout you prolong the catabolic state, which will limit recovery, fat burning and muscle development.
A coffee pre-workout is great, as cortisol is a stimulating hormone. It will provide energy for the workout and breakdown protein for energy.
Some people under certain contexts, or with certain genetic variants, shouldn’t drink much coffee. For most, coffee should not be consumed at night or post-exercise but all in all, coffee has some very beneficial effects depending on if you metabolise it well. Drinking it at the optimal times will improve productivity and mood, boost training and protect against a host of diseases and conditions due to its whopping dose of antioxidants.