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Are you ready for your morning coffee? With more than 80 percent of American adults consuming cacoffeeffeine on a regular basis, does caffeine really do harm to our bodies? That may depend upon amounts. Two to four cups of brewed coffee a day usually isn’t a problem for most people.

Caffeine may help in these situations:

• Mental stimulation – People who don’t have a dependence on caffeine or don’t use it regularly can become “significantly more alert and better able to perform cognitive and motor  tasks if given the right dose.” For regular users it offers few benefits in this area. What people think of as stimulating and good actually is due to the alleviation of withdrawal symptoms.

• Lack of Sleep – Caffeine can help you stay more alert when you are sleep deprived. However, you can build up a tolerance to caffeine so for regular users an extra boost is usually needed.

• Headaches – Caffeine acts as a mild pain reliever. It also constricts your blood vessels which can help since usually they dilate when you have a headache.

• Physical Performance – Caffeine can help you during an endurance exercise like running but is less effective for activities such as lifting weights or sprinting. This can be true for both regular users and non-users. Since caffeine also helps reduce pain you may exercise longer.

• Parkinson’s Disease – Studies have concluded that higher caffeine usage seems to reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s Disease. Caffeine may help Parkinson’s patients with tremors or other motor symptoms. Again tolerance seems to negate long-term help.

• Gallstones – Studies show drinking two or three cups of regular coffee a day reduced the risk of gallstones for women 20 percent and for men 40 percent.

• Dementia – Caffeine may provide some protection against Alzheimer’s disease. More studies are needed.

Caffeine may hurt in these situations:

• Pregnancy – Women trying to get pregnant or already pregnant should avoid caffeine –containing foods and drugs, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Caffeine can cause harmful effects on fertility, miscarriage, and fetal growth.

• Disrupted Sleep – Caffeine can affect your sleep or ability to fall asleep for up to 13 hours later.

• If you drink more than 4 cups a day you can experience these unpleasant effects: insomnia, restlessness, irritability, nervousness, stomach upset, fast heartbeat, and muscle tremors. • Beware that some medications and herbal supplements can interact with caffeine. Check with your doctor or pharmacist.

Caffeine- Lack of effectsWeight scale

• Weight – There is no evidence that caffeine helps people lose or keep weight off, although many weight-loss supplements contain caffeine.

• Heart – A 30 year study in California didn’t find an increase in risk of cardiac arrhythmias among regular coffee drinkers.

• High Blood Pressure – Although caffeine can cause a modest increase in blood pressure, studies have not showed an increase in the development of hypertension among caffeine coffee drinkers.

Caffeine may be a part of your daily routine. As long as it doesn’t cause any problems for you… Enjoy!

Author: Pat Brinkman, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension , Fayette County, Miami Valley EERA brinkman.93@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Linnette Goard, Field Specialist, Food Safety, Selection and Management; Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension.

References:

Mayo Clinic Staff, [2011]. Caffeine: How Much is too Much? Available online at http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/caffeine/NU00600

Schardt, D. [2012]. Caffeine! Nutrition Action Health Letter, December 2012, 39 (10), 7-8.

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