Caffeine: Efficacy And Doses

Caffeine: Efficacy And Doses

By David Baron
This week, we will consider the age-old question of how best to stay awake when you need to and which works best coffee or soda. Nearly everyone feels the need to stay up late in the name of academic achievement or career success. Often turning to caffeine, sugar, or some combination of the two to get the job done. In that case, let me help you make a more well-informed choice.
Human beings have used caffeine for its mild stimulant properties for centuries, generally in coffee or tea (chocolate, too). Frankly, it’s a very safe drug, reasonably effective, cheap, and widely available. That’s not to say it can’t do you some harm in the extremes. Several years ago, there were reports of deaths in the United States associated with consuming a particular brand of energy drink that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration aggressively investigated.
Caffeine raises your blood pressure and increases your heart rate and alertness when used in modest doses. In larger doses, it can cause restlessness, irritability, and anxiety. In the worst cases, it may cause an irregular heartbeat, which could potentially be life-threatening. And oh yeah, caffeine does help keep you awake. So it’s helpful to have an idea of just how much caffeine is in various beverages and foods. In general, sodas contain significantly less caffeine than coffee. Because energy drinks are considered to be food products, they are exempt from that restriction. Monster Energy Drink has 160 mg of caffeine per 16-ounce, nearly twice as much per ounce as soda. For the record, a Starbucks Grande drip coffee has 330 mg of caffeine in a 16-ounce cup or the equivalent of two Monster energy drinks.
If the amount of coffee you’re drinking is causing you to have health problems, whether it’s heartburn, nervousness, irritability, or insomnia, then it’s too much. And when you start having heart palpitations, you’d better back off. Finally, coffee is much more effective as a study aid or stimulant when you don’t drink it all the time. Caffeine is mildly addictive and has the typical characteristics of addiction: tolerance, dependency, and withdrawal. So to get it to work when you need it, consider drinking it less often. The same rules apply to all forms of caffeine, including over-the-counter “alertness” aids, certain pain relievers, and headache remedies you might not realize include caffeine.
What about soda? Eating is one thing people do to stay awake. And we all know that sugar can give you a quick burst of energy. But the sugar in sweetened sodas acts more like a drug than the sugars that naturally occur in fruits and other foods because it’s essentially pure sugar that rushes into your bloodstream. This surge in blood sugar triggers your body to release insulin to process all that sugar. Then comes the other side of the roller coaster as your blood sugar plummets. In other words, you crash.
There’s no redeeming nutritional value to the sugar in sodas. So frankly, you’d be better off having a snack with something else to offer in the way of protein, fiber, or other nutrients. Just know that if you choose donuts instead of soda, you’ve pretty much gone the same route in the form of sugar-frosted carbs.
So, coffee or soda? I’d prefer you do either rather than taking drugs intended for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Five or ten minutes of vigorous exercise would probably do more to help you regain your alertness for those late nights studying than either the soda or the coffee

At Primary Caring of Malibu we have returned to old-fashioned style family medicine to bring our patients the exclusive personal care and attention they deserve. It’s not a new idea — it’s just an old concept brought up-to-date, with modern methods and technology making it even better.

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