Caffeine.

Our use of this stimulant dates back to the stone age, when man discovered chewing certain plants staved off drowsiness and increased alertness. Chinese Emperor, Shen Nung, is credited with discovering tea in 2727 BC. Egyptian goat herder, Kaldi, is the mythical discoverer of coffee around 850 AD and the world's first coffee shop appeared in Constantinople in 1475. And in 1984, Austrian entreprenuer, Dietrich Mateschitz and Thai businessman, Chaleo Yoovidhya founded Red Bull.

Dr. Steven Gilbert, creator of toxipedia.com, has this to say about caffeine, "Caffeine is the perfect money making drug. First, it has very desirable stimulatory effects on the central nervous system. Second, you cannot consume too much at one time because the drug produces undesirable nervous system consequences. Third, you cannot stop drinking it because you will get a headache. Fourth, the half-life of the drug is relatively short, so that you must go back for more. Fifth, you do not lose your craving for it. And finally, it is a naturally occurring substance with a long history of use that is recognized by the regulatory authorities as being safe...Each of us should be aware of our dose-response to caffeine and limit our consumption accordingly."

Studies generally agree that 400 milligrams per day is the threshhold for caffeine consumption to get the health benefits associated without incurring the potential risks, of course, as Dr. Gilbert points out, each individual's response to caffeine is unique and you should do what works best for you and some cases, forgo it altogether. Consult your physician with specific questions regarding your personal use of caffeine.

The benefits of caffeine include:

  • increases memory
  • mixed with carbohydrates, post-workout, it replenishes muscle glycogen stores faster
  • relieves post workout muscle pain by up to 48%
  • increases stamina during exercise prevent weight gain
  • can reduce cataracts, cancer, stroke, kidney stones, erectile dysfunction and hair loss.

The risks associated with caffeine overuse include:

  • addiction
  • nervousness
  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • tremors
  • insomnia
  • heart palpitations
  • pepticulcers
  • erosive esophagatis
  • gastrointestinal reflux
  • reduced bone density
  • increased blood sugar

Caffeine is best used mid morning, as studies have shown that taking caffeine within three hours of bedtime can disrupt your circadian cycle and adversely affect your body's production of cortisol.  Read this article from Upworthy for more details.  Additionally, caffeine is absorbed into the body through the stomach and small intestine in under an hour. For the best timing, ingest your caffeine about 45 minutes to an hour before workouts. 

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