Caffeine and the Collegiette

We intake it in the morning, before class or work, during or after lunch, before late night studying (especially for those “all-nighters”), and anytime we need a pick-me-up. Caffeine can be the life source helping us through the day as we go, go, go during our fast paced lifestyles as Americans. About 90% of Americans consume caffeine every day in some form. As college students, we run off of caffeine like the drug it is! This isn’t entirely a bad thing though!

Best ways to get caffeinated!

Caffeine is naturally found in over 60 different plants other than the usual coffee bean, tea leaf, and guarana (the source of caffeine in energy drinks). Yerba mate leaves (apart of the holly family) is brewed as a tea for an alternative caffeine source and kola nuts are used for the caffeine source in cola soft drinks. Yes, caffeine knows how get us going, so what are the best ways to get this caffeine in our system if it can be found in many different forms?

We often associate caffeine consumption with drinking tea, coffee, soft drinks, and energy drinks. The estimated 12,000 tons of caffeine consumed every year for coffee is at 54% and tea at 43% where the average American consumes an average of 280mg of caffeine per day (about 2-3 cups of coffee). The last remaining 3% of caffeine consumed every year goes to food and miscellaneous products. There have been a few products introduced to the caffeine consumer market that are in food form. Perky Jerky is the worlds only caffeinated jerky with 150 mg of caffeine per ounce from the guarana berry. Cracker Jack'D Power Bites also contain caffeine with 100mg per package. For those of you that are Ghostbusters fans, Stay Puft marshmallows are coming soon with 100mg of caffeine in each piece, which is the same as a shot of espresso.

What has the most caffeine to keep us going?

For now, we will stick with the beverages for this article, since that is the most common form of caffeine consumption used. The chart below shows the overall caffeine per ounce on average in the most common beverages consumed:

Of course, coffee is the winner! Caffeine kicks in after 15-20 minutes, where the effects can last from 8-12 hours depending on the consumer’s body and tolerance. Your regular cup of drip coffee contains around 95-200mg of caffeine. A light roast coffee bean actually has more caffeine than a dark roast bean, and if you drink a cup of coffee and then a 15 minute nap, it will boost your brain power for wakefulness. Different coffees have different amounts of caffeine in them as well. For instance, you will find that Starbucks has 20.6mg of caffeine while Caribou has 15mg. Dunkin Donuts will give you 12.7mg and McDon’s coffee only has 9.1mg of caffeine. When you order that decaf coffee, keep in mind that it doesn’t mean you aren’t getting caffeine. Decaf still has 8.6-13.9mg of caffeine.

How does caffeine effect my health?

Caffeine as many benefits to popular belief but don’t get me wrong, it also has its few negative side effects. As glorious as caffeine is, there are a few minor disadvantages. Unsightly as it is, caffeine accelerates digestion, forcing food right through out much fast, causing diarrhea and increased urination. Insomnia can also result in too much caffeine consumption. Since it is a stimulant, it is thought to keep your brain over active and will prevent you from sleeping if you intake it too soon from going to bed. Since caffeine is a drug, it causes that physical dependence just like cocaine, amphetamines, and heroin (I mean, not as dramatic effects as the more serious drugs but, you get the point). These dependent symptoms include headache, tiredness, depression, irritability, and decreased energy. Caffeine overdose can also be lethal, the dose being about 150-200mg per kilogram of the human body weight. That’s 100 cups of coffee in 4 hours. In 2007, a man died from overdose after taking 30 No-Doz pills. Extreme as it is, it can happen.

On the bright side, the positives of caffeine are far greater than the negatives. Caffeine increases your mood by increasing you dopamine levels, making you happier and blocks adenosine receptors, which keeps you from feeling tired. A Harvard School of Public Health study showed that depression risk was 20% lower in women who drank 4 daily 8oz cups of coffee. Caffeine really does increase your brain power and ability to learn temporarily. It can increase comprehension, memory, reflexes, and clarity of thought. In a recent study, 200mg of caffeine (two 8oz cups) improved long-term memory. Caffeine also helps out athletes by improving endurance by reducing glucose burning and increasing fat burning. So have that cup or two of coffee an hour before your workout and you’ll be able to go for longer. This is so beneficial that the International Olympic Committee banned caffeine in competitions!

If you want to save money, I suggest learning to brew your own coffee and tea. Spending the extra cash on a dual espresso and coffee maker has already saved me money on the everyday 16oz Starbucks mocha with the extra shot of espresso I was getting for almost $5. This way you can experiment on flavors and the different types of brews you may like without paying a fortune every time you need a pick me up.