Caffeine – The Worlds Favourite Drug

I felt like I could take on the whole world. When I left my apartment I was ready to rumble. A quick ride to the gym ensued and minutes later I was lifting heavier weights than ever before. The workout was glorious and a HIIT-training ended the session on a high note. During the day I felt on top of things and was not distracted by activities like Facebook or watching TV.

At the same time, I felt hurried. I needed to do things, sitting down and doing nothing (which I’m not great at anyways) was not happening. I could focus but also wanted to be doing the next three things, at the same time. By the end of the day, I was exhausted from doing so much. Or could I just keep going and take some more, would that be a good idea?

This was me a few years ago. During that time I was lifting heavy weights, studying Psychology and testing what a large dose of caffeine would do to me. During that time I was taking between 500 and 1000 milligrams of caffeine per day. That’s the equivalent of about 8 cups of coffee. And I wasn’t even drinking coffee on a regular basis. So, why? I was looking for the positive benefits of caffeine, didn’t like coffee, and like with most things, I wanted to see how far I could take it.

Were all those feelings I had really the caffeine working? Or was it all a big placebo effect at work? Today we will take a look at caffeine and examine what effects it has on your body.


Caffeine is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug

We all know that coffee is the most prevalent form of caffeine consumption. Scandinavian countries and The Netherlands consume the most coffee, up to 10kg per capita per year. Even with the rise of soda and energy drinks, coffee remains the popular choice by far.

In a typical cup of coffee, you will find between 80-175 milligrams of caffeine. The amount depends on what beans you use and how the coffee is prepared. A Venti Starbucks Blonde Roast contains 475 milligrams whilst a Tim Horton small coffee has 140 milligrams. Tip 1: Always know how much caffeine is in your beverage, it may vary more than you think.

Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system. The main way caffeine does this is by blocking the action of adenosine, thereby preventing the onset of drowsiness. Because caffeine looks similar to adenosine, it can take its place on the receptors, thus blocking the drowsy effect. At the same time, caffeine also stimulates certain portions of the autonomic nervous system.

Video: Hank Green (who apparently doesn’t drink coffee), explains how coffee works in your brain.


Lose fatigue, run faster, and feel powerful!

Caffeine has long been studied and next to the great information available, there is still a lot of misinformation out there. The following effects are based off multiple double-blind and placebo-controlled studies. They were done on humans and are not sponsored by ‘big-coffee’.

1. Caffeine makes you run faster

This effect is moderate and with elite athletes shows an increase of about 8% (which of course is still very good). The effect is related to anaerobic exercise, which means that it only relates to exercises in which you don’t use oxygen (e.g. running long distances). Some effects on studies with cycling show small effects for aerobic performance.

2. Caffeine increases your power output

The biggest effect was found in the groups with the highest amounts of caffeine (800mg). Groups showed better performance, higher levels of testosterone and an increase in cortisol (which is normally associated with stress).

3. Caffeine raises your blood pressure

At high levels of caffeine consumption, blood pressure rises in diverse groups of test subjects. The resting heart rate also rises but doesn’t immediate increase metabolic rate.

4. Caffeine increases fat oxidation

You burn more fat when a lot of caffeine is taken. But the effect is probably way smaller than as advertised on caffeine or weight-loss supplements.

5. Caffeine improves your reaction time

Your reaction time, decision time and movement time will go up when you take caffeine. This effect is both true if you were fatigued before or not. People who regularly drink coffee don’t experience the effect as much as people who normally don’t drink coffee.


Caffeine in Your Daily Life

How much caffeine is smart to drink is dependent on your specific metabolism. You will not easily overdose (that is 50-100 cups of coffee), but at high doses, your sleep might be impaired by the effects of caffeine.

You will not become physically dependent on caffeine, and stopping leads to no side-effects for most people. When reported, people say they have headaches, sleepiness and an inability to concentrate after they stop drinking 2+ cups of coffee per day. Caffeine is generally not considered as psychologically addictive.

Caffeine can best be consumed in the morning and the effects start after about one hour and last between 3 and 4 hours. The strongest effects have been found at high doses and consuming it for these benefits means that you want to get about 400 milligrams of caffeine or 3 ‘normal’ cups of coffee per day.

Today I am consuming caffeine in a new way, via guarana. It is high in caffeine and has other components which can also be beneficial to you. I feel that it has positive effects when going to the gym and because I only take it in the morning and afternoon, I still sleep like a baby. In a next blog, I will go into depth on the effects of guarana.

Let us know on the forum how you get your ‘fix’ and how much caffeine gets you going in the morning!


Take me to the Forum

Floris Wolswijk

MSc in Industrial & Organisational Psychology. Floris has started two companies before. In his student life, he was President of his Study Association and Director of a Student Strategy Consultancy. He participates in obstacle runs and has energy for two. Getting the right things done is what he gets up for in the morning.

1 Comment
  • Jeroen M

    2nd February 2017 at 2:38 am Reply

    Mixing cafeïne into Soylent(Queel) was a good find.
    Keep exploring the field nootropics, and you’ll find many more gems like: Choline and Piracetam.

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