Let me immediately start by saying; I love coffee—I am talking about the black liquid derived from brewing delicious organic and freshly roasted coffee beans containing caffeine! I am enjoying a cup right now as I am writing this post—it is still morning for me. Unfortunately, my body doesn’t always agree with it, and that is what I want to talk about: when to enjoy a cup and when to stay away from it. I am not going to give you some drastic answer to either completely quit or to go ahead and drink a couple of cups a day to reap the potential health benefits of coffee (according to individual studies). I believe that there needs to be a balance and your body can tell you when to enjoy it.
If you don’t drink coffee now, my advice is not to start. You can easily do without this addictive substance (click this link for an interesting read). But, if you are like me and commenced on this coffee bandwagon, then I would like to share with you a couple of things about my previous relationship with it. Maybe this might spark you to take a second look at yours.
I did not grow up drinking coffee and did not start liking it until much later in life. My parents drank every morning religiously one cup, and I loved—and still do— the fragrant smell when entering the kitchen, but I used to dislike the bitter taste. Now, I enjoy it on occasion, sometimes I even add steamed almond milk or blend it with a teaspoon of coconut oil. It is comforting, soothing and, for me, highly addictive—caffeine, after all, is a drug. It is important to mention that I don’t drink any other caffeinated beverages like sodas or teas, and I hardly drink any alcohol—water is all I consume during the rest of the day.
Coffee became part of my daily diet a year after the birth of my daughter—I wanted to test its weight loss benefits after having trouble losing my last stubborn pregnancy pounds. I can personally attest that drinking one black cup of Joe before my morning workout did help me lose weight fast and increased my energy level—when combining it with a healthy balanced diet. I even worked out harder, had more energy after my morning workouts, and it kept me regular. It took me a little getting used to the taste of black coffee, but soon I came to enjoy and even grave for it. It is worth noting that my husband who refused to give up his milk in coffee did not have the same weight loss effects as I did. So, for all the morning exercisers who use coffee (caffeine) as an aid for burning fat or enhancing your performance, I suggest to stop coating it with cream or sugar and get used to drinking it black.
Although I am one of these people that can benefit from coffee in the weight loss department, I also tricked myself into thinking that it had no adverse effects on me at all. Unlike my husband who kept his coffee drinking habit to one a day, I became psychologically dependent on it. It wasn’t so much that I needed the drug per se, but I craved for the feeling I got when drinking the coffee in the morning. I suddenly drank two to three cups a day before noon. I also ate less. Coffee took away my appetite, unwillingly so. It created a downward spiraling cycle of health issues that I did not immediately see coming, maybe even ignoring the problems at first.
It all started with sleep deprivation. I had no problems falling asleep, but two hours later I was wide awake and unable to fall asleep again. Little did I know that my body probably metabolizes caffeine slowly and should never consume this much in a day. Holistcole writes a beautiful post about this that goes into more depth about how you can tell whether a cup of coffee can be bad for you based on your genes.
I also started noticing a significant amount of hair loss every month around the time of menstruation—the caffeine probably had an effect on the monthly changes of hormones. I suffered from an increase in PMS symptoms, randomly feeling dizzy and nauseous during the day, muscular pain and an increase in sensitive and lumpy breast tissues. I probably suffered from adrenal fatigue with my bad coffee habit and depleted my body of proper nutrients.
With the help of my doctor, I found out that I had a severe deficiency of vitamin B12, vitamin D, and iron even though I ate extremely healthy. Although the doctor gave me diet advice and extra vitamins to take temporarily, I couldn’t possibly eat more greens and a balanced diet than I already did. I didn't suspect coffee as the culprit at first, until one day, brewing a cup did not smell so good anymore, and when I tried to drink it, I had to spit it out. My body just revolted against it. It is then that I started to suspect my symptoms with consuming too much caffeine. My body was telling me something. It was time for me to listen. I immediately quit, and although the first week was hard, I felt like a basket case and just wanted to feel healthy again. Three to four weeks later I started to see small changes in my health. A couple of months later I felt great, and my hair was growing back.
Today I still enjoy coffee, but only occasionally—I even make it a ritual— or when it benefits me like on vacations when different foods can make me more irregular. I often enjoy it on a Sunday morning when I feel relaxed and reflect on the week. So today, I take a more balanced approach to drinking coffee and see it as a lovely indulgence that I can have once in a while.
I believe that coffee can be enjoyed on a daily basis if you eat a healthy and balanced diet. But know your body and its reaction to caffeine. My husband can drink one cup of coffee a day without any side effects, but my caffeine intolerance is too low to drink daily. I even know people that enjoy a cup because it helps them to prevent migraine attacks. Always observe yourself. Are you often jittery or anxious? Do you get a good nights rest? Especially for women, it is worth testing your caffeine intake and the relationship with your physical signs and symptoms around that time of the month. Don’t drink coffee when you are so dependent on it that you can’t function in the morning without a cup or two. Your body is telling you something!!!
Here are the rules that I apply for enjoying a cup of that black liquid:
- I never drink caffeine when stressed. It triggers cortisol release and when stressed you want to lower it. We are all susceptible to being overwhelmed at times. A lot of people focus during these times more on the mind: talking to a friend or trying to calm down by meditating. But this is the time that the body needs attention too: go to bed early; feed yourself real food, don't drink stimulants like caffeine and don't forget to move. I always feel a lot better when I do my favorite activities such as hiking, yoga or a challenging TRX class. More importantly, your body always reacts to certain smells and gives you hints of what not to consume during a stressful period. Listen to it.
- I only enjoy a cup of coffee before noon. My sleep is precious to me, and I don't want anything to interfere with that. Besides, coffee does not taste good to me in the afternoon.
- I use a cup of coffee to my advantage. I prefer to drink it when I need some help with losing a couple of pounds and drink it in the morning before my physical activity.
- I always drink more water when I have enjoyed that cup of coffee. There are now studies out there that claim "coffee...provides similar hydrating qualities to water." Really? That is not the case for me. If I don't drink enough water on days when consuming coffee, I am more thirsty and get more dehydrated—particularly in the middle of the night, I wake up feeling dry.
Coffee is so ingrained in our U.S. culture and a lot because of—I have no doubt—the millions of dollars spent every year on heartwarming advertisement, especially around the winter Holidays. A lot of my friends drink coffee, and where better to meet than in a cozy coffee shop that you can find in almost every neighborhood these days. Relax, my friends, I am not trying to take away your precious cup of coffee. But no matter what the research says, drinking more than two cups of coffee can’t be healthy either, in my humble opinion. Keep it to one or two cups a day—and I mean a regular cup, not something of the size of a soup bowl—and drink it before noon. Coffee is a stimulant after all, and nothing 's right for you if not enjoyed in moderation. My personal experience with coffee may be entirely different from yours, but do yourself a favor—studies aside—listen to your body. Everybody has a different tolerance to caffeine, but as with anything find your balance.