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Why Does Coffee Wake You Up?

Instant, with cream, with sugar, percolated, pressed, or just plain black – coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world Millions of people are involved in the production of the hot black drink, and millions more drink it The US even celebrates Coffee Day on September 29 We all know coffee will perk us up But why? We’re going to find out just why the coffee bean does what it does

One shot or two?

The active ingredient in coffee is primarily caffeine – it’s what gives coffee its kick The levels of caffeine in a cup of coffee will vary depending on:

  • The size of the cup
  • The roast (the darker the roast, the lower the caffeine level)
  • The brew method (press, drip, percolator, espresso, dirty sock)
  • How fast you drink it (one cup drunk over an hour will have less effect than one cup drunk in 30 seconds: chug, chug, chug!)

Caffeine is also present in tea, cola, as well as some foods including chocolate However, the levels tend to be higher in coffee than in most other consumables: coffee can have more than double the caffeine content compared to tea

From your mug to your brain

Also unlike carbon dioxide, adenosine is not flushed from the body throughout the day Instead, adenosine builds up in your system As the day goes on, your adenosine levels build and you start feeling sleepy When you sleep, adenosine is finally removed from your system and the cycle repeats As we can all relate, sometimes you don’t get enough sleep – so your adenosine levels are not adequately lowered This makes you start your day feeling drowsy So you reach for a cup of coffee

The effect of coffee and its caffeine is to block the effects of adenosine on your brain It also increases the flow of stimulation chemicals, including acetylcholine, epinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, glutamate, norepinephrine, cortisol, and endorphins

Along with this, caffeine also speeds up the release of energy from fat cells and changes the way your brain perceives neuron activation This gives some of the characteristic pep of coffee, where you have more energy and can expend more effort

The effect doesn’t stop there When the food and drink you consume hits your digestive system it undergoes a lot of changes It’s broken down into other parts, and these parts can have additional effects on your body The caffeine in coffee is broken down into additional parts known as paraxanthine, theobromine, and theophylline These have the added effects of:

  • Releasing energy into the blood stream
  • Increasing oxygen flow to brain and muscles
  • Increasing heart rate

But that’s not all

With an ever hungry sweet tooth, coffee doesn’t just mean coffee Coffee may also include cream, sugar, cocoa, or any number of flavorings and additives How much you put in your coffee significantly increases the level of stimulation you receive, particularly from the sugar content

The same is doubly-true for store bought coffee A venti (large) Starbucks Caramel Apple Spice contains 83 grams of sugar A venti Java Chip has 84 grams of sugar The venti Green Tea Frappuccino packs 87 grams of the sweet stuff See more at the Starbucks nutritional info page

Forget caffeine – the sugars in these drinks are sure to wake you up, and keep you up Dr Ian Campbell, head of the National Obesity Forum, is quoted as describing these kinds of drinks as a “sugar bomb” Taken late in the day, the collateral damage for this sugar bomb is your sleep Kaboom

Correction: Sugar does not contribute to wakefulness! It may add to your waistline, but won’t keep you up at night See our article on sugar and sleep to find out more

Coffee before bed

Since the effects of coffee directly affect your brain on a chemical level, and continue to do so even after the caffeine is digested, it stays in your system for a long time How long you stay perked up by coffee depends on a number of factors, such as:

  • Age
  • Liver function
  • Medications or drugs
  • Pregnancy and strong hormonal patterns
  • Smoking
  • How much coffee you regularly drink

Each individual’s unique biology also affects how their body will deal with coffee and caffeine For some, a single sip will send them bouncing off the walls – others will pound down lattes as a night cap

Generally speaking, to ensure that coffee doesn’t keep us from sleep, we should avoid coffee four to six hours before bed That means no after dinner coffee, and maybe even no late-afternoon coffee time

Coffee withdrawal?

For people who drink a lot of coffee, there may be less to their morning cup than they thinkThats all I have to do she asked. Researchers at the University of Bristol conducted a study of low/no caffeine consumers and medium/high caffeine consumers Each group was tested in the morning, and given either a dose of caffeine, or a placebo It should come as no surprise that the medium/high caffeine consumers that received a placebo (no caffeine) reported lower levels of alertness and incidences of headache

However, researchers found that even after the medium/high consumers had caffeine, they had no higher levels of alertness than the low consumers that received just a placebo Their conclusion was that, for regular high consumers of caffeine, their morning cup merely brings them back up to normal Their morning fog is caused not by tiredness, but by caffeine withdrawal

Either way, the study is an excellent reminder about how we can develop tolerances, and withdrawals, from this ubiquitous, delicious, but sometimes mean, bean

Related Posts

It would have been nice if this article actually answered the question posed as the title…

I have had a lot of people recommend me coffee to keep me awake in those all-nighters one has to pull for college assignments, quizzes or exam BUT I agree with you coffee never kept me awake, so I think caffeine doesn’t really wake you up

This article made me laugh! Coffee has the opposite effect on my boyfriend…it puts him to sleep! I guess he is just unique ;)

Sugar will give you energy but it can also make you crash pretty hard afterwards

You say sugar doesn’t cause a rush, but I’ve found that if I eat a lot of sugar in the evening, then yes, I can’t get to sleep easily, and I feel jittery Perhaps some have more of a tolerance to sugar than others?

Caffeine does make us awake While sugar increases our sugar levels, not really to make us fatter Remember why athletes are advised to eat chocolates after workout, it gives them energy Regardless whether you’re an athlete or not, it does bring energy Although when your sugar level is so high, it can make you feel sleepy

Chocolate is not given to athletes after a workout for energy……Its given to replenish glycogen levels for optimal recovery

Studies have shown that sugar does NOT cause a “rush” of energy

Sugar does provide a ” Rush” of Energy…Maybe you need to research ” CARBS”

You are so right! Within the cells, the mitochondria use glucose during cellular respiration to create ATP (or ENERGY)!

I Love It……I’m going to make sure I have some nice tasty black organic coffee before I get my work started –And surely before my next bicycle ride

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