I spent the majority of my life not drinking coffee because I thought that it was “bad”—probably because of “programming” from my childhood. Programming is really just another way of trying to understand why we believe the things we believe. In many cases we are programmed by things we hear and see throughout our lives, particularly in our early years. On top of my negative beliefs about coffee, on the rare occasion that I drank coffee I felt an initial surge of energy which was followed by a rapid crash and shaky feeling. So both my beliefs and my poor reaction to coffee kept me away until about 8 months ago. In my search for the formula for optimal health and longevity, I came across numerous research showing the health benefits of coffee. In addition, I saw how revered coffee was in many parts of the world which experience a high level of health and longevity. With that I learned that coffee does have some extremely well-documented and researched positives and people who drink coffee are generally healthier and live longer than people who don’t. That being said, coffee can be quite powerful and there are some important points to consider if you want experience the good and avoid the negatives.
Quality is king when it comes to food in general and coffee is no different. Unfortunately, coffee is one of the crops that is often exposed to a higher concentration of pesticides and other chemicals. You can avoid this by simply sourcing high quality coffee. As an added bonus it will probably taste better. When sourcing coffee look for the words – organic, single-origin and fair trade organic. There are also many quality beans that come from non-organic sources, so do your research. When stopping for coffee on the go, consider the smaller, speciality cafes as they often source higher quality beans. In many cases that jittery feeling or weird headache (often behind your eyes) that you experience is due to toxic residue in the coffee and not the coffee itself. In addition, you should always remember that when you ingest toxins of any form it will cause imbalances in your body which can make it harder for you to reach your health and wellness goals.
There are variety of methods used to prepare coffee. While there is no method that is best, there are some that I believe should be limited. Standard “drip” coffee machines are generally made of plastic. Under the heat of brewing, the plastic can leach into the coffee. If you have a sensitive pallet (like me), you can taste the chemicals that have made their way into your drink. These chemicals can damage your endocrine system (hormonal system) and lead to hormonal imbalances. In addition, machines with “cup” delivery systems can often leach heavy metals into the coffee. Again these heavy metals can be damaging to the body. A french press or stove top coffee percolator (made of glass) would be your best bet for a standard cup of joe. High quality espresso machines are also a great option. For those with a sensitive stomach, cold brewed coffee is often less acidic and nice generally in the warmer months.
The best time to drink coffee is before 2PM and with a meal (more details below). Caffeine stays in your system for quite a while, if you have any sleep issues, the first place to start would not be melatonin, it would be to stop drinking coffee after 2pm. If that doesn’t work, stop even earlier and consider an espresso based drink (Americano, cappuccino, latte) over regular coffee. Contrary to popular belief there is less caffeine in a serving of espresso than in a cup of coffee. Lastly, coffee can be extremely beneficial pre-workout, but not post-workout. (more details below).
You may have heard of the term “time-released” when referring to certain medications. This means that you should experience a slow and steady release into your blood stream so that you can experience the benefits of your medication (or coffee) longer and without a crash. The best way to achieve this time-released affect is to have coffee with a balanced meal or snack, specifically one that contains protein, fat and carbohydrates. The idea of incorporating fat in your coffee has become quite popular in recent years (you may have heard the term “bullet proof” coffee). While this is certainly a “better” way to drink coffee, I think you can do better by pairing with all three macronutrients (protein, fat and carbs). Why? While there are some nutrients in coffee and butter, this mix is lacking in protein and carbohydrates. So while you feel great all morning, you have tricked your body into running on less fuel. This often leads to late day cravings and a lower than adequate intake of certain key nutrients. Have a few eggs and a piece of fruit with your coffee, or have a cappuccino or latte and a piece of fruit.
Coffee can be a great way to optimize performance in the gym and can even help with fat burning and increasing your metabolic rate (metabolism). Coffee can boost levels of a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol can give you a powerful surge of energy which can increase output in the gym and can also start the process by which your body liberates fat. This can be very beneficial pre-workout, however post-workout (and in general) too much cortisol can impair recovery and suppress all of the growth and repair hormones that you want and need. Tip: the best way to suppress cortisol post-workout is to eat a balanced meal or shake as soon as possible.
The word detox is thrown around quite often in the health world. True detox is a highly complex process that is happening billions of times a second in our bodies. Coffee contains some chemicals which can help stimulate natural detoxifications processes; namely by the liver (this is one of the reasons people use coffee enemas for advanced detox programs).
This ARTICLE originally appeared on Bazaar.com
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