The Effects of Caffeine on the Brain

Get an energy boost when you need it most with caffeine! This natural stimulant activates your brain and nervous system, helping to increase alertness and productivity. It can also raise beneficial chemicals such as cortisol and adrenaline, providing a refreshing jolt with short-term benefits for concentration.

Just as you want to know what your food does to your body when you eat it, knowledge of what coffee does to the brain matters. So let’s take a closer look at the effects of caffeine on the brain. You may want to know why you should be wary of excessively drinking coffee. When you drink a coffee, you will notice that enriching lift that it gives you. You become more aware and attentive to the small details you often overlook. This heightened state of alertness helps you better recognize opportunities with ease. The work you need to do becomes much easier to focus on as you have something in our system that boosts your alertness. 

 

The Adverse Effects of caffeine Intake

The effect of coffee on the brain, though, comes from the binding of our adenosine receptors. Think of caffeine as a Trojan horse of sorts. Instead of sending the adenosine receptors through the body, it sends caffeine. They mimic the adenosine receptors but never send the “lights out” moment that makes us feel tired. It essentially stops the body from being able to make us go, “OK, that’s enough for just now!” – it gives us extra energy because your body cannot understand that it feels tired (temporarily).

What does that mean? It’s simple. It means that your brain can no longer produce the chemical that makes us feel tired. Therefore, our body is unable to feel fatigued or drained of energy. You can go at 100% as your body can no longer read the signs that would usually see us put down our tools and stop. That added alertness and buzz allows us to get through tasks that might feel too much of a strain. For example, if you drink coffee, you can work through the stress barrier and finish the job.

You’re also going to find that caffeine can free up dopamine and glutamine levels to avoid what we call ‘rollercoaster thinking’: the peaks and troughs of the mind that can negatively damage performance. Our mind can therefore stay on the task at hand. It helps us retain concentration and level-headedness, as we need it most. 

Does your mind ever develop a resistance to Caffeine?

Coffee has many effects on the mind – one effect being that the brain needs to develop more adenosine receptors. What is blocked off will be replaced, meaning you need more coffee to block these new receptors. This gives you that same lift all over again, making it easy to start feeling the various benefits of coffee on the mind.  For one, you’ll be far less likely to miss out on that deadline – you don’t feel tired, so why stop?

This is only the start of the mental effects of coffee. There is much more to come. So let’s look at some of the other issues that can come up when you keep on drinking coffee. 

Now that you can appreciate what coffee does, what about ‘stage two’ of the process?

Does caffeine have an impact on our memory?

The first thing we must consider is what caffeine does to the brain. As you will no doubt know by now, coffee tends to contain anything from 70-140mg of caffeine in a single 8oz cup. Depending on the kind of coffee you drink and its strength, it’s likely to be higher than 100mg.  Remember that the human body can safely take around 400mg of caffeine. Therefore, four cups of 100mg strength coffee daily would unlikely cause long-term detrimental issues.

Caffeine has numerous effects on the mind, including your memory. However, it’s not harmful: your brain will likely work better regarding memory recollection due to caffeine intake. In addition, caffeine positively impacts the mind, with long-term memory likely to improve with caffeine intake. So, if you are worried that drinking too much coffee might make you forgetful, fear not: that’s not one of the effects of caffeine on the mind.

After all, there is a reason why so many students drink coffee. Yes, it’s to make up for those last night gaming sessions and midweek nights out. But it’s also to help them improve the standard of their studying. If you are a student and you want to make your learning more methodical, you should drink a cup of coffee after a study session.

Does caffeine have a long-term impact on the mind?

Since caffeine is a stimulant, many of us worry that it might have a long-term and negative impact. Of course, it impacts our mood, but it often lasts only a few hours – unless taken in excess. 

Of course, some will tell you that while caffeine is good for the brain today, it might not be next week. However, there are presently no studies whatsoever that show long-term memory damage through caffeine intake. The energy crash you feel when the caffeine wears off is your body producing new adenosine receptors. Therefore, the crash comes not from your mind faltering, but your body is able to feel tired again. It can feel more extreme if you skip a period of the day where you would have felt naturally fatigued.

So, if you are worried that drinking a lot of coffee is going to make it harder for you to learn and study, fear not; as it stands, there are only good things to be said about the positive impact on memory

The Negative Side-Effects of Exceeding 400mg Level

Sadly, there is always a but when it comes to something with no drawbacks. Earlier, we mentioned that you have a 400mg limit per day on how much caffeine you can take in. While that is still a lot of caffeine, you will find that exceeding this dosage on a regular basis will have problems for the body and mind.

One of the most common problems you might feel is a sense of foggy-mindedness. When you exceed that 400mg level, your body is now entering a state of mild flux. Therefore, while it will help you perform at a higher level until the coffee wears off, you will pay for it when it does. Often, something that you could easily remember amid your coffee rush will become very hard to pinpoint. As a result, it can make you feel incredibly frustrated as you are unable to tap into the knowledge that you need and want.

If you get used to exceeding that 400mg level, you will suffer from regular coffee withdrawals.  When you start to go over the recommended level, though, you will suffer from this negative side-effect of coffee on the brain.

How long does caffeine stay in my system?

Typically, the coffee that you take won’t kick in right away – though it might feel as if it does. Instead, you can find that it takes around 45 minutes to an hour. However, that caffeine intake will last for many hours – with some caffeine hits lasting as long as six hours!

If you keep drinking coffee throughout the day, you will start to feel the impact on your body and mind. It will mean that you are topping up the hours the caffeine has to work on your body. Try and balance out when you drink your coffee. Then some of us can have two in an hour. That’s not good!

Also, try and put in a regiment to ban drinking coffee after dinnertime.  If you do this, you are far less likely to feel tired at bedtime. If you need to have a coffee, switch to something more easy-going for a coffee drink at night, or try to get a decaffeinated brand that you like the taste of. This helps you to enjoy the idea of having a coffee without caffeine.

 

The long-term impact of Caffeine on the brain

Paul Mason

coffee blogger

Interested to know more about Hot Coffee? Got a question about our content or perhaps want to make a suggestion? The feel free to contact us today.

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Now, we’ve warned you so far about what can happen if you overdo it with coffee. While a foggy mind can become a common trait in the short-term, constant excessive coffee intake without pause will eventually lead to worrying long-term problems.  The body needs rest, and with the effect of coffee on the mind halting that rest, you can certainly pay for that. Here, then, are some of the long-term side effects that coffee could have on your system when consumed in excess:

  • Heavy caffeine consumption can lead to volatile emotions – a rollercoaster of highs and lows. The swift changes in mindset can create feelings of anxiety and discomfort that many coffee drinkers are familiar with.
  • Excess caffeine consumption can lead to a dangerous jump in blood pressure, generating feelings of nervousness and discomfort. Taking care of your intake is paramount for your well-being! Unfortunately, high amounts of energy make it difficult to get quality sleep – an issue that may result in more serious troubles further down the line.
  • Poor sleeping standards and an unregulated sleeping pattern further reduce your chances of being able to rest and recuperate accordingly.
  • Indigestion and heartburn can become a common problem for coffee drinkers in excess, too, so keep that in mind if you suffer from these issues.

If you suffer from any of these issues, you should look for medical assistance. But, more importantly, you should try to reduce your coffee intake – at least temporarily.

Does Caffeine influence my mood?

You will likely notice that when you drink coffee, you change your mood. Because you feel alert, you feel alive and energized. As a result, you’ll start being more productive, and you’ll be able to really change the kind of tasks you can complete on any given day.

However, given what coffee does to our body – essentially closing down our ability to feel tired – we often feel pretty nervous. Some of these feelings, though, are a minor placebo. We read that this is how coffee should make you feel, so we allow ourselves to feel that way. Caffeine normally gives you that nice kick and lift – but only when needed.

For example, ‘stacking’ caffeine benefits is hard work. You can drink more than two or three cups of coffee in a short space of time and get a triple lift. However, when you feel fatigued and low on energy, you are much more likely to need the rush. On the other hand, when you are already buzzing from a cup of coffee, you likely won’t feel anything like the difference you would expect.

If you continue to drink coffee when you already feel energetic, you are merely delaying the withdrawal symptoms that you would feel – prolonging the inevitable. It would help if you always kept this in mind, as it can significantly impact your day-to-day mood and performance.  The bottom line is if you already feel anxious, coffee will not settle that!

 

Why does Caffeine lift my performance levels?

You will have noticed how coffee can lift your spirits and boost performance in many ways. For example, you will likely be more alert, more likely to take in details, and quicker to respond to information and actions that need your response. The problem is that many people make the same mistake mentioned above.

Studies have shown that the future performance boosts afterward tend to be minimal after that first 100mg of coffee in the day (which kicks your performance levels much higher). So if you want a consistent boost during the day, space out your coffee intake by several hours; the interesting paradox is that since coffee is a drug, you may be staving off your addiction and cravings.

Many of us see drinking 3-4+ cups of coffee daily as a way of improving performance. However, it may be leveling you out to avoid the performance recession you feel by going through withdrawal. Therefore, instead of boosting performance, your addictive side might merely perform at what you would if you never drank coffee!

These small but significant factors need to be considered. For many people, the effects of coffee on the mind and performance are subjective.  Suppose you were to evaluate your performance with and without coffee (before being addicted, where you now need coffee to work to your normal capacity). In that case, you’d likely find some very interesting disparities.

Caffeine and brain entropy

When we hear the word entropy, we often associate it with chaos and disorder. So, when you hear that coffee could cause something known as ‘brain entropy,’ it can feel quite worrying. What you should do, then, is read this quick section.

Brain entropy is a good thing, not a negative one.  We all assume that our mind should be like the ideal filing cabinet: compartmentalised, incredibly organised, and arranged into the most studious format possible. However, a chaotic mind is often a more powerful mind. A 2018 study found that, in a study of 892 people, higher brain entropy produced defended as ‘higher intelligence’. This entropy was found in major parts of the brain, like the inferior temporal lobes.

This means that our brains can work with unique thought patterns and allow us to develop new solutions. We’d come to the same conclusions if we all had the same organised mind. This would stifle innovation and limit our ability to create better, safer ways to enjoy our lives.  The study showed that the minds with the least entropy tend to belong to those in the deepest, longest sleep.  Who wants to think like they are in deep sleep?

So, when you hear someone say that coffee and caffeine can cause brain entropy, don’t panic. By improving blood flow to parts of the brain, including the lateral prefrontal cortex, we boost our ability to come up with new ideas, innovate, and think outside the box. You can develop more radical and impressive ideas without being stuck with only conventional solutions.

Don’t panic when you hear that your cups of coffee create entropy. Still, avoid pushing your mind to some new level of zen by drinking multiple cups of coffee. Like any other part of the relationship between caffeine and the mind, it can only do so much: and most of the good work comes from that first cup!

What are the effects of caffeine on the body?

Since you can now relate to the impact of coffee on the mind, let’s take a brief look at what you might feel physically. While your mind is whirring, you might notice a few common symptoms – especially if you overdo it with the coffee. Some issues you might feel include:

  • A sense of alertness that leaves you able to react faster to physical issues i.e., dropping items or opening doors.
  • Improved pace of operation, allowing you to get through the working day with more efficiency and clearer results.
  • However, you might also begin to feel like your muscles are aching and have general aches and pains throughout the body. This comes from the coffee crash.
  • An increased heart rate is also common – you might find that your heart feels racing. If this continues for a prolonged period, seek medical assistance.

A warning about Caffeine and bone health

There is, though, one major red flag that we want to address. When you drink coffee, your body can no longer absorb calcium into the bones to the same level. This would naturally increase your chances of bone damage, fractures, and breaks. It would also increase the chances of osteoporosis.

If you suffer from excessive bone aches and pains, we recommend making an appointment with your doctor. They can check your calcium intake and recommend lifestyle changes to improve this problem.

So, should I get rid of my kettle?

No, of course not! The effects of coffee on the mind (and body) aren’t as damaging as they are made to sound. On the contrary, it offers us the lift and boosts to give it 100% and attack the day. But, like anything else in life, too much will negatively impact our health.

Your body and your mind deserve to be treated correctly. Since coffee is the most commonly consumed drug in the world, it’s not something you need to worry about. When taken in moderation, the effects of coffee on the brain can be very rewarding. Just try to limit your coffee intake – quality over quantity is essential.

Due to the ease with which we can access it, coffee is often treated as harmless. Coffee has many benefits, but the drawbacks mentioned above are real. Keep that in mind, and you’ll be much more likely to enjoy your coffee and benefit from its rewards. Drink too much of it, though, and you’ll feel long-term consequences.

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