Caffeine is the world’s most popular psychoactive drug, and nothing else comes close. Billions of people enjoy caffeine’s uplifting, energizing effects, many of them habitually.
Some even take pills containing nothing more than pure, powdered caffeine and an inert binder. Far more common, though, is to consume caffeine by sipping one of two brewed beverages, each with a long history.
Coffee and tea both have many passionate fans, and each is commonly thought to encourage a distinctive type of caffeine-induced experience. Although caffeine use is generally considered safe for most, it can have both benefits and drawbacks. Being familiar with the latest research into caffeine, coffee, and tea consumption will make it easier to achieve a balance that promotes well-being.
Caffeine is a Gentle but Effective Stimulant
Caffeine’s most notable and widely recognized effects are achieved through direct stimulation of the central nervous system (CNS). The longer a well-rested person stays awake, the more a substance called “adenosine” accumulates within and around the neurons of the CNS.
Adenosine-specific receptors throughout the CNS contribute to increasing sensations of drowsiness the more they get triggered. These feelings build up over time, ensuring that a person whose body and mind need rest will feel sleepier and sleepier.
Introducing caffeine into the CNS will temporarily hit the “pause” button on this important process. Caffeine effectively takes adenosine receptors offline, reducing the feeling of drowsiness even while large quantities of that chemical are still present.
Drinking a cup of caffeine-rich coffee or strong tea early in the morning will buy a person some time until the body’s natural means of adenosine elimination get into gear. That pushes away early-morning drowsiness long enough for genuine, natural alertness and energy to return.
Enjoying a mug of tea or a cup of coffee later on in the day can be just as effective at perking a person up. With adenosine having accumulated within the CNS to any degree, a modest dose of caffeine delivered courtesy of coffee or tea will help mitigate its drowsiness-inducing effects.
The Effects of Caffeine Vary With Dosage
Take too much caffeine at once, though, and unpleasant feelings like anxiety can follow. A Penn State Health report from 2019 described how even a second “grande” cup of Starbucks coffee can cause anxiety-inducing over-stimulation in certain people.
On the other side of the coin, many have also experienced how a cup of caffeinated tea can actually leave someone feeling excessively mellowed out instead of energized. Tea tends to have quite a bit less caffeine than coffee in general, and certain varieties are even lighter on it than others. Couple this with the fact that many types of tea contain natural relaxants, and the boost a small amount of caffeine provides might get lost in the mix.
- Tea may help with anxiety and still assist with alertness.
- Try different types of tea and see what works for your palate and situation.
- Too much coffee may have an opposite affect from what you want.
It can therefore take some experimentation and analysis to figure out how best to use coffee or tea to promote personal well-being. The mechanism by which caffeine works is well understood, but variations among individuals and factors like dosage complicate the equation. Fortunately, tea and coffee are both considered safe–or even beneficial–for most to consume in moderation.