We are a nation of coffee and tea lovers. However, there are niche groups who use coffee alternatives. Whether it’s gym-goers and athletes looking for a pre-workout caffeine supplement as an ergogenic aid; additionally, those seeking to drop a few pounds of fat may seek caffeine supplements for weight loss. If you have never used caffeine supplements before or have never researched them, you may be wondering are caffeine pills healthy? Or do natural caffeine supplements exist?
Well read on to find out more! But first, let’s have a look at what is caffeine and how does it work as an ergogenic aid and stimulant to keep tiredness at bay.
How does caffeine work?
While you are awake during the day, a chemical named adenosine starts to accumulate in the body. Adenosine continues to increase the longer you stay awake. Adenosine starts to bind to receptors in the central nervous system which leads to depleting brain activity. As a result of this, people start to experience tiredness and reduced productivity. The more adenosine present in the body, the more tired you feel.
The structure of caffeine is relatively similar to adenosine, so when a person consumes caffeine, it works its way through the body, imitates adenosine and begins competing with adenosine for receptor binding. Consequently, adenosine cannot bind to the receptors so the feelings of tiredness are alleviated and the energy boost kicks in.
Unfortunately, regular consumption of caffeine is something the central nervous system becomes accustomed to. As you consume caffeine, the body starts to grow more adenosine receptors, meaning additional caffeine is required to achieve the same effects.
Caffeine also acts as an ergogenic aid (performance-enhancing drug) as it stimulates production of adrenoline, the hormone responsible for a fight or flight response. As a result of consumption, heart rate is elevated, blood flow and blood sugar is increased throughout the body, all of which enable an enhanced performance during your workout. Many people consume a pre-workout caffeine supplement as an ergogenic aid.
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Have you ever experienced elevated feelings of positive emotions after consuming caffeine? Well this is probably related to the release of dopamine (known as the feel-good chemical). This dopamine release can also be attributed to why caffeine is so addictive. After all, who doesn’t want to feel happy?
What are caffeine supplements?
Caffeine pills are supplements comprised of caffeine. Their composition varies with some caffeine pills containing natural caffeine, while others are composed of synthetic or artificial caffeine. While every pill is made differently, with variations in terms of fillers, colourings, emulsifiers and caffeine content, the majority of caffeine pills range between 100-200 mg caffeine per pill. This is a relatively similar dose to a cup of coffee. The most popular sources include healthy caffeine supplements, such as tea and coffee. Popular caffeine sources besides coffee and tea include soda and diet drinks and energy drinks.
Safe adult caffeine daily dose: up to 400mg/day
Are caffeine supplements healthy?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have quantified caffeine from sources, e.g. food, medicine, tea and coffee, as safe based on adhering to healthy daily dose limits. This is based on the fact that tea and coffee beans have been present and in use for centuries with first records suggesting tea being consumed in China in 3000 BC; furthermore, there’s extensive evidence demonstrating that caffeine is generally recognised as safe by the FDA. However, pure caffeine powder marketed as a supplement has not been approved and has in fact been categorised as potentially dangerous by the FDA.
So are caffeine pills dangerous? Most caffeine supplements are healthy, provided you adhere to safe dose limits and consume them as per instructions. However, there are certain individuals who should exercise caution when it comes to caffeine consumption:
- Pregnant people
- People with heart disease or an irregular heart beat
- People with high blood pressure
- People sensitive to caffeine
As with any health-related, if you are unsure, contact your doctor to get professional advice.
Another factor to consider is that as a drug, caffeine is rather addictive. When people become addicted to caffeine, their consumption may push them over the safe threshold of 400 mg per day. This daily dose is based on an average adult, however, bear in mind that certain people may have different body compositions (e.g. taller/shorter) and may be more sensitive to caffeine. If you’re interested in gauging how much caffeine you should consume, try this caffeine safe limits calculator.
What does 400 mg of caffeine consumption look like?
Also don’t forget, that caffeine sources are equal in terms of ergogenic effects. E.g. whether you get 100 mg caffeine from a coffee or from a caffeine pill, it will elicit the same effects on the body. There are growing concerns in terms of caffeine consumption as the energy drinks market and products with added caffeine are increasing in popularity. Discrepancies exist in terms of caffeine content labelling which imposes ambiguity amongst consumers regarding how much caffeine they area really consuming in a day.
Sources of Caffeine
There are many people who don’t enjoy or can’t use tea or coffee as a caffeine source. Whether it’s too acidic for their stomach, they don’t like the taste or maybe it’s inconvenient for them, e.g. if they’re running out the door in the morning and haven’t the time to drink a coffee. In the below table you’ll see the caffeine content of various beverages. If you’re not a fan of such drinks, fear not, as also included below is a list of caffeine alternatives to coffee and tea. Also listed are some energy drinks caffeine content.
Interested in the caffeine content of diet drinks? Well check out Effects of diets drinks: weight gain or loss?
Interestingly, the darker the coffee roast, the lower the caffeine content is. This is in stark contrast to tea, where the darker the tea, the more caffeine is present. If you’re looking for a drink with added health benefits, try Green Tea Pure Extract 50% Caffeine Powder or Green Coffee Bean Extract
- Natural healthy caffeine sources include tea, coffee and chocolate
- The daily caffeine dose limit is 400mg/day for an adult
- Consuming a moderate intake of caffeine can be a safe habit for most individuals
- Persons with certain health issues should exercise caution with caffeine consumption
- Pure caffeine powder has not yet been deemed safe by the FDA
- Caffeine pills can be healthy caffeine supplements, provided they are consumed as per instructions
What’s your favourite caffeine source? Are you a caffeine addict or could you go days without a coffee? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
ASAP Science (2018) Your Brain on Coffee. Youtube. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YOwEqGykDM [Accessed 14 March 2020].
Caffeineinformer.com. (2020) Caffeine Safe Limits: Calculate Your Safe Daily Dose. [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 March 2020].
Chen, X., Liu, Y., Jaenicke, E. and Rabinowitz, A., 2019. New concerns on caffeine consumption and the impact of potential regulations: The case of energy drinks. Food Policy, 87, p.101746.
Coffee and Health. 2020. Sources Of Caffeine. [online] Available at: https://www.coffeeandhealth.org/topic-overview/sources-of-caffeine/ [Accessed 14 March 2020].
Magee, E., 2018. Healthier Ways To Get Your Caffeine. [online] WebMD. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/healthier-ways-to-get-your-caffeine#1 [Accessed 14 March 2020].
Murrell, D., 2018. Caffeine Pills: Side Effects, Benefits, And How It Compares To Coffee. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/caffeine-pills> [Accessed 14 March 2020].
Schklair, A., 2016. 11 Surprising Facts You May Not Know About Caffeine. [online] National Consumers League. Available at: https://www.nclnet.org/27422/caffeine_facts [Accessed 14 March 2020].