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.

Coffee beans, love, caffeine

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.

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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?

Coffee, dopamine, feel good, caffeine

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.

Pills, caffeine pills, caffeine supplements

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?

Caffeine limits, coffee, tea

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?

Caffeine quantities, coffee,

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

Summary

  • 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.

Sources

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].

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14 Comments

  • Tom · 14/03/2020 at 12:45 PM

    Hey,

    I remember when I was part of a boxing gym years ago that the fighters were using caffeine supplements. They worked well with keeping them trim. I also remember Sylvester Stallone when making Rocky 3 drank 25 cups of coffee a day because that helped him keep his incredibly trim figure, aswell as all the training too obviously.

    If I was training like a boxer or an athlete then I think caffeine supplements is a good and healthy thing to do.

    Great article which is very informative, insightful and helpful. Keep up the great work.

    All the best,

    Tom

      Sharon · 14/03/2020 at 3:14 PM

      Hi Tom,

      Wow that’s a lot of coffee, I’m guessing he was probably easily 3 times over the threshold! It’s certainly a good supplement for exercise. I personally feel I perform better when I’ve had a cup of tea or coffee before my workout.

      Thanks for your compliments, I appreciate it! Hope the article and the page is giving you some new found knowledge!

      Sharon

    Will Lawson · 14/03/2020 at 1:10 PM

    Definitely a great piece highlighting the importance of healthy caffeine options. I personally found making the switch to green tea while doing shift work to make a considerable positive difference in my health and staying away for the 12+ hour shifts. I appreciate the amount of articles you have referenced for this information to, great quality work. I’ll be back for sure!

      Sharon · 14/03/2020 at 3:21 PM

      Thank you for your kind words.

      I hear of a lot of people moving towards green tea and also seeing the health benefits from it. I unfortunately have yet to acquire a taste for green tea!

      Stay tuned for more referenced articles!
      Sharon

    Soraya Kelly · 14/03/2020 at 1:28 PM

    I am glad that there are some decent caffeine supplements out there.

    Sadly, I am one of those people that drinks coffee everyday, all day. I love the taste. I love the smell of coffee. I love the idea of coffee. Coffee kills my intestines. .

    I have long since stopped drinking soda. Too much sugar. So that was out.

    I am an herbal tea girl. I do drink Green Tea regularly, no added sugar,
    with no side effect on my gut.

    Thank you for the great information on caffeine supplements. It is an eye opener!

      Sharon · 14/03/2020 at 3:26 PM

      Herbal tea is really growing in popularity, I’m sure you’re not the only one who experiences gastro difficulties from the likes of soda and coffee. Herbal tea does seem to be a more gentle caffeine source.

      Glad the article was of value to you!

      Best wishes,
      Sharon

    Andy · 14/03/2020 at 3:48 PM

    Thanks for a very well structured and informative piece. It is also reassuring to be able to assess my consumption habits and see that I shouldn’t be damaging my health. Though I am sure others might disagree. I have to watch the chocolate through. I love the 400mg graphic – really easy to understand and helps put it all into perspective.
    Thanks again

      Sharon · 14/03/2020 at 4:56 PM

      You are most welcome!

      Yes I agree, it something people often don’t consider until it elicits negative effects on their body/life, e.g. disrupted sleep, jitters etc. Glad you like the graphic, I thought it simplifies it and makes it easier to judge how much caffeine you’re consuming.

      Best wishes,
      Sharon

    Justin · 15/03/2020 at 4:06 PM

    A great article, thank you. I must admit it is so easy today when you are busy to grab a coffee on the go. Trouble is, it is also easy to lose track of how much you have consumed. I hadn’t even thought about chocolate etc. adding to it. I think I may have to cut back a bit on the coffee – not the chocolate though!
    Thanks

      Sharon · 16/03/2020 at 6:20 PM

      Hi Justin,

      Thank you, I appreciate your compliment!

      Chocolate isn’t something that many people associate with caffeine, let alone using it as a supplement for energy, so I think you can be forgiven for that. Hope the 400mg image makes it easy for you to estimate your caffeine intake.

      Sharon

    Ferra · 15/03/2020 at 4:12 PM

    Hi Sharon,

    Thank you for the detailed information on this. My husband needs to read this as well as he is one of the persons I know that rely heavily on caffeine due to long hour shifts. My husband works for 12 hours a day for 4 days a week. He used to work night shifts but when we have our baby, he changed to day shifts but still 12 hours is too long (not to mention the commute and if there”s a meeting etc so he’ll be home late). He drinks Monster Energy drink about 4 cans a day. Sometimes he does substitute it by drinking coffee, but he would drink at least 8 cups. I think that is still a lot!
    So, thanks again for your post. I’ll convince him to get the supplement. I think it is good for when we have to travel internationally so he won’t be anxious on the plane.

    Cheers,
    Ferra

      Sharon · 16/03/2020 at 6:24 PM

      Hi Ferra,

      Wow it seems as if your husband does like his caffeine! I wonder has his body become tolerant to it now which is why he needs to consume so much of it? Sometimes this is where caffeine cycling comes in beneficial. If he does try this, I’d be keen to hear how he gets on!

      Best wishes,
      Sharon

    Michel · 15/03/2020 at 5:07 PM

    Hi, and thank you for this excellent read!
    I loved that you included the caffeine calculator. I have never actually considered the amount of caffeine I put in my body.
    To me, pills won’t do the trick, though. Pouring a freshly brewed cup of coffee is part of a routine and absolutely essential to maximize the feeling of fulfillment.

      Sharon · 16/03/2020 at 6:16 PM

      Hi Michael,

      Thank you for your generous compliment! I agree with you there; I think it’s the fact that it’s more natural, also most people will get more enjoyment from a tasty warm beverage than popping a pill. Whatever works though at the end of the day!

      Best wishes,
      Sharon

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