Does coffee really make you more alert?
There's no question that millions of Americans are addicted to caffeine. Does it really make you more alert? Or is it just a hoax?
A good number of Americans — myself included — start our days off with two cups of coffee, followed by a soda or iced tea with lunch and an energy drink in the afternoon. We feel we need this "fix" in order for us to get going in the mornings and make it through our afternoon meetings. This begs the question: Does caffeine really make us more alert or is it all in our minds?
We found the answers to this question and more — and the results may surprise you.
Does caffeine make you more alert?
Neuropsychopharmacology, an online science journal, conducted a study of 379 individuals and measured their alertness after drinking caffeine. The subjects abstained from caffeine for 16 hours beforehand. Some were given a placebo, some were given the real thing. The results were shocking — there was extremely little variance between alertness of the subjects given caffeine and the ones given a placebo.
Even more astounding? Frequent consumers of coffee are actually just experiencing caffeine withdrawals when they haven't had a cup of coffee in a while. When they finally get their caffeine fix, they may feel more alert — but in reality they're just being brought back to normal levels of alertness that people who don't drink caffeine feel all the time.
Drinking coffee simply brings us back to "normal."
Should people give up caffeine?
It's a personal choice, but it is recommended that you either stay away from it altogether or drink it regularly. A study conducted at University of Bristol found that those who rarely drink caffeine are the ones most affected. Their anxiety increases and their stress level may rise. Caffeine-addicts have built up a tolerance to this, making it so they don't experience caffeine the same way a non-drinker would. It's best to sip it slowly throughout the day or avoid it.
What can you drink instead?
Convinced that coffee may not be the way to go? Luckily, there are plenty of other drinks you can enjoy that aren't high in caffeine and taste great. These include:
- Iced green tea. Low in caffeine and extremely refreshing, especially on hot summer days. Try Starbucks' new Iced Peach Green Tea!
- Herbal tea. Herbal tea can be made hot or iced and comes in a wide variety of flavors. Tea also provides incredible health benefits you just can't get from coffee.
- Herbal tea mixed with juice. For those who don't like straight herbal tea, try making it iced and adding in some cranberry or white grape juice to sweeten it up.
- Hot chocolate. Instead of waking up with a cup of coffee, try low-fat hot chocolate on cold winter days.
- Decaf coffee. If you happen to love the taste of coffee, simply switch to decaf.
- Fruit smoothies. Check out some of our best breakfast smoothie recipes.
- Chai tea. If you love sweet and creamy drinks, give Chai tea a try. Though it does contain caffeine, it's got about half as much as a cup of coffee.
What do you think — is caffeine worth it? Would you be willing to give it up? Share in the comments below!