I like to play around with the health and fitness tracking apps out there so that I know which ones are good and can recommend a wide variety of them if I’m asked…which happens fairly often. One that I’ve been using for the past three or so weeks has little weekly challenges – one for fitness and one for nutrition – that are designed to be doable for everyone regardless of their fitness level, like, go for a brisk 20min walk three times this week, or drink 2L of water every day. Generally good stuff: simple, predictable, sustainable. So imagine my surprise when the challenges last week appeared to me straight out of the 1980’s: “On three days this week, try going without your morning coffee and cigarettes and drink a glass of water instead.” And, “Clean your house vigorously for at least two hours this weekend to get your heart rate up.”
I stared slack-jawed at my phone for a minute, wondering how to react, then I did what any normal person would do: I took a screenshot of this archaic ridiculousness and posted it on social media with a WTF kinda comment…but it is still bothering me so clearly we need to dig into this further. Let’s get rid of the chaff first: clean my house? Vigorously? For TWO HOURS? Hard NOPE on that one; I am terrible at housework and I have zero desire to be better at it. My house is cluttered and cosy and clean enough to live in, but still embarrassing when people drop by and that’s as good as it’s going to get because I have better things to do. And ditch the morning cigarettes? Yeah, that’s great advice and all but I’ve never smoked so it isn’t really a stretch.
Now. Go without coffee? That recommendation deserves more than a nope and an eye roll because HOLY BALLS DON’T YOU DARE SUGGEST I SKIP COFFEE. Coffee is my favourite thing in the whole world and the antidote to most of life’s problems. Threaten my access to coffee in the morning and you will be faced with a teary wild-eyed old woman who can shoot flames out of her eyeballs. So do you hear me, app developers? Don’t even with that bullshit.
But aside from my very emotional reaction to the suggestion that I’d be better off without my coffee in the morning, it’s a really dumb suggestion because drinking coffee is not bad for you.
I get it though; there’s a virtual shit-ton of misinformation out there, and all the zealots and quacks and trolls can spin whatever idiocy they want to in order to make themselves look like they’re more virtuous than us sorry slobs who need our fix in the morning. So in order to write this post I dug up as much legitimate science as I could so that I could deliver a nice hot steaming cup of truth without any added sugar or flavouring.
And on that note, I can’t possibly deliver any information about coffee consumption and its associated risks and benefits, without first emphasizing that what I am talking about here is COFFEE. Plain-ass hot bean juice without sugar or cream or butter or syrup or whatever garbage you want to pollute it with, because that is a crime. Good-quality coffee is perfect just the way it is. And if you don’t buy good quality coffee and end up with a motley sack of moldy grounds, sawdust, dirt, ashes and whatever else mixed in, I don’t feel sorry for you because you get what you pay for, you cheapskate. And that crap, combined with whatever you add to make it palatable, is what gives drinking coffee a bad rap. So knock it off, invest in some good coffee beans, and see what you’ve been missing. Okay? Good chat.
According to the studies I read (and I won’t cite them properly here because I’m lazy but if you want to look at any of them DM me and I’ll send you the links), regular coffee consumption both increases AND decreases the risk of heart disease and hypertension, obesity and type 2 diabetes, depression, anxiety, and suicide risk, and finally, lifespan and all-cause mortality. This only points to the following conclusion: people are messy, complicated, unpredictable animals and long-term controlled studies are hard. I would further suggest that *probably* any indications that coffee increases the risk of obesity and the beetus are skewed by either adding sugar and cream and whatever else to coffee and the subjects’ other lifestyle factors, because black coffee or espresso or cafe americano or any other unadulterated coffee has almost no calories. The point is though, that you could look at one study that has small and imperfect parameters and draw any conclusion you wanted to, really. Moving on.
Some cons to drinking coffee – and yes, there are some health risks associated with drinking too much of it, are poor sleep, headaches/migraines, higher instances of gout flare-ups, decreased collagen production, and incontinence. All of these are due to excess caffeine consumption – caffeine is a powerful stimulant and although most people can easily tolerate a little bit of it, let’s not forget that every individual is a special snowflake and thresholds can differ. It’s also good to consider your other caffeine sources such as energy drinks, colas, pre-workout, etc and monitor your total caffeine intake; generally anything over 600mg of caffeine/day is not awesome for you. Still another caution is that caffeine has a half-life of about 6 hours in our bodies, so if you are feeling a little droopy and knock back a double shot of espresso (which has anywhere between 100-212mg of caffeine depending on the roast and the origin etc) at 2pm, at 8pm you will have metabolized half of that caffeine. So that little pat on the ass that you get from your afternoon pick-me-up can bite you on the ass when you’re trying to get to bed at a reasonable hour.
Now let’s talk about what’s awesome about coffee. If you’re not planning on sleeping anytime soon, coffee is fucking great! If you have an average caffeine tolerance, a cup or two of coffee in the morning can help you feel energized. It boosts cognitive function, athletic performance, and bumps up your base metabolic rate considerably (hard numbers were different across different studies but anywhere between 11 and 29%). Regular coffee consumption is associated with lower risks of Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s. Coffee also packs a surprising nutritional punch, delivering anywhere between 2-20% of your RDI of vitamins B2, B3, and B5 as well as manganese and potassium. One article even went as far as to suggest that coffee is the single greatest source of antioxidants in the typical North American diet, which is great but also a little horrifying…because that title *should* belong to vegetables and fruit. So for the love of mongeese, eat your veggies and don’t rely on coffee for your nutrition – it does lots for you but it can’t be everything, can it?
Finally, coffee is delicious. If you’re one of those troglodytes who thinks that coffee tastes terrible and only orders coffee when you can go into Starbucks and ask for a Tall Blonde in order to make people uncomfortable, that’s fine – enjoy your green tea; it just means that there’s more for the rest of us who appreciate it. But ditching coffee for health’s sake? That’s not even a thing. As my Grandma, who taught me to love black coffee, used to say…go scratch your ass!