The effects of caffeine on the body, in relation to exercise, body composition and overall health.
Similar to cigarettes, alcohol and drugs, caffeine is also a stimulant, and whenever we take in a stimulant the body releases the adrenal hormone called ‘cortisol’.
Cortisol is the primary hormone released by the body during times of stress. Stress of-course can be defined in many ways, and can originate from a number of internal or external (physical/mental) influences on the body; however the stress I refer to at this given time is the physical stress, and when we train and the body is under strenuous exercise cortisol levels are high. This is normal, however after exercise we want cortisol levels to come back down. Elevated cortisol levels over a long period of time can have many negative side effects, such as muscle breakdown, depression, excess fat storage, mood swings, insomnia and high blood pressure.
So timing the intake of caffeine is crucial here, a pre-workout hit is great as coffee can help to stimulate fat burn and of course boost energy levels for your training session, however taking in caffeine post workout is not beneficial. Try to also limit caffeine to 1-2 cups a day before 2/3pm and pre workout. If you are an early bird exerciser, try to wait a good 90 minutes post workout. Not only will limiting caffeine help reduce cortisol but keeping our stress levels down is key in removing cortisol from the body, as stress is the primary trigger for cortisol release.
Exercising for too long, working too long hours, stressful unhappy relationships, worrying, and being over weight are all examples of stresses on the body that can elevate cortisol.
I know it’s not as simple as switching a button on and off, but try to eliminate stress from your life as much as possible. Get enough sleep, listen to calming/relaxing music, yoga, meditation, massage, eating right and taking time off for holidays are all ways to try to help reduce stress.