Feeling tired and sluggish? It could be the caffeine you're drinking.
What is caffeine? And what does it do?
Caffeine is a stimulant and increases neuron activity in the brain. These neurons send messages to the pituitary gland which alert the adrenal glands to pump out adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline and cortisol are responsible for the fight or flight mode.
How caffeine affects the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol.
The stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol are an involuntary and essential response that is a natural, physical result to stress. It begins at the HPA (Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Adrenal) axis, and dictates the release of stress hormones – epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine, and cortisol. It’s these hormones that push you into action when real danger is present.
When you consume caffeine, the stimulant masquerades as an emergency, prompting your adrenals into action when there’s no need for these stress hormones.
How much caffeine does is take to trigger the release of adrenaline and cortisol?
It only takes 100-200 mg of caffeine to set this response into motion. For reference, one 8 oz. cup drip coffee contains approximately 155 mg of caffeine. Most people don’t just have one small 8 oz drip coffee.
How cortisol and caffeine affect the body.
When your cortisol is high too often, your body is in a constant hyper-alert state, which leaves you feeling exhausted and reaching for another cup of coffee. It becomes a continuous loop of tired - coffee consumption -energy - crash - repeat. Adrenal glands that repeatedly pump out hormones, get fatigued and taxed.
If you are feeling overly tired, remember to be mindful on your caffeine intake, especially after noon. Caffeine has a half-life of 5 hours. You want to be sure the caffeine is out of your system long before bedtime. (This isn't medical advice, just friendly advice.)
You can still enjoy coffee, by either switching your afternoon coffee to a decaf or switching entirely to decaf. Believe it or not, once you have gotten over your caffeine addiction, you will experience not only more energy, but steady energy levels throughout the day.
Honoring your body's natural rhythms of wakefulness and rest that are not altered by the caffeine stimulant will allow your body to function optimally.