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the caffeine buzz ☕

Caffeine - love it, hate it, need it, avoid it - whatever your relationship is with caffeine it’s helpful to understand what it is, how it can affect your body, your appetite, your sleep + performance, and more. Let’s dig into this compound a little more!



What is caffeine?

Caffeine is a natural substance that can be found in many food products such as coffee beans, tea leaves, cacao pods (used to make chocolate), and more! There is also a synthetic, or man-made, form of caffeine. This form is usually added into medicines and energy-boosting foods like energy drinks.



Let’s unravel some myths and misconceptions floating around about caffeine.


Caffeine is highly addictive.

Well, yes and no. It’s certainly not as addictive as many illicit drugs BUT if you usually have a cup of coffee or tea in the morning and, for some reason, go without for a day or two, you’re likely to experience an afternoon headache. I affectionately call this my “caffeine headache” and that can be a simple symptom of withdrawal. Personally, I can distinguish this type of headache from another because my usual two ibuprofen have no effect on reducing the pain.

Additionally, you might begin to notice that you require more and more coffee, tea, or caffeinated substances to get the same “boost” that you used to feel. This is because we can develop a tolerance for the substance. With this tolerance, we’ll require more caffeine.



Caffeine is a performance enhancer.

The science here is actually really fascinating! Once in our bloodstream, caffeine is a stimulant for our central nervous system. This often results in a mood boost, clearer focus, higher energy, among other things. Performance-focused, caffeine increases the calcium content in our muscles, making for stronger muscle contractions (Sims, p 275). Now, keep in mind that we can build a tolerance to caffeine. Of course, I can’t find it now, but I read a study a few weeks back that looked at caffeine and athletic performance. This study determined that athletes who did not have a daily coffee/caffeine habit saw a higher increase to their performance when consuming caffeine one hour before their event than athletes who had a daily coffee/caffeine habit. I think this makes perfect sense.



Too much of a good thing?

There are negative effects that can occur should we consume too much caffeine. For me, I normally feel jittery and have difficulty focusing on any one task. Other symptoms might include: shakiness, headaches, fast heart rate, insomnia, increased blood pressure, and more. Guidelines recommend that consuming more than 600mg of caffeine daily is just too much. For dancers and performance athletes, I would recommend keeping your intake around/below 400mg. This is about the equivalent amount found in two, 10-ounce coffees.


I normally experience more pronounced jitters and effects of too much caffeine when I enjoy it on an empty stomach or without an accompanying snack. For dancers, I recommend adding a whole, oat, or soy milk to your coffee for added satisfaction (fat content) AND eating a yummy combo snack with your cup o' joe.



Timing is everything.

Just like your choreography and timing of snacks + meals pre-class/rehearsal/performances, the timing of your caffeine consumption can be beneficial or actively not beneficial. The half-life of caffeine in the human body is about 6 hours. So this means it takes about 12 hours for it to fully clear your system and be excreted. That’s a LONG time! Because of this, I aim to finish my caffeine consumption before 3pm each day. I have found that I usually stop feeling the effects of caffeine about 8 hours after drinking (usually coffee) and an 11pm bedtime isn’t the best but it’s also not the worst. Some dancers I have worked with find it best to not have any caffeine after their morning cup o’ joe and, instead, rely on their energy boosting snacks (combo snack carb + fat/protein) to get through their afternoon slump.


If you’re like me and you just really love the taste of coffee, there are some yummy caffeine-free alternatives! I’m a huge fan of Dandy Blend. You can mix it up into a hot or iced latte and get the same texture and flavor of your afternoon coffee without the buzz.




And there you have it! A little buzz about caffeine and your performance. 👇 Comment below anything you found surprising and schedule your strategy session today if you’re curious how caffeine is impacting your performance.



Sources

Antonucci LA. High-performance Nutrition for Masters Athletes. Human Kinetics: Champaigne, IL; 2022.

Sims ST. Next Level. Rodale: New York, NY; 2022.

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I'm a Nutrition Educator & Wellness Coach based in and serving Washington, DC and the DMV region. My lifestyle-focused method has successfully helped clients achieve personal results and enhance athletic ability, eMpowering performance in class, rehearsals, and on-stage. As professional dancer myself, I have gained nutritional balance and improved my own relationship with food through many years of practice and a Masters of Science in Nutrition from University of Bridgeport. I bring this depth of personal and academic experience to a variety of clients, particularly performance athletes and fitness enthusiasts. In my spare time, I teach yoga and manage Ballet Embody, a professional contemporary ballet company.
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