EDGE Holistic Fitness


May, 01 2013

Ahhh… caffeine!  America’s drug of choice…  Nothing quite starts your day like a nice cup of joe or glass of tea.  And scientists agree:  their are a plethora of health benefits associated with moderate caffeine consumption.

Intrinsically, caffeine – a product of xanthine – is a stimulant; it increases sympathetic nervous output/activity.  This has a slew of downstream effects, such as:

  • Increased heart rate and BP???
  • Bronchial Dilation???
  • Increased catecholamine secretion –> increased lipolysis and glycolysis.
  • Increased thermogenesis (slightly)???
  • Pain management (blunted perceived exertion effect during exercise)
  • Increased physical performance capacity (due to increased metabolism)
  • Increased motor neuron recruitment (increased “rate coding”)???

Indeed, quite an extensive list.  Impressive.  But wait!  There’s more…

Caffeine is not the only chemical found in coffee or tea, there are also a variety of health promoting antioxidants, such as tea catechins(IE: EGCG), or polyphenols found in coffee.  Although antioxidants do not contribute to the ‘caffeine buzz’, they do perform a number of important physiological functions:

  • Upregulation of:
  • Down regulation of:
  • Insulin insulin secretion and/or activity???
  • Decrease LDL, increase HDL,
  • Stimulate triglyceride lipolysys, fatty acid oxidation (“beta oxidation”).
  • And many more…

Yep!  Coffee and teas sure are chalk full of the good stuff.  But this is seldom how we enjoy our caffeine fix, is it not?  No… we have excessively sugary sweet renditions.  The pure, wholesomeness of a cup of coffee is often diluted with toxic foods like excessive refined-sugar (anything over a teaspoon; raw cane sugar preferred), artificial sweeteners, artificial flavor additives, and/or soy milk (see Soy Conspiracy for reasons why).  Same goes for teas, especially people drinking iced-teas with the compunction to use 3 bags of sugar/sweetener per glass.  And let’s do mention the all pervasive energy drinks that contain 26-30 grams of sugar per serving (also full of a ton of artificial goodness designed by chemists from Harvard).

Ironically, these additives are the very constituents that counteract and perhaps inhibit the health promoting effects of the antioxidants and caffeine.  So, do keep this in mind the next time you need a “pick-me-up”; to improve health, cut the crap…

As a final point, and certainly a prudent one… I feel compelled to shed some clarification on behalf of the weight-loss story regarding caffeine.  Yes, it can increase thermoregulation (over-all metabolism); and yes, it can increase lipolysis (the liberation of fatty acids)…  However, this does not automatically translate into significant fat burning.

To actually burn fat, both triglyceride lipolysis, and fatty acid oxidation must occur.  For you see, if an individual breaks down triglyceride into fatty acids (and glycerol) WITHOUT fatty acid oxidation, ‘futile cycling‘ may occur. This is merely a fancy name for the recycling of fatty acids; if they are not used, they are reformed into triglycerides and restored into fat tissue.

Thus to effectively burn fat, one must increase physical activity DURING caffeine consumption.  Ideally, individuals should engage in vigorous activity, specifically high intensity, lactic acid producing workouts (to take advantage of metabolic pathway: increased glycolysis –> lactic acid secretion –> metabolic stress –> catecholamine/growth hormone secretion –> result:  increase post exercise metabolism, fat loss, and increase muscle mass).

Indeed, experiments continue to evaluate the effect of caffeine on athletic performance. The proximal conclusion indicates that increased performance (3-5% at elite level) is primarily attributed to the augmention of the glycolytic pathway.  Again, increased rate of glycogen breakdown = increased energy producing capacity = improved performance.

But that is not the shear purpose of this blog.

And green/white tea is at the top of the list.