So what are we supposed to do? Do we avoid it and fight our cravings, or do we just drink it and hope for the best? Well, these are excellent questions, and I think we can do both.
There are two key concepts to consider: How much caffeine do you really need, and how is the caffeine being absorbed in your body?
The key comes back to one of my favorite phrases, “the dose makes the poison.” Studies suggest that lower doses of caffeine at regular intervals across the day can offer you all the benefits of caffeine you might desire while controlling for the side effects that might occur for you when the dose gets too high—this is a concept I refer to as caffeine microdosing. For example, I might be better off taking 200 mg of caffeine (equivalent to 2 cups of coffee) over the course of six to seven hours rather than drinking all of the 200 mg over the course of an hour.
Additionally, it is important to consider how the smaller doses of caffeine are being absorbed. One study suggests that caffeine may be absorbed quicker (within minutes) through the buccal mucosa (i.e., the mouth), through products like caffeinated chewing gums. And it’s absorbed slower in the gut, which takes approximately 45 minutes, with products like coffee and sports drinks. This more rapid absorption can be particularly helpful, especially in a performance scenario. Whether you’re an athlete, student, busy business owner, or a busy parent—this is something to consider.
Personally, I have my nice warm cup of organic black coffee first thing in the morning. It’s just part of my habit and routine. I might drink it over the course of an hour or two. Then later in the morning, if I feel like I need a bit of a boost, I might microdose a bit more caffeine. I do this because I know that if I have another full cup of coffee, it might be too much and I might get a headache, feel a little nauseated, or get some palpitations. It’s important to pay attention to how caffeine affects you and adjust your routine accordingly.
I also recommend opting for a high-quality, natural source of caffeine. Make sure to look at the label and check out the ingredients. Avoid caffeine products that are high in FODMAPs, allergens, gut irritants, or other fillers, dyes, and binders.
So, remember, you can still have your cup of coffee if you like, but there are ways to consume caffeine without the negative side effects of higher doses over a short period of time. And, as always, be sure to consult your physician before trying something new, to make sure it is right for you.