Coffee. C8H10N4O2. Cuppa Joe. Go Juice. Liquid Energy. Rocket Fuel. Many different names with 1 amazing purpose. Just a little bit of energy to get through the day.
But…how does coffee fit into the whole Paleo way of eating?
First, the facts. What is coffee? Coffee is made by brewing the roasted seed…or “bean”…from a coffee tree. Coffee = caffeine. Caffeine is the main stimulant found in this little bean, often consumed as a little “pick-me-up.” The consumption of this tasty chemical stimulates the central nervous system in humans and tends to make the user less drowsy. It is also a diuretic. In my research, I have read that in some studies, coffee has also been found to decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease as well as diabetes. Black tea has also been found to decrease the risk of diabetes. So, caffeine does have it’s place.
While caffeine definitely has its purpose, more is certainly not better. Moderation is the key word here. Frequent coffee-drinkers (myself included) can attest that there comes a day when their daily cup of coffee no longer gives them that much anticipated energy burst that they once had. Coffee has an addictive nature, gut-irritating properties, and may cause negative effects on sleep patterns. Actually, many habitual coffee drinkers have reported that they suffer from sleep disturbances, headaches, and general “sluggish” behavior. This has been referred to as adrenal fatigue. Caffeine stimulates your adrenal glands to release the hormones linked to stress. Adrenaline and cortisol primarily. This is fine…once in awhile. Where it gets tricky is when you add in a stressful lifestyle, lack of exercise, poor sleeping, and a crappy diet. All of these things definitely take a toll on your adrenal glands. THEN add in copious amounts of coffee to “help” you get through the day. Now we have adrenal fatigue. The adrenal glands are tired and overworked from unending stress and inadequate rest and recovery.
Scott Hagnas, founder of CrossFit Portland, said it perfectly. “I agree that coffee isn’t as evil as some have made it out to be, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t often abused. Quite frequently, those with some level of adrenal fatigue use caffeine as an energy source for their day. In reality, caffeine doesn’t give you energy – it gives you stress. I see so many people that try to eat well and exercise intelligently, but have trouble making progress because of a stress filled life. The total stress load is cumulative, so coffee becomes fuel for the fire. I have also observed that those with damaged adrenals are more sensitive to coffee’s adverse effects than those with healthy adrenals. As a simple rule, if you feel like you need it, then you should evaluate your habits. If you feel like you can do fine without, then a few cups now and then should be ok for you.”
Now, that’s some solid wisdom there.
Now, my thoughts. I guess if you are looking for the purest form of Paleo, I recommend avoiding caffeine. Completely. Paleo is all about promoting a way of eating that encompases anti-inflammatory foods as well as bringing the body back to a more normal energy level. In my opinion, part of the idea behind this way of eating is to somewhat cleanse your body. Balance. You remove the food items that cause irritation and inflammation. Stop eating the foods that cause your blood sugar to spike. Get rid of the things that can be addictive. YOU be in charge of the food that you eat. Sugar and caffeine are 2 of the big ones in this category. Don’t let them run the show.
I think for some, caffeine consumption has gotten out of hand. Many people can’t even get dressed for the day without their caffeine fix. I have been there…more than once. Once in awhile, I’ll be a few hours into my day and realize that I’ve had 10-12 cups of coffee before 0900. As a paramedic, I work 24 hour shifts. I work overnights every so often. Sometimes I’m up for 24+ hours. Many days, I run on about 4 hours of sleep. Even if you aren’t in public safety, I’m sure you can relate. Go Go Go Go Go….who has time for sleep? So much to do! It’s just how society is today …When I feel that I’m getting to this place of caffeine addiction, I force myself to take a step back. I remove the caffeine. Now, while some people cut back to a cup or 2, I just quit cold turkey. Yes, there are headaches, and yes, I feel like a bag full of garbage for a few days, but I know it’s what I need to do to get back some balance. After 5-7 I begin to notice the difference. Natural energy. Better sleep. After awhile, a couple months, I add a cup or 2 back into my day…then begin the cycle again.
Whole9 has some great tips for coffee:
-If you’re not currently a caffeine user, don’t start
-Limit your consumption to 1-2 cups of coffee a day, always before noon to prevent sleep disruption
-Your coffee pot is not a cup. Nice try
-If you’re using coffee as a crutch to get through your day – or just to get out of bed – reconsider whether that is a healthy relationship
-We don’t think the above is a healthy relationship, thanks for asking
-A couple times a year, give your body a Caffeine Holiday for at least 30 days. (That means NO caffeine – no black or green tea, energy drinks, or even decaf)
In short, moderation is really the key word here. “When it comes to coffee, less is generally better. Think before you drink.” -Whole9
The majority of my research came from reputable Paleo sources including Mark’s Daily Apple and Whole9.