Mr and Mrs Nutritionist

Caffeine In The Workplace, What You Need To Know

People say money makes the world go round, others say love does. Myself on the other hand pray to my coffee machine, so it dispenses the nectar that belongs to the Gods. Do you remember your first coffee? I do, it was a Sunday and I just had a traditional Sunday lunch with my family, and my Nan would serve coffee afterwards to the adults. Every week I would beg to be like the adults and have a coffee, but my Mum would not allow me, until one week she said yes. I was so excited, it looked brown like hot chocolate and smelled slightly sweet (because my grandparents would get the vanilla powered nescafe cappuccino sachets) I allowed the drink to sufficiently cool and I took my first sip….. and it was awful. It was so bitter, I remember thinking how could anybody drink this stuff, it was horrid. But every week I would forget and try it again and again and again and it would still not taste any better.

It was not until I started working as a chef that my coffee addiction would take hold. Early mornings and late nights would mean that I could go to work with as little as 5-6 hours sleep. If I was really unlucky and got two double shifts back to back, then it would repeat for the next day. So coffee came a big part of my life and I was consuming 6-8 espressos over the course of a day. It was giving me bad acid reflux and some days I would get terrible head aches. In this post we will explain how some people need 6-8 espressos to get themselves through the day and why some people get stomach pains acid reflux and headaches with over consumption of coffee.

Coffee is a magical thing. There are not many places you can go in this world where coffee is not. In America there seems to be a coffee shop at least every 5 steps. These shops are clearly thriving and its due a very small chemical within coffee that causes us to have a dependance, that chemical is caffeine. A cup of coffee to get you out of bed and fit for the work day may be fine, however, caffeine in the workplace may be hindering the effectiveness of your performance at work.


The Mechanisms Of Caffeine


Caffeine is the active ingredient within coffee. Caffeine Caffeine and adenosineis the chemical that gives you that happy ‘buzz’, while preventing drowsiness. The structure of caffeine consists of a molecule that looks similar to a figure 8 that is made up of four nitrogens.

There is another molecule that is similar to caffeine and that is adenosine. Adenosine is important because it is the chemical that is known to cause drowsiness in individuals over the course of the day. When caffeine is ingested it competes with adenosine and keeps adenosine unbound with its respected receptor and prolongs the duration of alertness and prevents drowsiness. When unbound adenosine concentration rises, it causes an increase in dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine. Epinephrine gives you an increased heart rate. While dopamine gives you the happy feeling you sometimes get when you drink coffee.

Caffeine and adenosine interaction

Caffeine and adenosine interaction

Caffeine is broken down in the liver into three different molecules. These molecules, cause an increase in lipid metabolism, fatty acids in the blood, increase in urine output and relaxes the smooth muscle in the lungs. As caffeine causes an increase in lipid breakdown, there is some evidence that coffee causes an increase in weight-loss. However, weight-loss is only seen in those who consume black coffee. Flavoured coffee or coffee served with cream did not show to reduce wight-loss due to the higher amounts of sugar and fat.


Where Can You Find Caffeine?


There are a variety of foods and beverages you can consume that contain caffeine, which includes but is not limited to:

  • Coffee, Decaf Coffee and Tea
  • Sodas (Coca Cola, Pepsi, Sprite, etc)
  • Energy Drinks
  • Chocolate
  • Some Ice Creams

There are also foods and beverages that you would not expect to contain caffeine, but they do.  For example you may be surprised that de-caffinated drinks are not totally caffeine free. They do contain very low doses of caffeine, so low that the caffeine that it does contain will have very little effect on most people. However, certain people react to caffeine in different ways.

This new emerging knowledge that different substances effect people differently is where nutrigenetics come in to play. Nutrigenetics is a new and exciting field of nutrition where doctors can take an Nutrigeneticsindividual’s DNA and explore whether or not an individual is going to be prone to diabetes, obesity or deficient in macro and micro nutrients due to inefficient gut absorption. In a similar manner, with nutrigenetics it may be possible to determine if an individual is going to be sensitive to caffeine or not.

Nutrigenetics it turns out is just the scientific explanation of everyday tales we hear from friends and family of how one substance effects people in different ways.  For example, some people swear they can drink normal coffee before bed and sleep like a baby whereas some people feel they could run a half marathon if they even had a couple sips of decaf coffee before bed. 


Is Caffeine Bad For You?


You hear stories in the media about people who unfortunately have overdosed on caffeine, either in the form of 12+ espressos or too many energy drinks in a short period of time. Obviously these are extreme scenarios and the average person who consumes a few cups a day is fine. But, what is the recommended caffeine limit per day?

Current guidelines suggest that a healthy adult should not consume more than 400mg a day. 400mg is equivalent to;

  • 4 cups of coffee
  • 6 shots of espresso
  • 57 cups of decaf coffee
  • 15 cups of tea
  • 3 Red Bulls
  • 4 Monster energy drinks
  • 2lb of chocolate
  • 44.1 Lbs of chocolate ice cream.
  • 13 cans of Coca Cola


Who Should Stay Away or Limit Caffeine Consumption?


As we have mentioned earlier, there is some evidence that caffeine can promote weight-loss in healthy individuals, but is coffee safe for everyone?

To be honest, there are certain types of people, such as pregnant women, that the science community is restricted in their ability to test upper safety limits for caffeine consumption.  Therefore it is not known whether caffeine is 100% safe for pregnant women. But current guidelines suggest that pregnant women should not consume more than 300mg of caffeine per day, that is the equivalent of 3 cups of coffee.

Also, for those who struggle with high blood pressure, caffeine consumption must be kept to a minimum (as low as possible, preferably 0mg per day). This is because caffeine causes constriction in blood vessels and increases heart rate causing blood pressure to rise.

It should also be noted that those individuals who have high cholesterol should also be kept to a minimum, preferably none. This is because a by-product of caffeine causes lipolysis (fat breakdown), and when fat is broken down it increases LDL cholesterol and free fatty acids in the blood which causes your “bad cholesterol” to increase, something you wan’t to avoid if you already have high cholesterol.

Caffeine Throughout The Workday


For the average busy professional, the typical amount of coffee consumption may look something like this… A coffee in the morning, maybe one on the way to work, one around 11am and maybe one or more after lunch to get you through the day. In total that is 4+ coffees per day, not including any other caffeinated products, which means you are already teetering on the upper level of recommended coffee consumption.

What many people do not realize is that different coffees brands and franchises i.e. Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Peet’s Coffee all have differing amounts of caffeine.  Not only does the caffeine differ by brand and franchise but, also depending on the type of coffee you consume i.e. latte, macchiato, cappuccino, espresso etc.  So in order to calculate how many coffees you should be consuming per day, you really need to find out how much caffeine is in your preferred drink, which you can find here.


Caffeine In The WorkplaceYou may have discovered that over the years you are need more cups of coffee just to get you though your working day. This increased demand is due to dopamine desensitization. As mentioned earlier dopamine is released in relation to caffeine consumption, and over time the body becomes desensitized to dopamine and more caffeine is needed to get the same feeling the next time you consume it. The only way to circumvent this is to slowly reduce your caffeine intake, and eventually your dopamine sensors will re-sensitize. Easier said than done, I know.

Personally, I tried cutting back on coffee a few years ago and it was tough. I switched coffees for chai tea and English Breakfast teas. I tried cold turkey and it completely ruined my weekend. I was tired and sluggish all day. My advice is to give yourself that one cup of coffee in the morning and after the morning switch to tea. Tea minicks drinking a hot coffee and may trick yourself into thinking you are drinking coffee.

The Symptoms Caused By Caffeine That Can Ruin Your Work Day


You may have also noticed when you drink a lot of coffee you get a dry throat and headaches caused by caffeine’s by-products created in the liver when caffeine is broken down. Another of caffeines by-products causes dilation of the blood vessels, which increases water output in the kidney and consequently, increases urine output. Which is why if you are not drinking enough water when you are consuming coffee you run the risk of dehydrating yourself and giving yourself a headache.

Another problem caffeine can cause is acid reflux (heart burn). This is because caffeine Symptoms of caffeine consumption in the workplacecan relax the sphincter at the base of the oesophagus that prevents the acidic environment of the stomach from escaping. When the sphincter is not closed tightly, the acid within the stomach can escape and splash up your oesophagus and burn the lining. If you do suffer with acid reflux then reducing your caffeine intake could potentially help reduce your acid reflux.


Final Thoughts


Caffeine is a big part of working life, people bond over grabbing a cup of coffee. However, caffeine in prolonged large doses is not great for your health and reducing your caffeine intake could result in you being more productive in the long run. Think about all those trips to the coffee machine and how many minutes of your working week are consumed by walking back and forth to the break room to fill up your stained coffee cup. Think about all those unexplained headaches you succumb to, just as you were trying to prepare for that big meeting. Our advice at Mr and Mrs Nutritionist is to wean your caffeine intake down and to consume no more than 400mg of caffeine per day.  Also increase your water consumption, especially when having caffeine, we suggest having a water bottle on your desk at all times to sip throughout the day to prevent dehydration.



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