Considering there seems to be a Starbucks on just about every corner you turn, it's not a huge shock that most of us can't begin our day without a cup of coffee. But coffee can be a smart start to your morning if you do it right.
As long as you're not exceeding about four cups per day, java can offer an array of health benefits from increased energy to potential fat-burning effects. Before you fill mug after mug, consider your daily intake and the potential side effects of getting too much caffeine.
1. Coffee Can Give Your Body and Mind a Jolt
There's a reason coffee makes an appearance on most people's morning ritual. As you're probably aware, coffee contains caffeine, a bitter substance that stimulates your central nervous system, making you feel more awake, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Coffee's ability to alleviate fatigue is also why many of us drink a cup before a workout. The caffeine in coffee has been shown to have performance-enhancing benefits in endurance exercise, according to an April 2013 study published in PLOS One. When athletes were given either a caffeine supplement, caffeinated coffee or decaf, those who took caffeine and coffee cycled faster.
Read more: How Well Does Coffee Keep You Awake?
A cup of coffee can be especially beneficial for short-term high-intensity exercise, as caffeine may be able to enhance muscular work in both team sports exercise and power-based sports, according to a January 2010 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
Caffeine has also been shown to enhance focus and attention. After testing people's ability to complete simple and complex attention-based tasks, researchers observed that caffeine enhanced cognitive performance, according to a January 2013 study published in Psychopharmacology.
Read more: Does Caffeine Affect Muscle Growth?
2. Sipping It Is Linked to a Longer Life
While overall lifestyle plays a key role in lifespan, coffee may have a positive effect on your longevity. After tracking over 200,000 people, researchers found that drinking between one to five cups of coffee per day lowered the likelihood of death due to cardiovascular diseases, neurological diseases or suicide, according to a November 2015 study published in Circulation.
However, the benefits end once you exceed five cups a day, so don't forget to cap your intake. (Just make sure your five cups don't pack in more than 400 milligrams of caffeine!)
Similarly, after analyzing 20 studies on coffee consumption and mortality, a November 2013 meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that java drinkers were observed to live longer and experience less disease-induced death.
3. Coffee Is Associated With Lower Inflammation Levels
Much like red wine, coffee is becoming recognized for its antioxidant content and properties. In fact, coffee is even more rich in antioxidants than red wine and green tea, making a significant contribution to most peoples' total antioxidant consumption, according to a December 2013 study published in Antioxidants.
Antioxidants provide protection against free radicals, which are harmful, unstable molecules usually found in air pollutants like cigarette smoke. These molecules cause oxidative stress and can produce inflammation in the body, according to a June 2015 study published in the European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.
And Harvard Health Publishing confirms: The antioxidant content in coffee is linked to protecting us against inflammation.
4. Java Is Linked to Better Heart Health
While coffee can certainly increase your heart rate due to the caffeine content, it may also have a positive effect on your ticker's health. Some findings conclude that getting caffeine on the reg is linked to a lower risk of coronary heart disease in women, according to the American Heart Association.
However, connections between heart health and coffee can be conflicting and affected by other hidden factors, per a small January 2016 review published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics. Considering many lifestyle factors play into heart health, it's difficult to conclude that coffee single-handedly boosts or harms heart health.
5. Can Coffee Help You Lose Weight?
Although the link between sipping coffee and burning fat requires more extensive research, there have been recent findings that indicate a cup of joe may help stimulate brown adipose tissue (brown fat), according to a June 2019 study published in Scientific Reports.
Brown fat is different from other fat in your body, as it contains more mitochondria than white fat, according to the Mayo Clinic. The mitochondria are responsible for burning calories to produce heat. While the general understanding of brown fat requires more research, it appears that brown fat burns white body fat (the fat people look to lose) for fuel.
So, by potentially stimulating the brown fat in your body, coffee may help burn white body fat, according to the above-mentioned study. However, further research regarding coffee's ability to promote fat loss is needed.
Just remember: Whether your goal is to lose weight or maintain your health, dousing your cup with sugar, artificial sweeteners and/or too much cream and flavored syrups can cause you to take in extra calories and chemicals — two things that ruin your joe.
Just Avoid Getting Too Much Caffeine
Although coffee can have some super health benefits, you'll want to be cap your intake. As with other stimulants and caffeine sources, getting too much caffeine — aka more than 400 milligrams or about four cups per day — can lead to some undesirable side effects.
For one, drinking too much coffee can cause symptoms like jitteriness, nervousness or irritability, according to the Mayo Clinic. For some, coffee and caffeine can also cause digestive unrest or gas.
And since caffeine can spike your energy levels, coffee can also cause difficulty in falling asleep or even insomnia, according to the Mayo Clinic. Losing sleep several nights in a row (or more) can lead to chronic fatigue, so make sure not to drink java at night if you're particularly sensitive to it.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Caffeine"
- PLOS One: "The Metabolic and Performance Effects of Caffeine Compared to Coffee during Endurance Exercise"
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: "Efficacy of Acute Caffeine Ingestion for Short-Term High-Intensity Exercise Performance: A Systematic Review."
- Psychopharmacology: "Caffeine As An Attention Enhancer: Reviewing Existing Assumptions"
- Mayo Clinic: "Caffeine: How Much is Too Much?"
- Journal of Nutrition: "Caffeine and Alcohol Intakes and Overall Nutrient Adequacy Are Associated with Longitudinal Cognitive Performance among U.S. Adults"
- Nutrients: "Coffee Consumption and Risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease: A Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies"
- Scientific Reports: "Habitual Coffee Consumption and Cognitive Function: a Mendelian Randomization Meta-Analysis in up to 415,530 Participants"
- Circulation: "Association of Coffee Consumption With Total and Cause-Specific Mortality in 3 Large Prospective Cohorts"
- British Journal of Nutrition: "Coffee Consumption and Total Mortality: a Meta-Analysis of Twenty Prospective Cohort Studies"
- Antioxidants: "Antioxidant and Antiradical Activity of Coffee"
- European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry: "The Role of Antioxidants in the Chemistry of Oxidative Stress: A Review"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Foods That Fight Inflammation"
- American Heart Association: "Is Coffee Good for You or Not?"
- Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics: "Coffee Consumption and Coronary Heart Diseases: A Mini-Review"
- Scientific Reports: "Caffeine Exposure Induces Browning Features in Adipose Tissue in Vitro and in Vivo"
- Mayo Clinic: "What is Brown Fat? How is it Different From Other Body Fat?"