For Freshmen. By Freshmen.
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Feb 28 2017
by Nicole Molinari

A Comprehensive Guide to Caffeinated Beverages

By Nicole Molinari - Feb 28 2017

  • Welcome to college, where your nights become sleepless and your days are full of tired eyes and yawning. Sound familiar? We all work ourselves to the bone, losing sleep over work and exams. Naturally, many of us turn to caffeinated beverages to assist us in our daily lives. North America has been on a health kick for quite a while now, and with so many caffeinated products on the market for us to consume, it's important for us to make informed decisions about what we're putting into our bodies.

  • Listed below are four common categories of caffeinated drinks, with the benefits and drawbacks of each. We're talking about coffee, tea, soft drinks and energy drinks. Millions of people consume these on a daily basis, unaware of the effects that caffeine and other ingredients have on their bodies. While no drink is entirely good or bad, it's important to understand anything that could be very beneficial for you, and what other things may pose risks to your individual health.

    1. Coffee

    What's morning like without a coffee?  It's many people's go-to for their morning classes, and sometimes even when they're trying to stay up late to do work. 

    Pros: Coffee boosts physical performance during workouts since caffeine increases adrenaline levels in your blood. It also (obviously) helps you stay awake and alert. The caffeine stimulates activity in the brain, allowing you to maintain focus on the task at hand. This brain stimulation has been proven to brighten your mood by increasing production of your neurotransmitters. Amazingly, drinking coffee on a daily basis can reduce the risk of depression and suicide.

    Cons: Poor quality coffee can be toxic to your health since the ingredients are likely unnatural. Drinking too much coffee can lead to insomnia and restlessness, which is entirely counterproductive! For anyone with high cholesterol levels, you're better off drinking filtered coffee. Coffee beans contain cafestol and kahweol, ingredients that raise cholesterol levels. 

    2. Tea

    Not all tea brews contain caffeine, but you should be aware when you are consuming a brew that does contain it. Tea gets brownie points because it is much better for your health than soft drinks and energy drinks since it doesn't contain heavily processed sweeteners and additives. Common teas containing caffeine are green tea, oolong tea and black tea.

    Pros: Tea is filled with natural antioxidants, which help reduce body fat over long periods of time. It's also great for managing depression and preventing diseases caused by processed meats. If you're thinking about the future, then it's good to know that caffeinated tea reduces symptoms of Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's. 

    Cons: It can disrupt a woman's estrogen levels, affecting ovulation and possibly causing fertility problems. Anyone with kidney or liver diseases should consult with their doctors before consuming caffeinated tea. It's also important to mention that with inflammatory bowel disease on the rise in North American youth, caffeinated tea could aggravate symptoms.

    3. Soft Drinks

    Here's where it starts to get sugary and processed. People of all ages consume soft drinks daily, without any regard for the possible impacts on their health. Popular soft drinks with caffeine are Coca Cola, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper and Mountain Dew.

    Pros: Small amounts of caffeine can stimulate the central nervous system, positively impacting your brain activity. Soft drinks also commonly contain carbonated water, which is known to ease stomach aches, nausea and constipation. 

    Cons: The caffeine levels cause dehydration. You're supposed to replenish your body with ingested fluids, and the caffeine increases urination, further dehydrating your body. The sodium content found in diet sodas can also promote dehydration. Another major con to consider is the significant sugar levels in soft drinks. This can create stress on your pancreas and cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate.

    4. Energy Drinks

    Red Bull, Monster and Rockstar are just a few brand names that come to mind. Your favorite athletes supposedly drink them all the time, and now we drink them for the sake of maintaining our averages.

    Pros: Though the effects don't last long, the advertisements are true to their word — they're great energy boosters, which is why they're called energy drinks in the first place. The vitamin B can help improve your mood, and the riboflavin helps treat muscle cramps.

    Cons: When the boost is over, your blood sugar level will stunt, causing you to feel very tired again. Although it seems counterintuitive, energy drinks actually dehydrate you when you're exercising, so it's probably best to save them for studying only. Also, the main ingredient, Niacin, can cause dizziness and rapidly increase your heart rate if you consume too much.

    Ultimately, the key to staying healthy while consuming caffeine is to enjoy everything in moderation. There will always be drawbacks, but don't let them keep you from drinking caffeinated beverages, because there are benefits as well. It's also important to be aware of how much your body can handle. And please, remember that you need to sleep at some point! Caffeine is okay to get you through a day or two, but it won't sustain you for a long period of time. Besides, why live on caffeine when sleep is so much better?

    Lead Image Credit: Shixugang via Pixabay

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Nicole Molinari - Wilfrid Laurier University

Nicole is a sophomore at Wilfrid Laurier University who is pursuing a major in business administration and a minor in writing. She loves working part time as a lifeguard, and in her spare time she enjoys reading and making memories with friends. A victim of late night syndrome, she knows she needs more sleep but wouldn't want to live her life any other way.

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