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What are the pros and cons of caffeine?

Research has shown that moderate amounts of caffeine -- typically about 1.3mg per pound of body weight -- improve alertness, reaction time, and even memory. Caffeine is also a proven performance enhancing drug. In fact, the NCAA considers caffeine a “banned substance” at sufficient levels.

The exact mechanism(s) by which caffeine helps athletic performance is not clear, but current research suggests that caffeine blocks the perception of fatigue and results in a lower rate of perceived exertion to the athlete, and less muscle fatigue.

For the healthy non-athlete, there does not seem to be general risk factors for moderate levels of caffeine consumption (less than 500 mg). Although “popular wisdom” sometimes says otherwise, caffeine does not necessarily cause gastric upset or dehydration, upset electrolyte balance, or promote calcium loss. Individual variations in caffeine sensitivity may account for these occurrences. Caffeine does increase heart rate and blood pressure, which may be an issue for those diagnosed with hypertension.
Kelly Traver
Internal Medicine

In small doses, caffeine increases your concentration and reaction time and your brain cells actually fire more rapidly. If you do drink caffeine, though, it's important not to overdo it, or your body will go into overdrive, leading to palpitations, tremulousness, nervousness, and diarrhea. Most people should limit caffeine consumption to the hours before noon because the half-life of caffeine can be as long as 7 to 12 hours so there may be too much caffeine in your system for you to sleep well if you drink it too late in the day.

Mark L. Cohen, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Caffeine definitely gives you a mental and physical boost when you drink it. That is until you get used to it, which doesn't take very long. Then you don't get the ZING anymore. You just get the letdown as it wears off. So pretty soon, the reason you drink it is to prevent the zzzzz's. It also doesn't last very long, so you have to keep topping off during the day. I know all this, because I'm totally dependent on it. But, the good thing is that in moderate doses, it doesn't do any harm at all. If it makes you feel funny, then don't drink it. Otherwise, enjoy it. But after awhile, you won't be able to stop.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.