Coffee is great and caffeine is the most widely used cognitive-enhancement compound in our society. Countless tests have proven that caffeine boosts overall concentration and alertness.
It is undeniably an effective central nervous system stimulant. It stimulates the brain to increase the output of adrenaline, boosts heart rate and temporarily improves memory and mood.
This combination of factors are what make coffee so popular. It’s easy to use, in high supply and only takes a few minutes to kick in.
What’s the problem with coffee?
The problem with coffee is not the coffee itself. It’s that a lot of people are using it incorrectly. There is more to think about than ‘I’ll just throw 5+ cups of coffee down me throughout the day for energy’, it doesn’t work like that.
The adrenal glands produce adrenaline when you drink coffee. That’s what makes coffee great for productivity, adrenaline can make people do things they wouldn’t be able to do without it. Picking up cars to save trapped people without a day’s work in the gym is an example of adrenaline at play.
When drinking a lot of coffee at first, you see the benefits listed before like increased memory, alertness and concentration. Your adrenaline is up and you reap the rewards. Naturally, this will reflect positively on your productivity.
However, the body doesn’t want to be in a constant state of adrenaline production. Adrenaline is extremely useful for rare fight or flight situations like the car example. But it should not be overused.
Overuse leads to crashes and fatigue because your adrenal glands are depleted from constant caffeine hits. It takes more and more coffee to produce the energy you’re after and soon you’re chasing 5/6+ cups of coffee a day to feel anything.
So you drink more to try and get the positive effects from coffee/adrenaline. This brings about another problem: addiction. After drinking 5/6+ cups of coffee a day your body craves it. Even though you might want to quit chasing the adrenaline high of the coffee, you can’t because you’re addicted from drinking far too much.
Coffee is normalised in society so it’s ordinary for people to drink coffee as a habit or for a simple pleasure. It’s even completely normal that loads of people are addicted to it because they tried to push the boundaries of coffee’s benefits.
Coffee can be harnessed intelligently and more sparingly to give you an edge in day to day life, but it shouldn’t be used constantly or flippantly. It should be treated like what it is: a serious (but beneficial) substance.
Adrenal fatigue’s link to brain fog
Chasing energy/adrenaline rushes from coffee, then getting addicted to caffeine exhausts your adrenal glands, which completely messes with your energy supply.
Energy supply is critical in relation to how quickly and efficiently the brain works. If energy supply is hampered in any way, the brain will work slower and less efficiently. Abusing coffee will lead to this.
If your brain is working slower, you will feel ‘foggier’. This is also known as brain fog, which is also known as fatigue.
Common and recurring feelings resulting from a foggier brain are: poor short term memory, poor mental stamina, concentration and clarity, as well as difficulty finding the right words you want…
Nerve impulse speeds show how important our energy supply is to healthy cognitive function. Nerves generally pass impulses at a rate of 75 microseconds. This is the good end of the scale.
The higher the rate of impulses, the less able state your brain is in. For example, if a nerve impulse interval stretches to 140 microseconds, the person is likely to have dementia. Anything longer than 140 microseconds and the person would be unconscious. 140+ microseconds is the state that people under general anaesthetic are. Their nervous systems are effectively ‘shut off’.
Alcohol provides a perfect analogy to show how changing your energy supply causes your brain to work slower. Drinking alcohol gives us an uncannily foggy brain. Your anxiety lowers, you worry less and you care less. Your brain is now far less capable of making rational decisions and is foggy.
This is a perfect example of how altering your energy supply can drastically change how your brain is working.
Adrenal fatigue will zap you of your energy supply, leaving you constantly slumped and with brain fog.
What starts as innocently trying to gain energy by upping your coffee intake, turns into overuse to keep trying to reach those energy gains, resulting in addiction to something that exhausts your energy supplies leaving you fatigued, even though boosting energy was the desired outcome.
If you’re consistently drinking 5+ cups of coffee a day, there’s a good chance your energy supplies are being altered, leaving you with brain fog. Brain fog is awful for productivity!
Another way to test if you have adrenal exhaustion is to stand-up after sitting down or lying down. If you feel dizziness, there’s a good chance your adrenal glands are too depleted
Sugar and coffee
When you eat a large carbohydrate/simple sugar meal, blood sugar (glucose) levels become low from too much insulin being produced, this is known as hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia has all the crashing and fatigue impacts like overusing coffee.
Notably, coffee makes hypoglycemia worse. Coffee alters blood sugar levels, which means combining carb based/sugary meals with caffeine will make you even more mentally fatigued.
Sugar should never be consumed with coffee for this reason, it would be completely counterproductive in increasing energy levels.
When you consume carbohydrates blood sugar becomes higher. High blood sugar is known as hyperglycemia. Insulin is produced to work as the shuttle to allow your body to process energy. It will make your blood sugar return to normal, however over time you can build an insulin resistance by consuming too many carbohydrates, especially simple carbs. This leads to fat gain.
Consuming sugar with coffee is counterproductive because you're taking caffeine which stimulates adrenal glands, but raising blood glucose by consuming sugar, which ultimately leads to more insulin production. Insulin spikes have a direct correlation with fat storage, and by elevating glucose you're ultimately getting less benefit from consuming coffee.
This can be proven by one simple experiment. Try to drink coffee black before a workout. You'll have more steady energy than if you mixed sugar with it. That's because the 2 components for energy aren't competing against each other, and insulin isn't being produced to counter carb intake which results in a “sugar crash” as glucose adjusts upwards and then drops down quickly resulting in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
How to get the most out of coffee
If you’re addicted to caffeine and have brain fog, you’re going to have to temporary kick the habit.
Here's how you do it: Caffeine Cycling 101: How to Get The Most Out Of Your Coffee
My book New World Ronin may seem to read like a crossword puzzle. How great do you feel when you finally put all of the pieces of a puzzle together? You feel better than great, you feel an immense sense of both accomplishment and relief.