Did you know that caffeine can interfere with building muscle strength? Though it may produce a temporary lift to your metabolism, caffeine also triggers the “flight or fight” syndrome by releasing cortisol, the stress hormone that destabilizes your blood sugar by stimulating the release of glucose from your liver and muscles. Your pancreas responds by spiking insulin to deal with the excess sugar, which subsequently leaves you in the middle of an energy crash caused by low blood sugar.
Elevated cortisol leads to muscle tissue breakdown as the body converts the protein in muscle to readily available energy. All this is necessary so you can run away from danger like the saber toothed tigers our prehistoric ancestors faced. If you’re running a marathon, caffeine can be helpful for a short term burst of energy. However, if you’re trying to build strength and maintain muscle mass, caffeine is working against your goals by depressing testosterone, human growth hormone and DHEA.
When your adrenals are busy producing cortisol, their production of DHEA is greatly reduced. DHEA is the mother hormone of our sex hormones like testosterone, which help us build muscle mass. DHEA is often called our youth hormone because we produce a lot of it when we are young. As we age, it starts to decline. Thus, our bodies get fatter as we get older and form less muscle mass, as DHEA goes down, cortisol rises, and we burn less calories.
According to Eugene Wells, author of The Decaf Diet, Is Caffeine Making You Fat?, “Research has shown that even mild increases in cortisol can increase muscle breakdown in healthy individuals within a few hours. For this reason, body builders especially revile and fear cortisol.”
Brendan Brazier, the professional ironman athlete and author of The Thrive Diet!, advises athletes to strictly reserve coffee drinking only to performance events when they want to get that caffeinated burst of energy. He calls eliminating caffeine “recalibration” for the adrenal glands, and then using it on occasion to enhance performance, “stimulation”. As he recommends, “Recalibration, then stimulation, is a powerful performance-enhancing tool and is an excellent tactic before a race or major event. However, to maintain its effectiveness and minimize the risks of adrenal burnout, this can be done only rarely.”
So, for athletes who want to build muscle mass, or for the rest of us who just want to stay in shape or lose weight, drinking coffee, caffeinated sodas, and the so called “energy” drinks are counterproductive to our goals. Drink non-caffeinated beverages instead like Teeccino and herbal teas to get the benefits of their antioxidants and phytonutrients to help you stay strong, maintain high energy, and achieve optimal health.