Coffee: the good, the bad and the ugly…

Most people reach for their morning coffee out of habit, without realising they are verging on addiction.  Most people also believe that coffee will make them feel more alert and revitalised.  The interesting thing we don’t realise is that if we didn’t drink coffee at all, we would feel the same in the morning, as a coffee drinker does after their morning cup.  All we are doing is relieving the symptoms of caffeine addiction…

In one study of 1,500 psychology students, monitoring their coffee intake and responses gave these results.  Moderate and high coffee drinkers (1-5 and above cups per day) had higher levels of anxiety and depression, as well as stress-indicated medical issues, and poor academic performance, than those who have little or no coffee.  

What caffeine does:

Caffeine blocks the receptors of adenosine, which has the function of slowing the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and adrenalin.  Low adenosine means high dopamine and adrenaline, leading to increased sensation of energy and alertness.

The more caffeine consumed, the less sensitive you become to your dopamine and adrenaline, leaving you feeling like you need more stimulants (ie. caffeine).  This cycle of blocking natural responses to stress and artificially re-stimulating your neurotransmitters leads to adrenal exhaustion, where you are unable to produce appropriate levels of neurotransmitters.  This leaves us feeling exhausted, depressed and probably reaching for another coffee…

In severe cases, for some people with mental health issues who consume high levels of caffeine can develop symptoms of schizophrenia or mania.  They become unable to detoxify caffeine and may also develop an allergy to coffee, both of which lead to serious mood and mental health concerns.

How much? Caffeine content

Coffee grande (Starbucks) 500mg

Coffee, filter 150ml 110-150mg

Coffee, instant  150ml 40-105mg

Coffee, latte, cappuccino 30-50mg

Tea, 150ml 20-100mg  (depends upon brew)

Red Bull 80mg

Coca-Cola classic 350ml 46mg

Diet Coke 350ml 46mg

Green tea 150ml 20-30mg

Chocolate cake (1 slice) 20-30mg

Hot chocolate 150ml 10mg

Decaffeinated coffee 150ml 0.3mg

How to kick the habit:

Everyone is different – some people are best to cease all caffeine altogether although in most cases, they will suffer several days of withdrawal (headaches, aches and pain) initially.  Others may find it easier to reduce intake gradually over a few weeks.  

The point is that caffeine is actually not good for you, and by feeding the addiction, you are actually preventing yourself from developing a complete sense of wellness which comes from a fully responsive adrenal function.  

Don’t get me wrong – I love coffee. I have one coffee every day, which I percolate from beans that I grind myself, and I really value that coffee. But I recognise that it is an addiction, and I would potentially be better off without it, but for now, I still savour my morning coffee.

For some further perspective on caffeine, the good, the bad and the attempting to justify a bad habit with good science:

Tim Ferriss, getting in an expert to explain the history of coffee and coffee houses:

The ATP Project, giving good overview on the pros and cons of coffee:

And the always informative Huberman Lab, on how to use coffee wisely:




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