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How Caffeine Really Works

Thursday, March 19, 2015

We’re all more than familiar with coffee – and if you’re reading this blog then chances are you probably love your morning brew just as much as we do here at Café2U.

We revere coffee and its magical properties that help us wake up in the morning and get through arduous tasks.

But how many of us really know what happens in our bodies after we take that first glorious sip?

What does caffeine really do to us?


Well, to start with the basics, according to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant.

This means that by ingesting caffeine you will experience symptoms such as alertness, improved concentration, a quickened heartbeat, or the jitters.

However, all of these symptoms can essentially be explained as a kind of ‘chemical trick’…

Adenosine & Cell Activity

It all starts with a chemical in our cells called adenosine which supresses arousal and promotes sleep.

This substance causes cell activity to slow down by binding itself to certain receptors in the brain.

However, because caffeine is very similar to adenosine, these receptors can be fooled and bind to caffeine instead, which leads to less adenosine binding and, in turn, accelerates cell activity.

This increase in cell activity causes the pituitary gland to assume there is an emergency and it will tell the adrenal glands to secrete adrenaline, the fight-or-flight hormone responsible for your extra energy and fast heartbeat.

The body will also release dopamine which is another stimulating hormone.

So, essentially what all this means is that caffeine – our beloved caffeine – is not the real stimulant at work when we drink a cup of coffee.

In actuality, it just tricks your body into releasing more of its own natural stimulants.

Caffeine Tolerance

The brain soon picks up on this ‘trick’ that caffeine plays and, as a response, increases the number of adenosine receptors in the body.

Thus the body develops a tolerance for caffeine.

This increase in adenosine receptors also explains why caffeine addicts experience a withdrawal when they don’t get their regular caffeine hit, as the brain becomes overloaded with adenosine from all the extra adenosine receptors.

Signing Off

So, there we have it, an explanation of what caffeine really does to your body when you drink coffee.

The next time you stop by your local Cafe2U coffee shop or coffee van, make sure you wow your fellow coffee addicts with some of this science.

And if you have any comments or questions – be sure to get in touch with us!

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