The truth about caffeine

Caffeine is now being documented as the most consumed drug in the world. It has a history rooted back in ancient times. There is evidence of coffee being created in various parts of the world as part of ancient sacred rituals and diets. Its effects were said to contain brain-boosting properties and powers.

It wasn’t long before the appeal of these natural substances had spread across the globe. By the 17th Century, the social consumption of tea, coffee, and chocolate had become firmly ingrained in Western culture – with little sign of this going away.

This blog outlines the research conducted to investigate the properties of caffeine and define its ‘powers’.

Firstly – Is Caffeine Bad For You?

Caffeine can be found in energy drinks, food, and even health products. For many, it forms part of a daily routine, with coffee being the most widely consumed beverage in the world. As it is now so commonly available and obviously highly addictive, caffeine has drawn much speculation as to whether it is actually safe to consume.

Modern research has consistently suggested that caffeine consumed in moderate amounts is fine for your health. Some research suggests that caffeine can protect against conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.

While many may think they are addicted to coffee or energy drinks, it is the caffeine content they are truly addicted to. While its effects are dependent on variants such as weight, age, and gender, tolerance to caffeine builds quickly.

In this way, it can be easy to overconsume caffeine, which has sometimes been linked to side effects like nervousness, heart palpitations, and difficulty sleeping.

As with any stimulant, it is important to take your body and tolerance into consideration. A conservative dose of caffeine at the right time of day should be nothing to be concerned about and could even help to improve your focus and cognitive performance.
This being said, all things are best enjoyed in moderation, and it is no different for your daily coffee hit.

Caffeine – Athletic Booster

It makes sense that fitness fanatics have used the powers of caffeine to their advantage: research suggests that caffeine can boost athletic performance through improved muscle strength, endurance, and exercise speed. Caffeine is often the preferred pre-workout supplement of many athletes and gym go-ers.

Caffeine is handy to give you an energy boost in time for an early morning or post-work gym session. 

Caffeine was first discovered naturally occurring in plants such as cacao, guarana berries, and yerba mate. It is now known to be present in over 60 different plant species. Natural caffeine is rarely found on its own; it is often present with a range of vitamins and methylxanthines also found in the plant.

These vitamins and methylxanthines balance the lift and fall of the caffeine in your system and assist in delivering it to your body in a steady manner. This promotes a more sustainable energy boost than synthetic caffeine does, enabling mental clarity and focus for a longer period.

A sustained release of caffeine can prevent sudden jitters and subsequent crashes commonly associated with synthetic caffeine products like energy drinks. Because of this more gradual release, natural caffeine doesn’t instigate side effects such as nervousness, difficulty sleeping and a flushed face nearly as much as synthetic caffeine.

An easy way to determine whether a product contains natural caffeine is to check out the nutritional panel. It is usually labeled as the plant form rather than ‘caffeine’, and this is because the naturally occurring caffeine content within the plant is hard to quantify.

Synthetic Caffeine

Synthetic caffeine was first documented in use during the 1800s and was used heavily by the Nazis during WWII. Laws during this time prevented them from obtaining various goods (caffeine included), and a synthesised version was created to keep supplies available. With demands for caffeine steadily rising since then, synthetic caffeine has since become the norm, especially in soda and energy drinks. Today, many consumers are unable to identify where the caffeine in their food has come from – or are even aware that a synthetic version exists.

Synthetic caffeine is cheaper to produce than it is to source natural ingredients, and consequently, it is more widely found in bottled beverages and food products. It is mass-produced by companies such as Coca-Cola and made to be highly potent (and therefore cost-effective). As little as two teaspoons of it could be lethal to a human.

Synthesised caffeine is absorbed through the digestive system much faster than naturally occurring caffeine, providing a quicker spike and therefore a quicker crash. While synthetic and natural caffeine is barely distinguishable on a molecular level, it is the way in which the synthesised version is produced that can prompt concerns.

Problems With The Synthetic Caffeine Industry

As many global companies require enormous supplies of caffeine as an ingredient in many foods, soft drinks, energy drinks, and workout supplements, supply and demand needs have grown. Natural sources of caffeine are inconvenient and expensive to source, so lab production is the new norm.

It isn’t uncommon for synthetic caffeine to be produced in unregulated labs in foreign countries without any verifiable record of their handling. Foreign inspections are infrequent and so the door is left wide open for corner-cutting when concerning health regulations.

Synthetic caffeine undergoes many steps to be converted from its initial form as ammonia. Generally, it is exposed to harsh chemicals during production, such as methylene chloride, ethyl acetate, and carbon dioxide. Furthermore, synthetic caffeine glows – a rather frightening look – which is removed by rinsing the caffeine with sodium nitrite, acetic acid, sodium carbonate, and chloroform. All these ingredients sound scary – not at all like substances you want to be consuming when you drink your morning coffee!

Of course, not all synthetic caffeine is dangerous or harmful when consumed in small quantities. The reality is that you have probably unknowingly consumed it sometime this week or even today. It is always beneficial to be more aware of where the products you buy come from – so next time you read the word caffeine on a label, ask yourself where it may have come from, and if it’s something you really need.

Natural Alternatives

Production processes aside, synthetic caffeine is often paired with energy drinks and sodas outrageously high in sugar and full of artificial ingredients. They have wasted calories that do nothing but damage our health. If it’s that caffeine buzz you’re looking for, there are plenty of available alternatives with none of the nasty additives.


Unless you don’t mind the fatiguing synthetic crash and questionable production process, choose natural caffeine when possible. Not only will it provide a longer, more sustainable energy boost, but it’s also far less likely to be contaminated with any chemical by-products. Knowing the difference between natural and synthetic caffeine is critical to ensuring you are consuming the products most beneficial to you.

Hopefully, now you know the basics, you’ll be able to avoid the synthetic crash and opt for a caffeine product that maximises your results in and out of the gym!

Reference: True Protein

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