Coffee is a seductress. We all love a boost of caffeine to help improve our focus and attention. Adrenaline from caffeine can make us stronger, perform better, and improve our mood.
But there is a dark side to coffee (ha!).
Imagine you wake up early, ready to tackle the world. You start with a cup of coffee to fuel the creativity in your project. Then the stomach rumble. The nausea. Yikes.
How do we get the benefits of coffee without dealing with the problems that come with it?
Sometimes coffee can come with negative side effects. Namely, jittery, anxious energy. Many people consider this to be the only drawback, but there are others:
- Elevated heart rate and blood pressure
- Nausea and stomach issues
- Jittery, erratic, or non-focused energy
- Diminished sleep quality
Now you know all the “evils” of caffeine, but any psychoactive compound is a double edged sword.
You are also well aware of the enhanced focus to complete your work, additional physical boost during a workout, and alertness to stay awake longer.
4 Common Coffee Side Effects and How to Fix Them
1. Elevated Heart Rate & Blood Pressure
Adrenaline is a hormone associated with the “fight or flight” response in mammals. Consuming coffee will increase adrenaline because caffeine simulates this fight or flight response. Even if you are not consciously stressed, your body will act as if it is.
This is a good thing in one instance because your mind and body performs better when it is in an aroused state. Adrenaline is one of the reasons you have better concentration and motivation!
So instead of avoiding coffee, you can get the best of both worlds. You have a couple of options:
- L-Theanine – This amino acid is found in green and black tea. It can help reduce heart rate and blood pressure to a normal state. Tea combines both caffeine and L-theanine, but it require a few cups to see real psychoactive effects. This is why we combined L-theanine with caffeine in our 1-2-Go product.
- Meditation / breathing exercises – Although there are ingredients to counteract caffeine’s negative side effects, sometimes simple breathing exercises can have an impact. In the midst of a challenging mental task, slow down, close your eyes, and take 5 slow deep breaths. It can help to bring your heart rate and blood pressure down even if only temporarily.
2. Nausea & Stomach Irritability
One of the biggest complaints of coffee drinkers is nausea, stomach, or gastrointestinal problems. This is often caused by coffee’s acidity. On a pH scale, it is considered “very acidic”, which causes secretion of uncomfortable stomach acids.
These acids can cause reflux, nausea, and long term stomach issues if untreated…
…luckily, there are ways to counteract this.
Consuming acidic and alkaline foods at the same time can counteract many of the stomach and gastrointestinal problems. There are plenty of alkaline fruits and vegetables, but I prefer drinking my coffee black and while I am fasting.
Solution: Alkaline spices, roots, etc. Particularly, I like using the following:
- Turmeric – Growing up in an Indian household, we ate turmeric a lot. It’s relatively flavorless, but has tremendous benefits. Turmeric is filled with “curcumin”, which is a bioactive ingredient that can help prevent cancer and reduce inflammation. For coffee, it is an alkaline spice that counteracts the acidity of coffee.
- Maca – This is a root vegetable used in Peru to improve endurance, but it also has nootropic effects. Maca improves memory and reduces anxiety (to improve mental performance). Again, this is an alkaline root that can help with acidity.
- Reishi mushroom – Fungus isn’t the first thing you might think of for your coffee, but reishi mushroom can help mitigate the acidity. It also improves relaxation and enhances your immune system.
Balancing the acidity of coffee was one of the main reasons we included these three alkaline spices, fungi, and roots ingredients in our CocoTropic nootropic beverage.
I used to wake up and have a stomach ache from drinking black coffee and nothing else; now these three ingredients in CocoTropic prevents that from happening.
In our exclusive nootropics & brain health Facebook group, one member mentioned using 1 tablespoon of baking soda in water to buffer the stomach. Despite the strange taste, it works well for him!
NOTE: Decaffeinated coffee does not make a difference. In fact, it can sometimes make the alkaline / acid balance worse.
3. Jittery, Erratic, or Non-Focused Energy
Some people may notice that coffee makes them intensely focused, but comes with erratic energy. You try to focus on one task, but your brain ends up focusing on everything and anything else…you might even end up like Kramer on Seinfeld.
People refer to this as jittery, anxious, and it is definitely ungrounded. Our recommendation is to use similar methods as we have described above:
- L-Theanine – This enhances your attention more than caffeine alone. Numerous studies show combining L-theanine + caffeine is better than either one alone. For me, this combination helps me focus on the task at hand without feeling jittery and ungrounded. It is largely considered the “best beginner nootropic”, which is why we created 1-2-Go with these ingredients.
- Butter coffee – I prefer to eat my calories, but it seems that butter coffee (often referred to as Bulletproof coffee) can help with the jitters. The fats add well directed focus to the coffee.
- Meditation / Breathing exercises – See above
PRO TIP: It is a myth that eating bananas will prevent coffee jitters.
4. Diminished Sleep Quality
“How do you sleep at night?”
“I don’t drink coffee after 7.” – Parker
Even Jason Statham knows that coffee can negatively effect sleep. Caffeine acts by antagonizing adenosine receptors, which keeps you awake even when you would normally be tired.
For a college all-nighter this is great, but sometimes a cup of coffee too late in the day can disrupt sleep quantity and quality.
The half-life for caffeine is 5 – 6 hours, which means half of the caffeine you consumed is still in your system. For sensitive individuals like me, that means taking coffee after noon is a bad idea.
Because caffeine remains in your system for so long, sleep is negatively effected unless you also consume L-theanine. Again, this amino acid is shown to improve sleep quality when consumed with caffeine and people with ADHD in general. Another reason combining caffeine and L-theanine is winning.
My friend Nathaniel Eliason (director of marketing at SumoMe) has the same problem with drinking coffee after noon. I proposed using CocoTropic in the afternoon as an alternative and here is what he said (full video at bottom):
“What I was really happy about is that it works perfectly when you’re hitting that 1pm – 2pm slump. You want to get engaged again so you can have [CocoTropic] and it doesn’t effect your sleep…it’s not a jittery stimulant..”
Having Your Coffee-Cake and Eating it Too
I covered 4 of the common negative side effects of coffee, but you might have other problems. Some people build a tolerance to caffeine, which renders many benefits dulled. There is no way to avoid tolerance except cycling off caffeine routinely (boo… I know)
Even though we have provided you with alternatives and recommendations to avoid negative side effects of coffee, it might not work for everyone. Don’t expect a magic pill, but test things out and see what works for you.