I often get asked about my opinions on coffee and alcohol and whether or not they are “healthy.” Everyone knows the cliché of “moderation” but lets take a little deeper look at both…
First, I drink coffee because I enjoy a cup of coffee — not because I am in particular need of it. I generally have 1-2 cups a day, always in the morning and generally one in the afternoon as well. Caffeine has its positives — heightens focus, improves memory, boosts energy, and also its negatives — jitters, constricted arteries. But in and of itself coffee is not all that bad, in fact several studies show marginal benefits due to its antioxidant content. If you rely on several cups of coffee to make it through the day, that habit raises two larger, more pressing concerns.
1. Why you are so tired and,
2. The junk we typically add to/consume with coffee.
Why do you need coffee? Generally we drink coffee to help us stay awake and/or be more alert. So if you are drinking coffee as a crutch to stay awake, you should probably evaluate WHY you are tired and make the appropriate lifestyle changes. I can usually attribute excessive coffee consumption in clients to poor sleeping habits AND consumption of refined carbohydrates. Bottom line, carbs/sugar make you sleepy. So if you are getting plenty of sleep, consider replacing that big bowl of oatmeal with eggs and bacon. Oatmeal itself is metabolized as sugar. and generally we add even more sugar to that bowl of sugar.
Then there’s the junk that we put in our coffee. The obvious culprit is packets upon packets of…sugar. Then look at the coffee “whiteners” that are not even cream to begin with. Loaded with tons of sugar and other garbage like hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup. It is very easy to get carried away with massive amounts of sugar in your coffee. And thus the vicious cycle begins: Tired –> Caffeine –> (Sugar) –> Sugar Crash (aka tired/sleepy) –> more coffee/sugar –> [repeat] This cycle can easily lead to several added pounds and chronic fatigue.
So while our goal is to have more energy and be more alert, we become more sleepy and tired and go for another cup of coffee with still more sugar. Did you get the point? SUGAR!!!
If you are trying to lose weight, it’s best to avoid alcohol. Alcohol will be used as a fuel source when present in the body meaning that instead of burning carbs and fat, it is storing both. Additionally, thanks to the sugar content and inevitable crash, you get the double doozie, carb bingeing on cheese sticks at 2 AM.
Indulgence is an important part of a healthy and vibrant life. So if you choose to consume alcohol, the “best” option is red wine. Red wine tends to be low in sugar and have a few marginal benefits thanks to a robust bouquet of antioxidants (specifically polyphenols). However, studies show that these marginal benefits are largely erased after two glasses.
So when it comes to vices and indulgences like caffeine and alcohol, the cliché of “moderation” is worth taking to heart. But sometimes we need to dig a little bit deeper to see if there is a simple lifestyle adjustment we can make, such as weaning yourself off some of the sugar in your coffee and/or improving your sleep habits.
For further reading, here is a handy breakdown on the consumption of different types of alcohol.
Image via Flickr (creative commons) by doug88888