While caffeine as a component wasn’t discovered until 1821, humans have known for centuries that consuming certain plants that contain caffeine gives you energy, and that much needed afternoon boost. It was first noticed in Ethiopia where farmers noticed that their livestock were much more lively after grazing on certain plants that contained caffeine.
Caffeine The Copycat
Like most drugs, caffeine works by affecting many metabolic processes that all work together to create the buzz effect that we all love so much, so pin pointing one can be difficult. One way that caffeine works is by mimicking the compound adenosine. Adenosine is a chemical in the body that slows down nerve cells in the brain and helps you conserve energy by making you feel tired. The structure of caffeine and adenosine is so similar, that the adenosine receptors recognise caffeine as adenosine and pick it up in their receptors. As a result, adenosine can’t bind to the receptors, so the nerve cells speed up their transmission, making you feel more alert and awake.
Caffeine Makes Your Brain Happy
Also, caffeine gives you energy by increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is the ‘happy’ chemical, it gives you a satisfied and content buzz, which is where you get that “ahhh” effect from your first hit of caffeine in the morning, whether that’s a cup of coffee, an energy drink or the healthier concentrated dose in a caffeine tablet.
So we’ve told you how caffeine works in altering your brain chemistry, but what effects does this cause? Caffeine causes your pupils to dilate, your heart rate to increase, your muscles to tighten, your body to release sugar into your blood stream, your breathing tubes to open and your surface blood vessels to constrict – making you feel pumped. These effects set your mind and body ready for action, be it work or sport.
Explore more about caffeine’s impact on your fitness, health and mind in more detail here.